Last updated on April 1, 2021.
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Working from home will become more common now that we’ve all been set up for it. That doesn’t mean it is optimised. Are you finding yourself increasingly frustrated, less productive or isolated from your team? Here is how to figure out if your remote workplace is toxic and what you can do to solve it.
What’s a toxic workplace?
There are quite a few issues that can make a workplace toxic. Here are some of them:
- Communication problems: They can present themselves in a few ways. If employees are getting different information, there is a lack of clarity around projects or communication occurs in a passive aggressive manner.
- Gossiping and cliques: If that occurs amongst colleagues, different competing groups will form, which can create tension.
- Lack of motivation: Unmotivated colleagues can put additional pressure on your day to day life as you end up working harder to compensate.
- Work/life balance: an office culture that encourages out of hours communications and makes it difficult for employees to disconnect from work.
How can working from home become toxic?
Unfortunately, remote work is not safe from the toxicity of the physical office. Indeed, a lot of the elements mentioned before occur in remote work in the same way (sometimes worse) and different issues can also be encountered.
Because working from home is relatively new to everyone, companies sometimes do not have adequate resources to support their teams when they’re out of the office. The lack of resources does not allow employees to properly do their job which in turn reduces productivity and increases pressure and feelings of anxiousness.
Another issue that arises with remote work is close monitoring. Advances in technology mean that some managers have the possibility to much more closely monitor their employees’ productivity at home. This can be very stressful for employees. They may feel as though they cannot take breaks or work at their own pace and are then more likely to burnout.
Remote working can create communication issues amongst employees. When having an in-person meeting, communication flows a lot easier and the presence of visual clues reduces to risk of miscommunication. When all communication is happening over email, calls or zoom, it is very easy for signals to get crossed.
That being said, not all hostility comes from misunderstandings. Indeed, some people may find it easier to be rude or disrespectful through their computers so there might be more verbal abuse going on now than there would be at the office. Even when the abuse is not directed at you, seeing your colleagues go through it can be very distressing.
Working from home blurs the boundaries between work and personal life. In person, once you leave the office, people know that you are off the clock when you’re at home it is harder to ‘leave work’. Plus, when your home becomes your office, your home may continue to feel like the office even after hours.
Tips for a healthy remote workplace
Many issues like miscommunication, missing resources, verbal abuse need to first be communicated to your superior. Because you’re not in the same physical space, they are not able to pick up on problems like they would normally be able to. So the first step is to talk to them. A zoom call might be the closest option to an in-person conversation. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to them directly, consider going to human resources first.
Setting physical boundaries
If you’re finding that a lot of your stress is coming from not being able to disconnect from work, it might be time to set some clear boundaries. You can set those boundaries in your physical space. If you have the space to do so, create an office area in which you feel comfortable. It could be a separate room or it could be a specific corner of your dining table. Either way, by only working in that space it will allow you to not make your entire house feel like the office.
Setting strict hours
Those boundaries can also be set for your working hours. This could mean communicating to your colleagues that you no longer check your emails after a certain time or setting an automatic reply after office hours explaining that you’ll get back in touch in the morning. Of course, depending on your profession and your office culture this might be difficult to do right away. It could be worth bringing it up with your colleagues or your superior to open up the conversation.
Having space from the office is a good time to evaluate what works and what doesn’t. If you’re struggling, take a look at your work environment to understand what might be causing it. Open up the conversation, see if your colleagues feel the same way. We hope that this will help you create a healthy remote workspace. Sign up to our newsletter for regular health & wellness tips!