Are you finding working from home is more exhausting and you are more drained than when you had to commute to and from a busy office?

I’m sure you are starting to read more about ‘Zoom Fatigue’ or Teams Tired’.  As with any new experience, by using these platforms which we may not be used to we are training new neural pathways in our brain.  This is one of the reasons why learning is tiring, even more so when we start down what was a familiar pathway (the work looks the same) but then have to divert to do the work in a different way (virtual meetings, mastering new platforms, presenting or receiving information in a different way).

Added to that, we are having to respond to multitudinous ways of being contacted; if my WhatsApp is stupid busy with work, personal and family calls at all times of the day, then it’s hardly surprising my ‘on’ button feels like it got jammed.

I recently saw this model from Nir Eyal on a former colleague’s LinkedIn post and all of a sudden it all made sense. His view is that technology can perpetuate a vicious and seemingly constant cycle of responsiveness. The alerts that go off at all hours seem endless.

When we look at the science behind our almost addictive reaction to such pings, it’s not surprising that our brains are exhausted. Somehow, that need to find out who needs us, wants something from us, needs to speak with us grows more and more irresistible – especially when many of us are missing out on our usual social interaction over a coffee, lunch or just someone wandering past your desk.

Experiments on response to stimuli with mice found that providing the same treats every time a mouse pressed a lever was less motivating than varying the rewards.  So, when we don’t know who could be needing us or what they could want it gets harder and harder to resist the ping. We tell ourselves it’s just a quick look and Bam! we get our attention fix – again; and by taking that quick peek (it never is) those neural pathways to fire up all over again.

Devices and platforms use triggers such as notifications to encourage us to take actions—opening the app, looking at Slack, checking LinkedIn etc. Variable rewards - messages coming in more frequently and from a wider social sphere -encourage us to take action every time: checking our inboxes, refreshing social feeds, and the like.

I for one have a hard time resisting the alerts, and an even harder time not ‘just quickly checking’. In fact - there goes my phone now!

CJ

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