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How to reduce screen fatigue in 8 easy steps

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The truth about Working from Home

How to work from home – with breaks from the screen, exercises for the eyes and body, and tips for reducing the need for excessive online meetings.

Since COVID-19 arrived, record numbers of staff are working remotely have been inundated with web conferences, online meetings, and webinars using various online conferencing software such as Zoom, Google Meets, Google Hangouts, Facetime, Skype, Teams and many more. These excellent tools have helped us to keep in touch and adapt our ability to continue to keep large and small businesses and educational institutions operational to varying degrees during lockdown and quarantine.

For some the ability to work from home has been pure bliss and a dream come true for  others it has been  an absolute nightmare. Whichever end of the spectrum you are on, like it or loath it, the reality is that for the foreseeable future [at least] remote working is the current reality aka the new normal.

So how have you dealt with and managed with your remote working circumstance?

Have you established a routine for yourself and faced your remote working circumstances as if you were still going to the office OR have you taken a more relaxed approach?

Do you get up and get dressed and face your day the same as you would if you were going into an office or do you wonder around in your pj’s or other comfortable attire and only adorn a respectable business appropriate blouse or shirt when you know you have another online meeting to attend?

Have you created a dedicated workspace in your home or has your bed become your new office?

Have you started feeling less and less inclined to actively participate in online meetings or do you show up mindfully and purposefully because after all you still have deliverables and deadlines?

Have you begun to resent the alert that indicates you have yet another team meeting  to attend and WHY can’t they just send you an email?

Do you show up for your team meetings prepared to engage with your colleagues because even though you are working remotely you recognise the need to interact and stay connected to your team?

Have you found yourself glossing over emails and not purposefully engaging with the content and making mindful decisions based on those emails?

Is your energy levels and body language and facial expressions evident that you have lost the ability to engage and are operating on autopilot?

 

We know that too many online meetings and too many hours in front of the screen can be detrimental to our mental and physical health.

While we can not escape the seemingly endless list of online meetings and lectures, we can try to achieve a little bit of balance in our day-to-day work-life.

This article will cover: 
  • The symptoms of screen fatigue
  • Exercises for the eyes and body
  • Why online meetings are tiring and how to reduce them
The symptoms of screen fatigue

So much information is transmitted digitally, and when the brunt of your job is information processing on a screen, fatigue can certainly set in.

Screen fatigue is a medical diagnosis called asthenopia. Asthenopia occurs as a result of staring at a computer, tablet, or phone for extended periods of time. Screen fatigue has multiple symptoms including headaches, pain around the eyes, dry eye, blurry vision, tired or watery eyes, tiredness, difficulty keeping your eyes open or focused on the meeting, sensitivity to light, and even vertigo. Asthenopia has also been called digital eye strain or computer vision syndrome (CVS) and can be exacerbated by reading digital texts for extended periods, working in dim light, or excessive exposure to the kind of blue light emitted by screens. Some people even report an intense feeling of apathy and anxiety after excessive online meetings.

Like all medical conditions there are ways to minimize the effects and manage your health if you are beginning to feel the effects of CVS.

Here are a few that might just help you:

Glasses. Screen fatigue glasses are available so check with your optician or retail outlet if you think you could benefit from a pair.

Take a Break. If you were in the office you would get up and go to the bathroom or printer or have a quick chat to a colleague, perhaps even take a smoke or coffee break, go out for a quick lunch-time errand. So what is stopping you from doing the same while working from home? While you may not be able to walk over to chat to a colleague  you can still get up  and do something else for few minutes; grab a cup of coffee, maybe put on a load of laundry, perhaps a couple of quick laps of walking around the garden or up and down the driveway, maybe even do some gardening if that is your thing.

Reduce Glare. If you sit in a workspace that has constant glare from windows or lights, you may consider rearranging your workspace. If you can reduce external glare from the screen, your eyes will not have to readjust as often, while you are working. Antiglare screens are also available for this purpose.

Adjust Display. The brightness level of your computer screen can also factor into the fatigue your eyes experience. Go to the settings and find the brightness level. You can adjust it to a lower brightness, which will reduce the harsh light streaming from the screen.

Stay Hydrated. Proper water intake helps reduce eye strain, itchiness and irritation. Sometimes when we perform work that isn’t physically strenuous we easily forget the importance of drinking water. Get in the habit of keeping a bottle at your desk and refilling it as soon as it’s empty.

Exercise. Just to be clear, we want you to keep your job. We also want you to stay healthy and able to engage in this new environment, so take time each day to do some sort of physical activity for at least 30 minutes. Your physical and mental health is your priority.

Limit your screen time. Use the built-in features on your phone to report, monitor, and limit your screen time. Apple IOS and Android phones track which apps you use most frequently and how long you are on your screen. With those details, you can make changes to limit exposure and work more efficiently. Perhaps you are spending too long commenting and scrolling through LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, which can result in more on-screen hours than desired. If your phone does not have these features, there are plenty of apps that do. These apps are typically based on the Pomodoro technique and allows you to work in 20-minute intervals while blocking all websites, pop-ups, alerts, and messages across multiple browsers and prevents certain apps from working. You can focus on one task at a time so you can finish that to-do list and have plenty of time to incorporate off-screen activities into your day.

Practice the 20-20-20 rule.Try looking at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. Excessive time in front of a screen that is close to your face can cause screen fatigue. If you alternate looking at something up close and far away, you can help combat it (Marcin, 2017). Looking out the window or going for a quick walk can help.

Why online meetings are tiring 

Meetings are important to connect with teams, share knowledge, and build rapport. During these unprecedented times though, meetings are also a way to keep connected with our colleagues, as we learn to navigate our way into  a new and often very different world of work. We have all at some point in our work-life wished to just be able to work from home and avoid those horrid morning commutes through endless traffic and school runs which were just endless. If we remember why we wanted to that  when we could not have it a t that time; now might be a good opportunity to revisit those wishes and call to mind those reasons which seemed so far from reality at the time. What did working from home look like to you? What did you think it would be like? What was so appealing about working from home for you and has your opinion changed at all?

There is a lot of talk lately about cognitive load and for good reason. We are in the midst of a pandemic and as managers and leaders must be aware of the trauma employees continue to experience. Anxiety is high and many  people have or are  experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder in the past few months. Others struggle with the chaos of children and spouses at home. People have more on their mind and plate than ever before, and many are at their tipping point. Requiring staff to be online with cameras turned on multiple times a day is insensitive to the situation at hand. According to Sander & Bauman (2020), online meetings increase our cognitive load. We need to work harder to process non-verbal communication when working on-line and to try to concentrate, simultaneously hoping there are no home distractions (i.e. barking dogs, noisy lawnmowers, honking horns, screaming kids). At times our online virtual backgrounds fail, revealing a cluttered room on the screen.

There is no doubt that online meetings are here to stay. However, we can control the negative effects by reducing meeting frequency and what times they are scheduled.

Creating a shared, detailed agenda ahead of time using a Google doc can cut down on meeting length. Participants can comment or edit beforehand to make the meeting smoother and more efficient. Additionally, using a messaging platform can help reduce the need for meetings by allowing for team communication in real-time. Lastly, a quick touch-base phone call is often the best means to communicate. A call also reduces the stress of having to get dressed up, clear your calendar, and declutter your surroundings. The added benefit of being able to go for a walk and get away from the screen can make phone calls an appealing option. Zoom, Teams  and other online meeting platforms are great tools. But just because we have all these bells and whistles doesn’t mean we need to use them.

Trust your team, check in when needed, but do not require a cognitively burdened employee to be in back-to-back meetings all day.

5 Reasons to Take the road less travelled and succeed

Take the road less travelled

Have you been lead to believe that a career path is linear and prescribed and should be followed like a set formula; and if you don’t, the likelihood of success is marginal or is at best the luck-of-the-draw.

A non-traditional career path is not always the most comfortable approach, but it is one that can make job candidates more appealing to a smart recruiter or hiring manager. In my experience, intentionally making myself uncomfortable has helped me develop a more holistic skill set. For some, a non-traditional career path can be too challenging to handle. However, I have learned that you do not need to stifle internal anxiety about making big career changes. It is natural, and an opportunity to learn and grow personally and professionally. The key is to use that discomfort productively and ultimately master the situations that seem overwhelming at first.

There are (at least) five lessons I have learned throughout my career in which taking the “easy” route would have been perfectly acceptable, but by taking the road less travelled I gained much bigger rewards.

  1. DON’T OBSESS OVER BIG BRANDS OR LOGOS

Early on, I threw away the notion that big employer brands matter. Choosing to focus on a lesser-known company where the learning opportunities are exponentially higher will almost always bring your the rewards you are looking for. Don’t get me wrong; I believe that working at a big company with a reputable brand can be very good for professionals especially at the beginning of your career.

Big brands have the resources to train people well. If however, you desire a career with velocity and autonomy, a big company is not where you want to spend the entirety of your career. Many people who have grand career aspirations become dependent on navigating internal politics based on their employer’s logo and become less focused on the actual work. Large companies tend to be complex, bureaucratic organizations. While they might be highly competitive and impress your friends and family, you may be unable to progress your career quickly.

For me, moving on from a well-known brand allowed me to manage a large team at a young age; something that would have taken me years to achieve had I been concerned with working my way up the corporate ladder. This is the type of intangible experience that gives a career velocity.

if you are passionate about marketing but realized you want a broader scope as an example; working for a large company can  train you well for the workforce. If you know you want more, it is going to show. So make the choice and move to a smaller company that is perhaps less well-known, but where you can challenge yourself with roles and responsibilities that would have taken years to achieve elsewhere.

  1. TACKLE DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS HEAD-ON

As a woman, it’s vital to force yourself to have uncomfortable conversations with your managers about other priorities in your life, specifically if you have children and family obligations. You must set expectations both at work and at home to achieve enough balance to thrive in each environment. As a younger woman, finding your voice and setting those boundaries with your supervisors and senior managers can be challenging and intimidating. I have witnessed many young women burn out because they pretended that they did not have obligations outside of the office and instead poured the majority of their energy into their work. But that is not reality.

More recently, COVID-19 and the work-from-home culture has made having a family very apparent. You can’t hide the fact that kids are home because they are bursting into your home office, interrupting Zoom calls, and have home-school schedules that require your attention. It has brought about a reckoning. Previously, uncomfortable expectation-setting conversations about family responsibilities were mostly relegated to women, but that is starting to shift. The pandemic has democratized this aspect of work-life balance by making it more ubiquitous and gender-neutral.

  1. FIND AND LEARN FROM ALL TYPES OF LEADERS

The truth is that no one, not even an executive, is good at everything. Some are amazing people managers and fantastic at leading a team. Others are the wicked-smart types, geniuses but genuinely terrible at managing people.

I’ve been lucky. I’ve had the chance to work for, and learn from, the full spectrum of leaders. I spent several years working for a mentor who was a great leader of people and manager of teams. Later I went to work at an organization where my manager wasn’t a particularly great people-leader. Still, they were smart and creative and I gained a lot of important functional experience.

It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a perfect leader, and often we don’t get to choose who we work for. It often comes down to taking the initiative to recognize and learn from the strengths of whoever your leaders are at a given moment and translating both their strengths and weaknesses into skills that you can use in the future.

  1. GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY

Looking back, I have always taken on tasks and responsibilities that were “below my pay grade” as a way to build trust with my team. I will get into the weeds and write email copy, or go to meetings where I’m not expected. Even now, I often do things that others would consider to be their direct responsibility.

Doing the unexpected builds trust, affinity, and goodwill with your teams. It also builds credibility because you show your team members that you are a good practitioner, not just a figurehead devising strategy. It also throws ego out the door. When your team knows that if they need help with something, all they have to do is ask you and we will tackle it together. I believe this approach creates a healthy culture and establishes your role as a leader. Nobody wants to work for someone who delegates responsibility and is incapable of understanding what the real work looks like and what it takes for teams to be productive.

 

  1. DO NOT LET ANXIETIES OWN YOU

Some people are very risk-averse and they do not like a lot of change inmost aspects of their lives. If your career is the antithesis of your personality and you have found that when managing the anxiety that accompanies uncomfortable situations and challenging decisions you endure throughout your career, you have to move through it and not let it own you.

For some people, the anxiety that accompanies navigating a career can be an unpleasant nagging, but it can be downright debilitating for others. By acknowledging its presence and moving through the discomfort, you learn how to manage it rather than let it manage you. Some people may view it as a weakness. I am proof that you can allow discomfort to exist and turn it into a tool to not only survive but to thrive.

Warning: 5 Unexpected Changes that come with a Promotion

 

Promotions come with several changes many employees don’t consider until they’re in their new role.

Every year when companies schedule their annual performance reviews, there are discussions about promotions. Promotions come with several changes many employees don’t consider until they’re in their new role. In my work with CEOs, one of the most common and disturbing trends in today’s workforce is the attitude of entitlement.

Employers and employees perpetuate an attitude of entitlement. Employers want to demonstrate their loyalty, and often one of the most common ways to do this is to promote an employee that has been with the company for a long time. While well-meaning, this often results in the activation of “The Peter Principle” in which companies promote employees to the highest levels of incompetence.

This ultimately leads to termination, and initiates a painfully slow unravelling of an employee’s confidence, engagement, and ability to perform.

Employees in turn perpetuate an attitude of entitlement, by getting themselves into a corner that has no escape, by telling themselves, “I deserve a promotion.” They allow their egos to drive their career advancement. They are often drawn to the idea of a higher-ranking title and a higher rung on the career ladder.

The Fallout of Unwarranted Promotions

Promotions come with significant changes that both employers and employees overlook until it’s too late, and staff have been moved around.

Two current clients are dealing with the fallout of promotions that should have never been granted and promises that should have never been made. We’re working diligently to:

  • minimize/contain further damage,
  • shift the culture from high entitlement/low accountability to low entitlement/high accountability, and
  • save a valuable, loyal, long-term employee with vital institutional knowledge from walking out the door.

Changes That Accompany Promotions

Promotions are not just about rewarding loyalty, and moving employees up a ladder. To set up everyone for success, employees must think about the following criteria prior to accepting a promotion position:

  • New job requirements

Do YOU (the employee) pass the “GWC Test?”

Do you Get it:  Do they truly understand their role, the culture, the processes and systems, the pace of the organization, and how all of these elements come together to form a well-oiled machine?

Do you Want it: Do they genuinely like their job? Do they believe in what they are doing? Are they excited about coming to work to see the progress that is occurring? Do they want to use their experience, talents, and ideas to further the organization?

Do you have the Capacity to do it? Capacity is a multi-pronged word. It applies to mental, physical, emotional, spiritual (in some cases), and intellectual capacity, as well as having the capacity of time to do a job well.

  • Integrating the demands of the new position into your personal life

    It’s likely that the new position will require additional travel either locally and or Internationally and very possibly longer hours. Employees must consider this carefully. They should also have these conversations with their “significant other” who may need to pick up the slack in their absence.

  • Giving up responsibilities you really enjoy

    Promotions often involve movement from a hands-on practitioner role to a management/supervisory role that takes employees out of the trenches where they are doing what they love. Leaving behind the work they love doing may sound glamorous initially however, not doing what you love doing permanently can be a source of significant stress and unhappiness.

  • Learning tasks and responsibilities you may not enjoy

    Conversely, you will likely have to become knowledgeable in areas you may not have naturally pursued. This is common when companies promote rock-star sales employees to a sales leadership position. They move from being in the field responsible for themselves, to being in a corner office responsible for others. Being a team leader may not have been something you would ordinarily have wanted to do however the promotion position requires that you manage a team. Now you have to learn how to do that.

  • Changing the dynamics of office friendships

    This is one of the most surprising and difficult challenges that accompany promotions.

    With any promotion comes a very real change in dynamics and relationships with colleagues. Where once you were able to sit and bemoan manager with your colleagues because you were one-of-team(us) and shared many of the same frustrations – that is now different. You are one of “them”. The guys you once believed didn’t “understand” or was “divorced from what was happening on the floor.” You may have developed good friendships along the way and now that you have moved up the ladder the line has to be drawn in the sand. As a member of the management team, you may well be privy to many sensitive and confidential conversations about your friends that you will not be able to share. Be sure you are  willing to establish the boundary and change the dynamics of your friendships? This is a question only the employee can answer for themselves.

Promoting Strategically and Effectively

Ambitious employees can do many things to set themselves up for successful promotions, including:

  • Leading or engaging in initiatives outside of their traditional roles
  • Being coach-able and open to feedback
  • Mentoring others
  • Delivering on what is expected of them and being known as someone reliable
  • Engaging in professional development and sharing this knowledge with others

Employers must think about career trajectories and organizational impact far in advance of  scheduled performance reviews. Consider why you are offering the promotion- Is it a loyalty decision? Is it a competency based decision – remember the higher up the ladder you go these less technical skill is needed and the more strategic skills ( e.g. soft skills- people skills, negotiation skills) are required.

Perhaps an employee is a good promotion candidate, but requires some coaching and training to step into the new role. This training is often not about how well the person can do the job – because lets face it; the reason the promotion discussion is even on the table is because the person has already proved their technical competence. So what else does the person need to be set up for success? These steps must be executed in advance of the promotion so that business proceeds with minimal disruption..

Unsuccessful promotions leave a trail of disappointment, broken trust, and failed executions. These can also be a costly exercise both financially and reputation-wise for the company.

When thoughtfully executed, however,  successful promotions yield tremendous benefits for everyone involved, empower the company to attract & retain great talent, and propel and promote continued growth.

Sunday Night Syndrome

Do you spend half of Sunday night staring at the ceiling or counting sheep(or other animals). Are you tossing-and-turning and just getting more frustrated at the prospect of facing Monday and the week ahead.

Here is what it looks like:-

You’ve had a great weekend. On Saturday morning your kid’s team won their sports match game, you had a great  dinner out on Saturday night, spent some time relaxing with friends you haven’t seen in a while and even got that cupboard purged – you know the one that you have been putting off for six months. You look at the wall clock and it is 4:30pm on Sunday afternoon, and a feeling of anxiety comes over you.

Almost immediately your mood turns to impatient, worried and stressed. Over and over, you mentally calculate how much time you have left before going to bed, which you dread because you know you’ll toss and turn as you restlessly try to fall asleep.

From Free and Relieved on Friday to Miserable on Sundays. The Sunday Night Syndrome does not necessarily start on Sunday night it can begin as early as Sunday morning.

While it is NOT a medical or psychiatric disorder, it is a collection of normal feelings and challenges that many people experience. It entails the 3 S’s of Sundays: stress, sleep problems, and sadness, and can be a sign of anxiety about your job.

The resulting anxiety affects your last hours of relaxationfamily time, Sunday night dinner, and sleep routines. It makes those tough Monday mornings even tougher.

I used to suffer from The Sunday Syndrome. Sometimes it even hit me on Saturday nights. I even got to a point where I would dread Fridays because these were closer to Mondays.

I’ve learned how to manage it, and I’ve helped my clients make Sundays more fun and productive. Here is my five-step solution to the Sunday Syndrome:

  1. Straighten up your work area as you leave on Fridays to remove the stress of Monday morning catch up. Remind yourself on Sunday that your desk is clean and tidy and chaos free for you. Picture a clean start, beginning the week feeling refreshed and up-to-date with no outstanding work to catch up on.
  2. Schedule your errands, work and fun activities without leaving all the stressful ones for Sunday. People typically over-schedule their weekends or don’t schedule anything. Instead, plan the tough stuff for Saturdays, motivate yourself to get those done early on a Saturday and leave Sundays for the fun and relaxing stuff.
  3. Set the alarm for the same time everyday including Saturday and Sunday. People who sleep later on weekends frequently experience Sunday Night Syndrome when they cannot fall asleep on Sunday night. If you want to sleep in on the weekends, make it no more than 30 minutes. Or let Saturday be your sleep in day and be sure to wake up at the same time on Sunday as you would on Monday.
  4. Savour Sundays by planning an enjoyable activity for yourself or your family. See it as an activity that marks the end of a good and productive weekend. A late Sunday lunch or sun-downers with the family can mark the end of an enjoyable weekend.
    People get depressed and dread the end of their weekend often because they have not mentally prepared for it to end. Establish a family ritual that marks the end of the weekend. Whether it is a family meal or drinks or school and work preparations like setting the weekday meal menus or sorting out school uniforms and scheduling the weeks activities; you will find the mental preparation helps to settle the anxiety and replaces dread with excitement. Make sure it is something that is enjoyable, relaxing and soothing.
  1. End your Sunday preparation ritual with a relaxing bath or shower before bedtime. Avoid a heavy meal before bedtime and any beverages which may affect your sleep patterns. Switch off TVs and video games and maybe add some relaxing music as well and just get ready for a relaxing quiet evening. Once in bed, pick up a book if you need to. I find my night time reading is a necessity,however I always choose a book I have already read so that I can skim the pages with very little actual engagement and this works wonders to induce sleep. Turn the clock out of your sight-line to remove the reminder of your Monday morning 6 am alarm worries. I personally don’t keep a clock in my room. Give yourself permission to relax knowing that the weekend was good but its over and the work week ahead is planned and will be absolutely fine.