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#WFH: More Work is Not Better!

When leaders don’t truly accept and provide support for the remote workplace it often produces more stress for the virtual worker. Anyone who has ever worked knows the stress that can be generated when home or personal life and work priorities conflict. Too many demands and limited time can cause us to feel like we are letting someone down, either the company or ourselves. Working virtually comes with more freedom to set priorities but also with more responsibility. Virtual work policies are most successful when they are applied across the organization or department and supported by leadership. The perceptions of reliability, responsibility, dedication and dependability are changing as we progress but they are not changed everywhere.

Support can also come in a F2F form. It is important, when possible, to get people together in a F2F environment. Many studies support this. Spontaneous conversations, interactions, unexpected Insights and possibilities can develop when people get together. Face time matters.

The industrial culture that supported 9 to 5 still exists. It doesn’t matter what we do, surf the web or email friends, in many organizations being seen is still all that matters. The tendency to attribute productivity to longer hours in the office is often sub-conscious. It is one that leadership needs to over-haul. Organizations need to show widespread and uniform support for flexible scheduling. If workers don’t perceive support, the virtual workplace suffers It is very easy to confuse quantity with quality when it comes to digital communication. Copying everyone on everything and texting folks at 10:30 PM or on a Sunday is a violation of privacy. Even on-call doctors get periods where they are off and can’t be reached. Constantly being connected will cause stress and data fatigue. Virtual workers do not need to be reachable or accessible 24/7 to prove they are valuable. A policy of 24 to 48 hours for response time is usually plenty. If we really feel the need to have an immediate response, define the times and limit the exposures. For example, you will be avail-able online Monday through Friday during regular business hours, EST (Eastern Standard Time).

When you live in a world that presidential pol-icy is being convey by Tweets, it is difficult to set boundaries for communication, but it is necessary. There are just too many platforms, too much connectivity and too little self-control. You need to train virtual workers to understand what is important and ignore the bulk of correspondence that is insignificant. If it is important, make a phone call or Skype, do not have an email trail with more than 25 correspondences and expect anyone to follow it. Following email like this is like being lost in the ocean. Stop bombarding people with communication that is unnecessary and annoying. Stop being afraid you are going to miss something. Setting up some communication boundaries is an important way an organization can support virtual workers. It cuts down on stress and increases effectiveness when contact is important.

Setting limits is something the individual can do but the organization has to help with this.

It is great to believe that every leader has ap-propriate boundaries, but it is unrealistic. In a remote work environment this can cause stress, burn out and turnover. There will always be exceptions to general guidelines. There are emergency situations that really do need to be responded to off hours, but those should be the exception, not the rule. When it becomes the rule it adds to stress. Like the boy who cried wolf, when everything is an emergency being constantly connected loses its appeal and effect. Urgency and meaningfulness become skewed when they are abused .

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