Remote businesses are the new trend now that the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected every single person in the industry. Every single company in the industry is now planning to include remote working in their programmes for business continuity to adapt to the so-called ‘new normal’.
Because of this, many companies make use of technology – especially apps like Zoom, Skype, MS Teams, Nextiva, Monday.com, etc. – to make working remotely easier. While technology helps us be connected to each other during these times of crisis, and also because of social distancing, how do these apps affect our mental health?
There are many research studies that show the negative effect of technology on our mental health. For example, a study in Michigan found out that Facebook use led to a decrease in happiness and overall life satisfaction.
While some businesses use Facebook in communicating with their employees, do the other remote business apps have the same effects on our mental health?
Screen time fatigue
Almost all of us are forced to spend more time in front of our screens to be able to catch up with our professional duties. Most of us use video conferencing apps to conduct online interviews, online video conferences, online group meetings, etc. because of their easy and handy features.
However, because we are working remotely, we tend to overschedule ourselves with meetings which cause us to feel overworked that can eventually lead to fatigue and stress the moment we see the icon of the app.
For example, you’re on your 4th or 5th Zoom, MS Teams, or Skype meeting of the day and you feel a certain kind of exhaustion just by looking at the screen. Another example is when you’re interviewing applicants and you’re on your 6th call of the day and you feel a certain pain and exhaustion in your ear just by listening to the person you’re talking with.
It is called ‘screen time fatigue’. It is when we feel a certain kind of exhaustion because of the amount of time we’ve been spending on screen.
Not only these apps drain the life and energy out of us, but they also beat our bodies down. Since we are not in the ‘normal’ set-up, and our homes have become our workplaces, we spent hours looking at our screen with a throbbing headache, over-strained eyes, and an aching back at our ergonomically incorrect chairs.
The most that you can do is to set a schedule and make sure that you don’t overschedule yourself with back to back online meetings. If back to back online meetings can’t be rescheduled, using your phone to other meetings is much better and can be less stressful since you can do other things while attending the meeting unlike in the laptop set-up.
Another thing to avoid screen time fatigue is to make sure that you spend 10-minute break away from your laptop screen. You can use this time to stand up, breathe fresh air, drink water, or have a 10-minute exercise. Giving yourself a small time away from your laptop screen is a big break for your eyes and brain and will make you more attentive to other tasks or meetings you need to attend.
Setting boundaries between work and usual routine is also important. Make sure your ‘work area’ is different from your usual or ‘living area’. For example, you can do your work in the living area of your house and not in your bedroom to create a boundary between your ‘home office’ and your safe space.
Anxiety and burnout
During this time of crisis, many people experience uncertainty, stress, and trauma because of the fear that the ‘invisible monster’ is giving us. For people not used to social gatherings and face to face discussions, like the introverts, being in a video conference might be stressful since it is the ‘new’ social gatherings today.
Not to add up those who are camera shy. Since these people were forced to accept and adapt to this new normal, video conferencing may add to the stress and anxiety they are already feeling because of the pandemic.
People tend to get self-conscious whenever they participate in video conferences. One study found out that 59% of people feel more self-aware when they are on-camera than they do in their off-camera.
Since these people already are anxious, they will make a way to deal with the negative emotion that they are already feeling by distracting themselves also by the use of technology. Binge-watching TV shows, too much scrolling on Facebook, and stress buying of things online are just some of the unhealthy behavior that may lead to more emotional distress.
What you can do to lessen the anxiety caused by the video conferencing is to remind yourself that video conferences are like the face to face group meetings you used to attend. Don’t overthink that the people in the video conferences are judging your outfit or your face.
Remind yourself that they are in a meeting to discuss something important, not to judge your place or your face. Lastly, allow yourself some time to accept that this will be the new normal now. It is okay to feel uneasy but try to feel a little better every video conference you attend.
Another effect of these remote business apps on our mental health is burnout. Since these apps can be installed on our phone, we can see their chats, messages, and other concerns anytime. Because of this, many people work “overtime” or longer than the time they are supposed to work. Thus, leading to burnout.
Another thing is that these video conferencing apps may tend to be distracting for others. In a survey conducted, 42% of remote workers found the continuous stream of virtual distractions on various apps ‘deeply distracting’ and felt most productive when working for a long period of uninterrupted time. Distraction may lead to stress and stress may lead to burnout.
You can battle burnout by following your work schedule. Work only at the time you’re supposed to work. Any concerns or tasks given at the end of your working schedule should be done the next day. Again, give yourself boundaries from ‘work’ and ‘living’.
You can also minimise the distraction you’re experiencing by turning off your video to avoid seeing distracting images and muting yourself if you’re not speaking to fully understand what the other person is saying.
Technology is not inherently good or bad; healthy or unhealthy. Rather, it is the way in which we use it that makes a difference in how we think, act, and feel. In other words, what we choose to view and engage with, how often we engage, and our intention impacts how we function.
These remote business apps have helped us in engaging and connecting with our work despite being at home. They proved to be helpful in our current situation but if we’re not mindful enough of our habits and neglect healthy habits like regular exercise then these apps may negatively impact us mentally.
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