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Remote working fatigue and how to reduce and manage it

After over a year of lockdowns and working from home the shine of remote working has dulled, with many employees feeling increasingly exhausted. We’ve compiled a few tips on how employers and employees can reduce remote working fatigue.
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Small business IT priorities 2021

Looking to 2021, SMBs need to set their IT priorities and leverage technologies to regain efficiency. We’ve listed those priorities here >
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Remote working fatigue and how to reduce and manage it

Before March 2020, many of us viewed working from home as something reserved for cutting-edge tech companies, or a ‘treat’ bestowed upon us all too infrequently. We imagined a life free from the daily commute, office politics and eating lunch at our desks, and it sounded perfect. Then COVID-19 arrived and, virtually overnight, our dreams came true.

A year later, the shine of remote working has dulled for many people. What gave us a surge of energy during the first lockdown became more of a strain during the subsequent two. Baking bread in April 2020 has been replaced with a sense of anxiety in 2021. 

So, what happened to our expected pleasure of remote working, and why has it left so many of us feeling drained? 

The truth is, when dreaming of remote working, none of us imagined doing it during a global pandemic. The term ‘remote working fatigue’ has become a buzz phrase over recent months and, despite not being an actual clinical diagnosis, it’s something that many of us are experiencing first-hand.

Working remotely, during a global health crisis, is tough. Routines have been overturned, relationships have been tested, families have been separated, children have been home-schooled, switching off from work has become harder, sleep patterns have altered, life as we knew it has been impacted and changed on every possible level. Added to this, we have all endured a year-long cycle of uncertainty. Remote working, when everything else is uncertain and difficult, has compounded our loss of structure and added a new layer of intensity for many employees.

Essentially another name for burnout, business leaders would be wise to consider the impact remote working fatigue is having on some of their workforce. Employees may be feeling exhausted, lacking focus or experiencing a lower level of motivation than before. Coupled with this, a potential return to the office – even if a hybrid pattern is to be the new norm – could also be adding stress and anxiety. 

5 tips for reducing remote working fatigue

We’ve compiled a few tips on how both IT teams and employees can reduce remote working fatigue:

1: Reduce the amount of video meetings and make some of them audio only. The pressure of being constantly ‘viewed’ can be daunting for many people. If a video catch-up can be replaced by chat or email, then do it. It could also be useful to switch off the webcam and hold a few meetings as audio only, allowing participants to move around and feel less pressured. If the video meeting is absolutely necessary, then shorten it to less than an hour to give attendees the chance of have a quick break before the next one. 

2: Less screen time should be a target for everyone, not just children. Sitting in front of your computer all day is not good for anyone. Without the daily commute or the interruptions of co-workers, many remote workers remain fixed in front of their screens. A five-minute screenbreak every hour should be the aim, and used to stretch, walk and get a drink. It’s important for eyes, posture and overall physical and mental wellbeing.

3: Get outside. Remote working should not mean consuming lunch at your desk, anymore than office working should. Use the lunch hour to take a break, and ideally to step outside for some fresh air. A change of pace and perspective is vital for good mental health.

4: Work from home has evolved to work from anywhere. If it’s not a video meeting, you’re not an active participant on a call, and the sun is shining, take your phone outside and work there for ten minutes. Vitamin D is nature’s boost for the immune system.

5: Know when to switch off. Remote working fatigue is real and, if left unchecked, could lead to complete burnout. The ease of worker longer days at home, filling the previously wasted hours of commuting with meetings and report-writing, should be avoided. Taking time away from work, staying active, and connecting with family and friends is crucial for a healthy work/life balance.

Monitoring remote working fatigue

Many of the tools that employees use to work remotely can provide data that helps HR and wellbeing teams identify when someone is at risk of fatigue. By creating dashboards in tools like Microsoft Power BI, you provide your organisation with the insights needed to manage employee wellbeing remotely.

Data can help you understand how employees are spending their time during working hours, and when someone might need support. Microsoft has also made available a Power App, the Employee Well-being Power App, which simply prompts employees to let their organisation know how they’re feeling. This is free to install and can help you spot problems and address them quickly.

Remote working is here to stay, but the fatigue that can accompany it needn’t be. If you’d like further advice on how technology can be deployed to ease remote working fatigue for your workforce, please get in touch.

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Small business IT priorities 2021

Small businesses are poised to enter a new year that, for the first time, is focusing on creating fewer in-person connections with customers, rather than more. The rapid digitalisation of the past year has created an environment where SMBs must adapt to remain competitive.

The priorities of small businesses are shifting as a result, towards the creation of secure remote work environments and the necessary adoption of cloud technology. As part of this digital transformation, small businesses must consider several more priorities as they move into a new year.

1. Low-cost artificial intelligence (AI) technology

After the sudden technology adjustments forced upon companies in 2020, many small businesses will need to make up for lost productivity. With additional resources unlikely to materialise, low-cost AI will become even more of a requirement.

A solution like Microsoft Azure offers affordable computer vision, face recognition, and conversational AI services – many of which are built-in to the business offerings. As the digital era progresses, SMBs should start to take greater advantage of these AI opportunities in order to remain resilient; subsidising customer support departments with chatbots, for example.

Another business area AI can have the biggest impact on is logistics. Small retailers could utilise the technology to gain AI-driven insights from their data. Warehouses could predict stock shortages and delivery drivers could benefit from AI-driven knowledge regarding delivery routes.

2. Increased use of data virtualisation technology

Businesses will also look to regain efficiency via data-driven insights. Tools like Microsoft Power BI can make data more useful and actionable. Simple dashboards of customer and sales data enable analyses which ultimately help SMBs focus on the aspects that will have the most impact.

3. Mainstream adoption of cloud collaboration and calling solutions

Microsoft Teams usage increased by 70% to 75 million active users in April, mainly due to the mass shift to home working. Even as workers return to the office, however, that usage has remained steady. As of October 2020, its daily active users had reached 115 million.

Much of this continued growth may be attributed to a shift in mindset, predominantly by smaller businesses. As IT managers realise the efficiency of cloud-based communication and collaboration tools, they become open to investing in those solutions long-term. In addition to efficiency, cloud solutions like Microsoft Teams and Teams Calling solutions, offer flexibility in both in costs and global calling requirements – perfect for SMBs who want to start small and scale.

4. Streamlining the remote onboarding process

Even with the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines underway, SMBs will continue to work remotely until government guidance suggests otherwise. Though organisations have been onboarding remotely for many years, the coronavirus pandemic has increased the volume of workers than need to be brought online in a short period.

As a result, it’s now time for SMBs to prioritise the creation of a remote onboarding strategy that’s efficient, engaging and focused around the benefits that cloud technology can offer.

5. Support remote workers with the right cloud IT support

Cloud productivity apps like Office 365 and Teams come with excellent Level 0 IT support. Knowledge banks and chatbots provide self-service cloud IT support so that users can troubleshoot common problems and access ‘how to’ style content.

However, remote workers also need human IT support in the form of a 1st and 2nd line service desk to keep productivity levels high. Responsive cloud IT support can also boost user adoption of new technologies and new ways of working, ensuring you get good ROI from digital transformation.

Remote workers often feel isolated so it’s really important to have open lines of communication between them and your service desk. As well as ensuring they can contact IT support using their preferred channels (email, phone, support portal etc.), consider introducing engagement feedback tools too. Personalised surveys can help you better understand what support users need to improve the remote working experience.

If you would like to discuss any of the subjects or technology covered in this post, please get in touch. Our Digital Productivity team and Microsoft experts are happy to share their knowledge and experience. Likewise, our Operations team are available to share best practice for supporting your remote workers and providing effective cloud IT support.

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