Are you working at home or sleeping at work?

Are you starting to feel more tired than usual at work from home? Are you afraid that your anxiety and fatigue might get discovered? You are not alone. We can all use boundaries, routines, and rituals as a wake-up call in finding joy and peace of mind while working from home.
Written by Vala Afshar, Contributing Writer on

There's a grain of truth in every joke, it's often said. When a colleague mentioned in passing he feels like he now sleeps at work, we were reminded of a favorite sitcom episode where one of the lead characters, George, struggles to balance work and rest effectively. His solution? Convert his desk into a nap desk. 

SEE: Life after lockdown: Your office job will never be the same--here's what to expect (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)

Complete with a shelf for his alarm clock, a drawer for his blanket, and a cup holder. By leaving his suit coat gently draped over his office chair at all times, he masters the tricky balance between appearing to be always on at work and well-rested. The joke's up the moment there's an emergency announcement in the office that prompts George's boss to shelter in place under the nearest desk, where he's startled to discover George nestled on a pillow.

Are you starting to feel tired at work, too? Afraid you might get discovered? You're not alone. And on a side note, it takes much for focus and concentration to attend online meetings versus in-person meetings. So do not be surprised if you are fatigued after hours of virtual meetings with your colleagues. 

Why we hit snooze

The elusive promise of the snooze button is that just a few more minutes of rest will restore your energy level to "normal." Except those few extra minutes -- 10 on average -- never seem to deliver the refreshing results we expect. So instead of becoming more rested and more productive, we endure a mild malaise. Similar to what you may experience now that marathon meeting Mondays warped into marathon meeting months. With an occasional alarm sounding loudly on the home front. And no foreseeable rest in sight.

"One of the biggest challenges of working from home is that you never know when the workday ends or begins," says John Taschek, SVP of Market Strategy at Salesforce. "You may not even know what day it is. You may wake up and start working five minutes later, before your mind has fully adjusted from your probably lack of sleep. You may feel guilty for eating lunch so you do it in your home office area while casually listening in on a conference call. Your calendar bleeds from one thing to the next and you check your email or feeds in between. The fluidity of the day may be exciting, but you also may not be as effective as you think."

Even socialization has become less effective as a tool to reset and refresh.

"It doesn't matter whether you call it a virtual happy hour," explains Gianpiero Petriglieri, an expert on sustainable learning and development in the workplace. "It's a meeting, because mostly we are used to using these tools for work. Imagine if you go to a bar, and in the same bar you talk with your professors, meet your parents or date someone, isn't it weird?" 

Lead a wake-up call

As goes the leadership, so goes the team. And great leaders discover how to bring out the best in others, regardless of circumstances. Esther Perel, New York Times bestselling author and Psychotherapist, believes leading renewal begins with mourning what we've all lost. And then offering a path to restore what's missing: Boundaries. Routines. Rituals. 

"It's ambiguous loss " Esther explains. "The sense that we have lost so many intangible elements of our normal lives that we can hardly identify what we're missing....It's a loss of the way we have lived; the boundaries between work, home, school, and more; our plans, weddings, trips, birthday parties; and a loss of safety and trust in our leadership."

What I realized is that my level of trust and confidence in my colleague soared when he used humor to acknowledge what so many of us are experiencing right now. Exhaustion. The great news is that he didn't stop there, and you don't have to either. Here are a few tools to help you lead the way to restore what's been lost.

Boundaries. "Take breaks. Silence is golden," Taschek coaches. "Video conference calls can be more taxing on you than in-office, in-person meetings. You are basically doing hour-long selfies while inviting your colleagues and customers into the privacy of your home while having the feeling that anything you say or do will be recorded and examined at an undetermined date in the future. And it's OK to say no to virtual happy hours that are masquerading as work."

Routines. "Lead by example," adds Thomas Winter, who's spent most of his career as a global, virtual leader based in Switzerland. "Inexperienced remote workers tend to sit in meetings all day and go exhausted by evening. Build in routine breaks for and with your team. Role model the new routine behaviors that will help them succeed. Like physical activity. And using phone calls over emails to get to the real issues and the story behind the story. Help your team create new routines that contribute to their wellbeing and success."

Rituals. Establish an enjoyable ritual to conclude your workday. To "commute" from work to home. Whether it's powering down your devices. Listening to a favorite song. Or taking a walk (even inside your own home). "One of my favorite phrases is solvitur ambulando -- "It is solved by walking," explains Arianna Huffington in her book Thrive. "It refers to the fourth-century-BC Greek philosopher Diogenes's response to the question of whether motion is real. To answer, he got up and walked. As it turns out, there are many problems for which walking is the solution. In our culture of overwork, burnout, and exhaustion, how do we tap into our creativity, our wisdom, our capacity for wonder? Solvitur ambulando."

We are doing our very best to add value and stay engaged while working from home. All of us who can work from home, woke up earlier this year to the fact that working from home is a privilege. We also woke up to the fact that for some of us, work is not a place. In fact, working from home is working and many of us would rather stay at home working even after the pandemic is behind us. 

Work from home research shows that 40% of remote employees would prefer to work remotely even after the pandemic is over. The research shows that remote workers are only experiencing on average a 1% decline in productivity. Salesforce Research also revealed that 86% of remote workers rate their productivity as excellent or good. That said, there are real challenges when working remotely and doing your very best to communicate with your leadership team and managers. 

Karen Mangia, vice president of customer and market insights and a member of the Salesforce's Work From Home Task Force, and I have co-authored several articles on how you can reach your full potential and deliver peak performance while working from home.

 The path toward achieving high-performance work at home starts with how you design and architect your surroundings, followed by how you practice and refine the art and science of public speaking and presentation skills. Managing your time is important and it starts with the ability to pause, ponder, and prioritize your timeEffectively managing your remote teams requires a new mindset and behaviors. To manage teams with high energy, leaders must cultivate healthy relationships for all stakeholders

We also know the importance of managing relationships with managers and business leaders in a virtual-only setting. And the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship includes your ability to manage up while working remotely. We also shared how world record-holding and champion athletes develop a mindset that keeps you inspired and motivated to work from home.  

We believe that together we can wake up to what is possible, learn and grow as a community, and help others do the same. What are you discovering as you work from home? Wake us up with your insights here or by joining us and extending this conversation on Twitter at @karenmangia and @ValaAfshar.

This article was co-authored by Karen Mangia, vice president, customer and market insights, at Salesforce

Karen engages customers globally to discover new ways of creating success and growth together. From Executive Advisory Boards to strategic consulting engagements, her insights are central to Go-to-Market strategy, product development, marketing, and branding. In addition, Karen influences industry thought leadership in her role as Chair of the Customer Experience Council for The Conference Board. Formerly responsible for Insight Innovation at Cisco Systems, she led a global team with oversight into Customer Satisfaction and Experience, Diversity Business Practices, and Global Offset and Countertrade. Karen is also the author of Success With Less and a TEDx speaker.

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