Remote work has become the norm for millions of people in 2020, and it’s safe to say that the changes that revolutionized the workplace are here to stay. Whether you transitioned from an in-office environment to a virtual one or you have always been a member of the remote or distributed team, you might find yourself in a remote workplace that feels toxic.
You may be working for a company that everyone wants to work at. Your remote workplace may have perks like no other, you may love the company culture, and from the outside, it may look like you have the dream job in a workplace where there’s nothing to hate. And still, if you feel that you always put yourself second and you are sacrificing everything for your work responsibilities, this may be a clear indication that you might be stuck in a toxic job.
Sometimes, the tell-tale signs of a toxic remote workplace are not that obvious, so here are nine of the signs you should look for in order to be able to determine whether you are indeed in a toxic place at work.
1. Your happiness at work defines your life
Having a good day at work is important for most people, but if your overall happiness depends on how your performance is rated or how well your boss treats you, your priorities are not in the right place. A particularly important red flag to look out for is an environment where yelling and emotional outbursts are the norm. If you are walking on eggshells and are afraid every time you are emailing your boss or some of your colleagues, wondering how their reaction will ruin your mood, your remote workplace is toxic, and you should definitely get another job.
2. Everyone in the remote workplace feels burned out
Feeling burned out is something quite common in remote workplaces, but if everyone feels stressed and overworked all the time, this is a sign that something is not really working. Try to determine whether this only occurs when pressing deadlines are approaching. If it doesn’t, and it feels like that all the time, you should be on your way out soon.
3. There’s a lot of talking behind the back
Gossip is a rampant issue in traditional workplaces, and it has found its way into the remote work environment as well. If everyone talks behind each other’s back all the time instead of being honest and say what they want to say straight to your face, that is not a healthy work environment. Don’t let petty gossip affect your performance and mental health.
4. Leadership is inconsistent
When management says one thing and then doesn’t follow through, that’s a red flag. When you work remotely, you want to be sure leadership has the entire organization’s best interests at heart. If you constantly notice that their actions don’t match their words, this means that they are highly unlikely to lead the company in the right direction. Look for behaviour patterns, and if you notice that they never change even though management constantly promises that change is coming, you’ll be better off leaving.
5. It’s all about who you know
Another major red flag is when your organization prioritizes connections and other factors other than performance when it comes to promotions. When management considers that getting ahead is more about who you know than your actual performance, you are indeed working in a toxic remote workplace. Even though this is more difficult to observe and prove in a remote workplace than in traditional working environments, if you notice this kind of disturbing pattern when it comes to upward mobility, it’s time to reconsider your position.
6. There is no work-life balance
All employees deserve to have a full life outside of work, whether they are working remotely or not. Your company should not expect you to keep your Slack notifications on outside business hours, and you shouldn’t be scared about leaving an email unread after dinner. If you feel that you can’t even make a dentist appointment without feeling guilty, your work-life balance is definitely off-track, and you need to do something about it.
7. Bad communication is rampant
Confusing or insufficient communication is one of the main issues in toxic workplaces. Whether it is verbal or written communication, if you feel that there is a constant lack of clarity around projects and management fails to listen, you are likely to be in a toxic remote workplace. That communication may also include passive aggressive communication, different employees receiving different messages and constant off hours communication.
8. You are micromanaged all the time
If your manager nit-picks everything you do and you are the point where you feel that you are losing your sense of autonomy, you are highly likely to lose your motivation. This in turn will affect your performance, and your self-confidence will also take a hit. If you are micromanaged and your manager doesn’t do anything to change their behaviour even after you point it out repeatedly, it’s time to move on.
9. You’re having trouble sleeping
Every time someone starts losing sleep, there is usually some reason. If you feel that you are constantly stressing about your work and deadlines without ever being able to switch off your brain and take a break, that is a sign of a toxic workplace. Your job shouldn’t ask you to sacrifice your ability to recharge because you are overthinking conversations you had with your boss, or your mind is racing with meetings where you felt like you weren’t listening to. If you lose sleep over your job constantly, it’s time to take the leap and find a company that actually promotes a healthy work-life balance.
If you are feeling several of the above signs of toxicity whilst working remotely for an employer, it may be a good time for you to consider applying for a new remote job.