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New Remote Work Environment? Don’t Be the Kid in the Candy Store

Terence Channon
21 March 2020

New Remote Work Environment? Don’t Be the Kid in the Candy Store

“Working at home” often seems like a dream job. Avoid traffic, make your own schedule, wear your PJs to work. Destressing, saving time and being closer to family all seem like wonderful things. And there are many studies that suggest this is the case. So, then why does anyone go into an office? It’s simple — working remotely, especially across many times, is very, very hard.

Many people are just getting exposed to it due to recent office closings and other measures governments have instituted to slow the spread of COVID-19. Stocks of companies that facilitate remote work have shot through the roof. Everyone is quickly exploring all sorts of new programs and tools to make the most of this — and believe me, the salespeople for these products are out in full force (and they absolutely should be — they are there to help, and yes, meet some sales quotas along the way).

Our brains love and crave stimulation and gamification. Just ask the manufacturers of slot machines and gambling addictiveness. Everything about this new remote work environment is new. It is super cool. It is super modern. It is VERY, VERY easy to dip your hands too many times into the candy jar — and in exchange, ultimately leading to burning yourself out, frustrating your teammates and alienating your family.

This dipping too many times shows up in many forms, including:

· Sending 17 emails or instant messages when you would typically send 1 or 0

· Oversharing pictures of pets. A close associate of mine is already sick of the ‘dog update’ Slack Channel after 3 days of remote work, and almost lost his marbles when a ‘cat update’ channel appeared on day 4.

· Inserting too many irrelevant and random videos, news articles or stories in the middle of workflows.

· All hours of the day messages regardless of the day or time.

For example, in the latter, if you had an idea at 2:00 on a Saturday night while having a glass of wine, you certainly would be very hesitant to send out a text, call everyone on your team or even worse, go to their homes, knock on their doors and make them listen to you.

Remote working tools are meant to be addictive — it’s by design and what keeps them sticky (the SaaS companies love this for recurring billing purposes). They also tend to ping people in real-time when notifications come in. And many people may not know how to disable these notifications. Nobody likes to hear their phone pinging all night while they are sleeping or waking up to a big red circle with 132 in the middle of it. These small pings add up over time and impose tremendous stress on our psyches and ability to have optimally productive days.

At first, everyone is going to be high on the sweet addictive nature of these new tools — in an always-on mode. Showcasing their commitment, their eagerness to adapt to new processes and to be a team player and sometimes even worse, discovering and sharing all the new bells and whistles inside these new interfaces. After all, our brains crave this sort of activity. And when we discover a new feature, we want to immediately share it with everyone by sending a quick email or instant message — all while forgetting that people learn at different paces, styles and have other work (or personal) things going on at that moment.

Consume the facets of the new work style — both through technology tools and time. However, before sharing a new feature (and yes, everyone will need to collaborate to accelerate learning and adoption), consider adding a note on why this new feature is helpful and be cognizant of when the best time may be to send it.

Create some channels, spaces or set aside time where people can share humorous content and pictures. But, before posting a picture of your dog crawling on your lap and interrupting your workflow, consider holding back on sharing it at that exact moment. Posting it into someone’s instant messaging channel is the equivalent of your dog coming to interrupt you (and without the unconditional love and stress-reducing opportunity for pets and cuddles).

Just remember that with a novel work environment plus tools that are specifically designed to be addictive, everyone is going to feel al of warm fuzzy feelings to overindulge in this newness. Set boundaries, be aware of the tricks your brain is playing on you and get off to a great (although it may feel like a slower) start of setting up an effective remote work environment.

Author’s Note: It is my pleasure to answer any questions or offer any specific advice on improving remote working effectiveness. Find me on LinkedIn and send me a message and I will gladly reply.

New Remote Work Environment? Don’t Be the Kid in the Candy Store was originally published in Terence Channon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.