Tech to Battle WFH Burnout and Isolation

Posted by: Leila Chreiteh

Posted on 03/24/2021

Tech to Battle WFH Burnout and Isolation

As we lap the one-year anniversary of the global shutdown and shift to working from home, companies are evaluating the long-term pros and cons of employing a distributed workforce, and according to Chris Herd, “Remote work isn’t going anywhere.” As the founder of Firstbase, a startup helping companies manage remote employees, Herd reports that even during lockdowns and while juggling homeschooling kids, 80-90% of people have reported that they never want to work in an office full-time again, and 46% of people want to work from home at least part-time. And he predicts those numbers are likely to grow further once the benefits of remote work post-COVID are fully realized. Since remote work is here to stay, we must figure out how to make it work for all of us.

Isolation, Burnout, and Productivity

Though many prefer WFH to an office commute, the transition has had unforeseen impacts on how we work individually and as teams. The research Microsoft began at the beginning of the pandemic shows that most of their new remote workers reported a lack of physical cues, body language, and ability to gauge emotional responses in remote communication methods as significant hurdles to productive disagreement and decision-making. Likewise, a recent analysis by TINYpulse also found that employees onboarded remotely mid-pandemic were not absorbing their new workplaces’ culture and values, attributing it to those onboarded after COVID-19 being less connected with their teammates. According to a report released by employee experience company Limeade, the culmination of these factors leads to increased burnout levels: 72% reported experiencing burnout—up from 42% in a similar survey before the pandemic.

“We are all right now participants in a giant, natural, uncontrolled remote work experiment from which [we] must learn.”

— Microsoft

With 1 in 4 Americans set to continue WFH in 2021, there will be an even stronger call for the development of innovative tech in order to battle growing burnout and isolation rates. Here are Remoter’s top five cultural aspects that “challenge” an enjoyable remote day to day that they recommend company leaders work to address:

  1. Constant video calls—replace video with audio-only calls whenever possible. 
  2. Lack of asynchronous communication—privileging synchronous communication (like phone calls, video calls, and live chat) negatively impacts your remote team’s productivity and contributes to increased burnout levels.
  3. Team member disconnect—even your office introvert is missing some old-fashioned human interaction, so try establishing “virtual coffee breaks” and work-free virtual happy hours as a team practice.
  4. All work and no play is causing burnout—create a self-care and watercooler chat for team members to take a break mid-workday and share their remote work tips.
  5. Respect people’s non-work time—work/life balance is tricky when your home is also your office, so set clear guidelines about avoiding after-hours requests for items that don’t need immediate attention.

Teams communicating exclusively through digital mediums must adapt to incorporate meaningful interactions between team members and recreate the ease and clarity of in-person idea-sharing in our new virtual workplaces. Here are a few tools to get the ball rolling with your remote team.

Remote Communication Hacks

How do we adapt our remote work processes to recreate the ease and clarity of in-person idea sharing in our virtual workspaces? We’ve included some of our favorite tools for collaborating virtually that help to minimize the top challenges for enjoyable remote work.

Loom is a video messaging tool that helps you get your message across through instantly shareable videos.

With Loom, you can record your camera, microphone, and desktop simultaneously. Your video is then immediately available to share through Loom’s patented technology like the video to the right.

Loom’s technology is excellent for all your asynchronous communication needs, like nailing a virtual pitch (looking at you, founders!), sharing project updates with your team, and troubleshooting technical issues. Not every update needs to be a video conference, and, frankly, operating that way can be a colossal waste of time and energy. One of our remote workforce’s top requests is for fewer video meetings, so embrace the asynchronicity and send a Loom instead!

Meet your new meeting-scheduler, agenda-setter, and note-taker: Notiv.

Through collaborative pre-meeting agendas and calendar syncing, Notiv ensures all attendees are prepped and ready for a meeting before it begins. When Notiv joins your video or phone meeting, the application automatically records the meeting’s content and highlights important decisions, action items, and insights. After hanging up, Notiv creates a searchable transcript from the audio recording, which can be shared and reviewed quickly to get the full context behind all your team’s decisions.

Notiv’s technology not only makes pre-meeting planning and collaboration simple, it also frees your team up to be fully present mid-meeting by alleviating the need to take detailed notes. Plus, with Notiv’s searchable transcript and assignable action-items, your team will always be on the same page.

Want to see an example of Notiv’s transcription? Check out the recordings and Notiv transcriptions of our last two Outlandish Speaker Series with Lo Toney and Hamet Watt.

Teemyco is bringing all the perks of working IRL to your own virtual office.

Complete with brainstorming rooms, focus areas, meeting rooms, and, of course, a kitchen for coffee breaks and office banter, each virtual office is fully customizable to accommodate your company’s, team’s, and individual needs.

Teemyco’s virtual office replicates co-worker interactions and the team presence of working in the same building, like popping into your favorite coworker’s office to chat without the back-and-forth scheduling and meeting links. Your team appears as icons that can move from room to room based on their workstyle mood. Shift your icon to a quiet zone when you need to concentrate without people trying to ping you, then move over to the kitchen when you’re in need of some fresh office banter.

Help your team maintain what is left of their work/life balance by scheduling your late-night Slacks with Message Them Later.

This free Slack app allows you to schedule messages into the future both out of courtesy for working hours and as a way to schedule reminders for your team meeting in advance. The developers created this app for “bosses who like to constantly ask for stuff, but want to minimize complaints about work/life balance,” but we also love it for scheduling reminders from yourself to yourself to take a break or submit that credit card statement on time!

After adding the app to your Slack workspace, simply type /schedule followed by the message and the date and time you want the message to be sent. For example, type /schedule Hello @channel! Reminder that our monthly virtual happy hour starts in 15 minutes! 4:45 pm and press enter. You can also use natural language like /schedule Do you wanna make a call? in 5 minutes or simply send /schedule and a window will open where you can compose your message, choose the date, time, and destination within Slack.

Remote Team-building Hacks

How do we cultivate company culture over tools like Slack and Zoom? Long-term remote worker productivity is directly related to camaraderie and positive company culture, so we’ve included some tools that help foster company culture via automated daily interactions, plus our suggestion for a fun, engaging virtual happy hour.

Donut is a bot that strengthens your team’s relationships, culture, trust, and collaboration.

Whether you opt for virtual coffee roulette between coworkers or a virtual watercooler channel to spark team-wide discussions, Donut will automate the team-building activities for you.

With goals like “Banish Social Isolation” and “Take the Watercooler Virtual,” Donut helps combat burnout by encouraging socializing across time zones and departments with prompts that inspire thoughtful conversations—and even the occasional friendly debate. Although remote teams might not be together in an office, serendipitous social interactions are still meaningful and help build happier, more productive teams. Add @donut to your Slack workspace and watch the connections blossom over virtual coffees and lunches!

DailyBot is a bot that automates daily check-ins and teammate recognition.

DailBot keeps remote teams aligned and facilitates deep work by reducing the need for meetings via automated daily standups, team check-ins, and periodic surveys (read: fewer video calls!). To help build camaraderie in your virtual team, DailyBot allows teammates to send and receive kudos, earn rewards for their outstanding work, and track overall team motivation. 

After adding DailyBot to your Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts, team members will be automatically prompted to submit updates covering their recent achievements, plans for the workday, and where they may be getting stuck. It will also ask how they are feeling and if they need any assistance. Through kudos leaderboards with optional rewards or fun games, DailyBot automates the celebration of wins and creates a culture of recognition and continuous improvement for a more productive and connected remote team.

BirthdayBot is precisely what it sounds like: a delightful bot to help your team celebrate birthdays and anniversaries!

By adding BirthdayBot to your Slack Workspace, you can automate the celebration of every team member’s birthday or work anniversary without lifting a finger. Since we can’t all gather around the break room and sing to you over cupcakes, this little bot is a thoughtful and easy way to make your team feel appreciated and connected to one another. 

Last but certainly not least, meet your new favorite happy hour host: Lounge.

With video meetings dominating work hours, the last thing your team needs or wants is another video meeting in the name of team-building. By adding Lounge to your Slack workspace, you’ve handled the next virtual happy hour’s RSVPs and event reminders, as well as leveling up the event with in-Slack games like Codenames, Werewolf, Pictionary, WTF—What  The Facts?!, and Alien Invasion.

One of remote workers’ top requests is to stop making everything a video call—this includes fun events! Lounge lets you connect from your phone or desktop in a virtual space with built-in audio, quirky avatars, and more. Plus, you don’t even have to play to join in on the fun! Hop around game rooms to chat with your team, spectate, or join the ongoing game.

Onward: Prioritizing Company Culture

As we lap the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 quarantine and the massive, global shift to remote work, Outlander VC’s team dynamic has become the new normal: an entirely virtual team working from homes around the world. 

We encourage company leaders to invest in making this new normal as seamless and positive an experience as possible for their teams by prioritizing services that foster meaningful connection and simplify collaboration. The productivity of both in-person and remote work is influenced by the same key factor: positive company culture. Workplaces that prioritize strong company culture can have high employee productivity no matter where their desks may be.

Leila Chreiteh

Director of Community, Outlander VC

Leila is a communications strategist and tech enthusiast who believes in investing in a better, more progressive future.


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