Work separation anxiety is defined as when employees focus on work-related tasks and concerns over their role while they are not at work. It is a condition which employers increasingly recognise, and it could be negatively affecting your team.
Tech employees, in particular, are most at risk from experiencing this phenomenon, as round the clock communication, has blurred the lines between work and home life.
The added factor of the coronavirus outbreak has contributed to the problem even further. With many tech employees remote working, it can be difficult for them to set strict ‘work’ times, dipping in and out of tasks as and when.
So this has changed the nature of work separation anxiety and added another level to it. In this article, I want to talk about work separation anxiety, how the coronavirus has impacted the issue and how to help manage your team to minimise work separation anxiety in them.
What Is Work Separation Anxiety?
Work separation anxiety (WSA) occurs when employees feel unable to switch off from their roles when they are technically ‘off duty’ such as when they are at home or on annual leave. The condition can affect employees in any sector, but the problem can be exacerbated in IT and tech roles.
This is because technology plays a big part in work separation anxiety – the ability to switch off is a modern phenomenon brought on by 24/7 communication.
Of course, it is this communication which has helped the tech industry to thrive. Getting around the problem of time zones and physical distance is what the success of many tech roles are based on.
But when your tech employees find it hard to switch off, this can lead to problems for both them and your organisation. WSA can result in presenteeism in your employees – where they are physically present but not working productively. The option to finish things at home can be tempting, but this can result in more inferior results as a lack of opportunity for collaboration or a drop in concentration. Work separation anxiety
needs to be managed, to allow your tech team to produce their best results without causing themselves unnecessary stress or jeopardising your organisation. I will share advice on how to manage WSA at the end of this article. Next, I want to discuss how remote working also plays a part, especially for tech roles.
Remote Working and Work Separation Anxiety
The coronavirus outbreak has imposed remote-working practices on many organisations, some of which could be in place for some time.
However, many tech employees worked remotely before the outbreak – working from home has been on the rise globally over the last decade. But if your tech team are now working from home for the first time due to coronavirus, they may be experiencing remote work separation anxiety.
This can manifest in reduced concentration due to being at home, keeping non-regular hours and working at times when they should be off-duty.
As organisations work through the COVID-19 outbreak, the future for some companies looks uncertain. The outbreak has caused upheaval for the majority of people, and tech employees now working from home
might experience WSA due to being removed from their normal working routine. They might also be experiencing excess stress as a result of working from home if their conditions are not set-up for remote working, for example, lacking a proper home-office space.
To combat this, below are strategies to help your tech team manage work separation anxiety while working remotely.
How to Recognise WSA and Manage Your Team
The following are ways to ensure your team are working regular hours and not letting work and home become intertwined, causing anxiety and reducing productivity.
- Advise and check that your team are working regular hours – you can do this by having regular check-ins with them either via phone or video.
- Ensure your team turn off their emails when they are ‘off duty’ so that they are not tempted to look at new emails and notifications.
- If employees need to check in with work for a specific reason during a non-working day, make sure they only do so at certain times in the day and that they are not regularly checking their phone or emails.
- Offer extra support to team members who are working from home for the first time. Check that team members have somewhere quiet to work from and that they are not struggling to juggle home and work life.
Work separation anxiety can affect anyone, and can negatively impact on your team and your organisation. Look out for the signs that employees are keeping non-standard hours and use this guide to help manage them to better working practices.
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