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Tips to avoid remote job overload

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Are remote workers overloaded with extra tasks while working from home to fulfill their remote job requirements? Perhaps collectively we may be feeling overwhelmed, overloaded by general life circumstances while we are still recovering from the COVID-19 chaos of lockdowns, mandated social distancing and forced closings of non-essential businesses. This article presents tips for workers and supervisors can help avoid burnout and remote job overload.

Who is most likely to miss work deadlines? Gen X or Gen Z

In a recent Bloomberg article shared results of a survey showing that, “Gen Z workers in the UK are more likely to miss deadlines than Gen X, even though the younger group spends the most time working late. At the same time, the youngest employees also waste more hours on unnecessary tasks.”

Missing deadlines isn’t a generational concept

Who really knows why deadlines are missed by workers: young, middle aged, or veteran?

Twenty years before the forced reset and planned destruction (some would say) of what was considered immutable beliefs grounded in fact, biology and general conventional thinking, Richard Swenson, M.D. in his book, “Overload Syndrome,” addressed the nuanced concept of overwork.  Why is it that some people react negatively to added responsibilities and tight deadlines? While others respond favorability to performing under pressure when there is little margin for error?

Swenson’s Theory of HPP, SPP and SP may provide an answer

Using Swenson’s theory, he sorted people based upon their characteristic ability to get things done (complete work projects, meet deadlines, achieve professional and personal goals). Here are the three segmentations:

Highly Productive People (HPP) Workplace Characteristics Described

Highly productive people (HPP) are internally driven for higher levels of engagement with the outside world. They revel in conditions such as sleep depravity, hunger pains and muscle soreness. They appear to operate on the job like the ‘energizer bunny.’ Some, Swenson ventures to day, are so extraordinary that they “accomplish more before 9am than the rest of us do all month.”  This type of person reminds us of the famous A-list actor who was raised in a family with modest means in a Boston neighborhood, Mark Wahlberg. His extreme schedule has been reported upon by The Guardian. Wahlberg is said to rise as early as 2:30am. By 7:00am, he has already showered, ate breakfast, exercised and prayed. His daily schedule is so tight (definitely no room for error), that he allots  specific time for daily activities into as little as 15 minute increments, writes Men’s Journal. What’s so interesting about HPPs is that they have “a remarkable work ethic”, according to Swenson, and they “often have great vision.” Swenson writes, “even in the midst of the some and fire of overload that disable the efforts of others, HPPS can see where they need to go and are determined to get there. They have the vision of an eagle and the jaws of a pit bull. Once they sink their teeth into a project they believe in, they are not about to let go.“, p. 31.From a business perspective and in the eyes of an employer, HPPs are highly desirable. But, we haven’t yet mentioned the drawbacks, have we? Swenson pointed out that highly productive go getters can lack good warning signals. And, when the physiological warning signs, gut instinct, guardian angels and even loved ones suggest a slowing down of the Formula One engines are in order, HPPs don’t react until they come very close to or have already crashed and burned. Another fallacy of the HPP is their need to be either recognized based upon their performance (output, productivity) or they only acknowledge others based upon their performance also. You can imagine how if you were on the receiving end of such transactional exchanges how the human connection, bonding and relationship building can be found to be utterly lacking. The HPP, if not careful, can lead a life devoid of close personal relationships. As we said, HPPs are model employees, often the targets of talent poachers. Therefore, employers must take heed not to abuse them.

Productivity tips for highly productive people

Here then are suggested techniques that could be used by supervisors, managers and remote team leaders for keeping your top notch, top tier talent healthy:

  • notice early warning signs of stress (irritability, short tempered, impatience) and hold a short check in meeting
  • provide early support for specific tasks and work projects through the re-assignment of temporary details from another unit
  • prioritize work assignments and projects to focus on most urgent needs first, moderate next, and low value last
  • host remote team retreat to give remote staff the opportunity to identify areas in need of support, gently force all to express at least one area of need
  • require (or softly demand) of remote staff schedule one hour during the work day to de-stress (monitor its implementation and follow through)
  • provide data demonstrating how a healthy body and balanced life style leads to improved performance. See Harvard Business Review article, here.
  • hold an intervention (as a last resort)

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Highly Sensitive People (HSP) Workplace Characteristics Described

Highly sensitive people (HSP) first described by the psychologist Elaine Aron in her book, “Highly Sensitive People,” are people who tend to be overwhelmed by too much activity, too much sensory stimuli and too much engagement with other people, places or things. This isn’t to say they are not productive. To the contrary. The main issue is that they do not revel in higher levels of engagement with the outside world. Just the opposite. They are expert readers of non-verbal communication and unspoken social cues. They easily pick up on and can be negatively impacted by chaos, social discord, rivalry, and the negative emotions people often exhibit each and every day, subconsciously, without even noticing.  Being more vulnerable to one’s environment can lead to symptoms of overstimulation. Symptoms include: irritability, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, headaches, and fatigue.  The sensitivity trait can particularly helpful for personal and professional success when managed and tamed. HSPs can be, “more susceptible to overload,” writes Swenson. Believe it or not, let us reiterate, sensitivity can be a core foundation of professional and career success.

Productivity tips for highly senstive productive people

Melody Wilding writing for Harvard Business Review , says “sensitivity can be a superpower at work.” However, employers must express a willingness to offer:

  • allow for options to reduce sensory stimuli during video conference calls (audio only)
  • introduce ‘do not disturb’ or ‘unavailable’ filters for daily schedules
  • permit the use of noise-cancelling headphones
  • monitor for periodic screen breaks
  • suggest natural or lowered lighting
  • permit screen and/or workplace dividers and barriers
  • brainstorm with virtual teams working from home on possible solutions to overstimulation
  • consider the design of less animated and/or colorful, radio-dialed buttons and tabs, and multi-tabbed macro sheets for tracking work projects
  • allow for reasonable ‘alone time’ between video conferences and remote team meetings before scheduling another (no back to backs without breaks)
  • allow for asynchronous chats and forums
  • provide agendas in advance of remote meetings to give remote team members ample time to prepare in advance

Spiritual People (SP) Workplace Characteristics Described

Highly Spiritual people (SP) represent the last grouping Swenson discussed. He identified Christians, in particular (and we would add any person who holds and leads a faith-filled life regardless of religion) can falsely assume that they have been endowed with “special exemptions to stress, overload, and burnout.” pg. 34. They may internalize temporary bouts of anxiety as self-imposed and not all entirely driven by environmental forces. They may say to themselves in a judgmental way, “why is this happening to me?” And, at the same time mistakenly reply, “because I lack faith. I haven’t been a good Christian. I am not good enough, etcetera.” You get the picture.

Productivity tips for spiritually productive people

Swenson suggests that SPs who keep a balance sheet in their head to tabulate the times they have been good and those in which they could have done better, to do the following instead:

  • Instead of pushing yourself to the ultimate limits by giving 120% of yourself each day, just commit to giving 80% and keep the remaining 20% in reserve
  • Endeavor to moderate your pace and resist the urge to increase the speed in which you working an equal alignment with technological advances
  • As our world becomes highly complex and complicated, maintain a preference for simplicity and minimalization
  • Escape from the temptation to remain ‘on’ 24 hours a day by turning off or disabling devices during rest periods, vacations and holidays
  • Preserve the respect of your own personal and digital space by demanding privacy from unwanted emails, phone calls, and direct mail
  • Refrain from the temptation to buy a new discretionary product, just because it is new when the item presently possess works fine
  • Moderate personal debt and live modestly within one’s means





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