When you’re working on-site or in the office, there are lots of cues and norms about when it’s time to go home. Without those cues and norms, WFH workers are struggling to stop working.
Leaders, it’s on you to nudge your WFH teammates to “go home.”
One of the underrated benefits of leading a co-located team is that there are enough tangible workways that get people out the door.
This isn’t so with WFH (working from home) workers. When “work” happens from their home, there’s no procession of people leaving, cueing them to go home. Lights don’t dim. There’s no eerie quiet that makes them feel like they’re about to get murdered.
And, let’s be real, they probably had some other non-work stuff pop up that they dealt with during work hours and they’re making up an unspecified amount of time, aka screen sucking until their eyes, bodies, or relationships hurt enough to stop.
When COVID hit, so much of the emphasis was on what workers needed to do to maintain boundaries and set them up for success, and, in my opinion, not enough attention was paid to the ways leaders needed to create alternative workways to recreate the external conditions that helped their teams make their work coherent and bounded. The burnout, languishing, and general meh we’ve been experiencing with our workforce are simply the downstream effects of people having to do the work while recreating their workways on their own.
As we continue to navigate what hybrid or COVID-disrupted work looks like and more of our teams are working from home, leaders need to continually reinforce and rebuild the virtual analogs to the cues and external prompts that help their teams do their best work.
One simple thing we can do is to check in with our WFH workers to see if it’s time for them to check out for the day. Sure, they may be intentionally working during the hours that work best for them, but it’s probably more likely that they’re drowning in a clickhole or in a draining #JustOneLastThing stretch that’s lasted three hours.