As employees return to work, the Omicron surge is forcing people to work remotely. Many leaders continue to face the challenge of leading teams that are distributed among home offices, and in a digital workplace, it’s easy to become hyper-transactional.
The percentage of Australians working from home increased from 8% to 40% over the past two years, remaining high even when we have had a reprieve from lockdowns, according to a review by Australia’s Productivity Commission.
Martin Creighan, managing director, Citrix Australia and New Zealand says leaders need to adopt practices to mitigate for the loss of in-person time together. Otherwise, they risk eroding connections and relationships.
This is easier said than done. Striking the balance between staying connected and employee burnout requires leaders to know their people and be sensitive to their situation, behaviours and preferences.
With this in mind and at a time when the digital space has never been more important to the employee experience, Creighan shares top tips for avoiding “connected fatigue”:
Consider the human in all of us
The pandemic has put the spotlight on the need for businesses to evolve the way they tackle employee wellness, broadening the focus beyond physical health (like corporate gym memberships) to mental health. No matter how interesting and meaningful our work is, it can be tough to find it fulfilling when we’re doing it alone, from a bedroom or lounge room, as many of us are at the moment.
Given we are expecting to continue working from home full-time for the coming weeks, it’s sensible to continue using wellness apps like fitness trackers and online meditation. But we are likely spending just as much or more time interacting with the technology we use to work remotely, and we need to consider the way this technology influences our individual and collective wellbeing.
When designing your employees’ digital workspace, think about how the overall digital experience impacts wellness. Then think about how to integrate purpose-built wellbeing tools. If people have integrated, intuitive technology to do their work, it will be easier to maintain a positive attitude as we ride the Omicron wave.
Unlock productivity through technology
The pandemic has demonstrated that we can work effectively from home. We have seen how resilient we are as human beings, and as we continue with hybrid work, it is important to consider effectiveness, as well as productivity.
Business leaders have a responsibility to help employees be productive in order to look after their wellbeing. This is about setting clear expectations and allowing autonomy so that employees focus on the right things.
By eliminating the mindset that equates rigid “9 to 5 workdays” with success, and allowing employees more control over not just where they work but when they work– like a four-day work week or flexible working hours – we can achieve more effective outcomes for both businesses and employees.
Furthermore, leaders can work with employees to establish healthy working behaviours. Productivity experts recommend the integration of short breaks into an employee’s work process, ensuring they keep the mind energised and focused. This may be in the form of 25-minute intervals to create clarity about what is truly important in a workday, which will in turn reduce procrastination.
Provide a secure and consistent experience
Creating space for people to experience a state of wellbeing at work is key to unlocking their potential. Previously, most companies adapted work to the way their IT systems functioned. But the last two years have forced these companies to adapt their systems to the way employees work.
Alarmingly, almost all (93%) of working Australians are working outside their work hours, according to Citrix’s recent Future of the Working Week survey. On top of this, Omicron is forcing leaders across corporate Australia to address the rise of employee fragmented concentration once again. Many people are trying to manage requests across multiple platforms and jumping between apps to try and complete work.
That’s why we need an intuitive, consistent work experience no matter where we work or what device we’re using. While automation technologies can’t eliminate digital distraction, they can help alleviate the inefficiencies which result from employees wasting time on mundane tasks. This enables employees to focus on the most important tasks at hand, to alleviate feelings of being overwhelmed.
Set up a culture for success
We are all managing the ongoing challenges of the pandemic in different ways. The uptake in hybrid work models means leaders are not able to always identify employee burnout by sight (i.e., physically in the workplace), forcing us to rethink strategies for how technology can foster better digital wellness for our employees.
One of my goals as a leader is to instill social connection and create a sense of ‘belonging’ everywhere. In addition to leveraging technology that enables people to focus and create value, it’s important to foster face-to-face connections wherever possible.
From establishing more personal connections with co-workers and ensuring the entire team has a voice in the meeting, to using your camera in every virtual meeting and encouraging work breaks, we must focus on prioritising wellness and reducing distraction to keep people happy.
As many of us kick off 2022 working from home, we need to ensure we are integrating technology into the employee experience in a way that supports digital wellness. Remember that when people experience a state of well-being at work, they can unlock their potential and make meaningful contributions to the overall success of the business.