Have you ever heard about FOMO? It stands for „fear of missing out” and it’s a feeling of fear that we’ll miss out on experiences, news, information or even events that may be happening around us. Common symptoms of FOMO include scrolling through your social media feed and constantly checking e-mails, the urge to catch up with everyone, saying “yes” to almost everything or just not feeling as good as “others”. “Others” just seem to be having much more fun…
So what does FOMO have to do with remote and hybrid work? A lot. You would be surprised how many people experience it. If you want to know if you’re also caught in this vicious circle, respond to the following questions. If you respond “yes” to most of them… It’s probably time to rethink your working conditions.
- You wake up in the morning and you immediately check Slack, e-mails and messages in project management apps.
- You accept every meeting invite as you’re willing to keep track “just in case”.
- Even if you’re in the middle of deep work, you still check all notifications.
- When your team organizes a social event and you can’t attend, you feel left out.
The issue of virtual omnipresence
I’ve met managers who said that they check if their team members’ status is “green” to confirm they’re working. Many leaders expressed that they expect an immediate response from employees during business hours. If they don’t, they’re probably playing video games or doing laundry. At the same time, I’ve observed numerous fresh hybrid and remote team members that let others know about each and every single thing they’re doing at the moment. For example:
- “I’ll grab a quick coffee and I’ll be back in 15 minutes” – People share this kind of message in a Slack channel with 20 other employees. Everyone checks this notification as it may be important… Of course it’s not.
- “Good morning! Have a great day!” – Such messages are shared in public Slack channels with 300 users… And most of them respond with “You too!”…
To me, both examples prove that many teams are trying to replicate office chats with communication apps. I can’t stop wondering if they would walk up to all these people every day to share such information if they sat together in one physical workspace… I’m sure that’s not the case.
Remote workers prove they’re really out there
It’s quite tough for hybrid teams. Why? Because employees who prefer to work in the office tend to be more privileged than remote workers. So, what do the latter do? They want to be always informed about everything so they keep checking all notifications, communication channels and e-mails to make sure they’re on track. At the same time, they feel like they need to reassure others about “really being there”.
Many “fresh” remote workers who join hybrid teams feel the need to reassure onsite team members about their virtual presence. They don’t want to be forgotten. They want reassurance about being “needed” despite not working from the office. From my perspective, this is also a result of past experiences. Work from home was once a benefit for chosen ones. It was a privilege that employees had to earn. It was an exception. Then, everyone was suddenly forced to work from home during the pandemic. Workers needed to prove that they remained productive, despite not being in the office. This was rather difficult as many people faced issues such as no boundaries, working longer hours, attending every single meeting, and responding to all messages right away. Well, that wasn’t necessarily a sustainable approach towards flexible working, was it?
How to fight back and calm down
Principles, expectations, and boundaries are the key to success here. I observe many companies that just say “we don’t care where our people are as long as they get the job done”. Amazing. I love it. BUT… If there are no guidelines in place then the company may end up providing a completely different working experience for their onsite and remote team members. Proximity bias, mental health issues and unequal workloads may become real.
Some say that hybrid is the worst of both worlds. I think that I agree. Not because I primarily advocate for remote working but because it’s not easy to ensure the same employee experience to both office workers and remote workers. That’s why I always keep repeating the same thing over and over again: All hybrid companies must have a remote-first mindset. This means having all processes, communication and basically the entire employee journey ready for a fully remote team. If everything is documented, collaboration principles and performance management is set up in a transparent manner, our hybrid team members will be treated equally. They will feel that they’re part of the same time. No matter where they are. In such a scenario in-person meetings will become an amazing addition to foster connections and have fun. … But how should we make this part of hybrid working scalable? That’s a topic for another article.