Remote workers struggle to disconnect from work apps, as they feel the need to prove their presence by always being online and responsive, giving rise to digital presenteeism—a familiar foe we struggled to deal with in the physical office, albeit in a different form.
Adopting a more flexible work approach was supposed to be a golden chance to re-evaluate our work processes. However, presenteeism has managed to slip through the cracks, as some remote workers feel the need to be virtually present all the time. This article will cover what digital presenteeism is and some solutions.
What Is Digital Presenteeism?
Presenteeism in a physical office occurs when employees spend more time at work than is required. It’s often motivated by a fear of being seen as slacking off or not working hard enough. This can lead to employees working long hours, skipping lunch breaks, or working while sick.
However, this term can also accommodate employees who show up to work but are not productive—they are physically present but mentally checked out. That’s partly because being visible at work is often enough to signal being committed, dedicated, and productive to supervisors, even when that’s not the case.
You would think this behavior would fade away in a remote setting, but it turns out it has gone digital. Digital presenteeism is the tendency of employees to be always available and responsive to work-related apps outside work hours. Remote workers tend to feel the need to be virtually present all the time to show that they’re working, for example, responding to emails during the weekend or replying to Slack messages during dinner with family.
This constant connectivity and the need to be responsive at all times has led to an always-on culture of work. As a result, the walls that separated our work and personal life have come crashing down, leading to burnout and decreased productivity. Considering how detrimental this behavior is, it’s important to find practical solutions to address it.
How to Overcome Digital Presenteeism in the Workplace
You will probably agree that this behavior heavily depends on your relationship with your work-related tools and approach to remote work. Therefore, re-evaluating how you use these tools and rethinking your remote work strategy can promote a healthier work-life balance and help you disconnect from work when you should. Here are some tips to help you achieve that:
1. Streamline Your Work-Related Tools
Chances are, you are using more apps than ever since you started working remotely to compensate for the lack of face-to-face interaction and collaboration. Each day you need to juggle between a video conferencing app, messaging app, project management tool, and to-do list app, just to name a few. All these inevitably lead to more notifications, context switching, and less time doing your job during work hours and, therefore, difficulty in switching off after work.
To fix this, you can go for an all-in-one solution or workspace suite like Samepage or Qatalog that provides most of the features you need in one place. You can use these tools to set up a personalized work hub for yourself and your team, so you can focus on your work during work hours and avoid switching between different apps constantly.
Alternatively, you might prefer to use a specialized app for a specific task. After all, most of these popular tools have a unique selling point. For example, Trello’s simplicity and kanban-style boards make it an excellent tool for project management, while tools like Figma have become de facto standards for design collaboration. In this case, you can streamline work-related apps by integrating them using tools like Zapier or IFTTT.
2. Embrace Asynchronous Work
One of the most fundamental solutions to digital presenteeism is being intentional about promoting productivity over visibility. One of the best ways to achieve this in a remote setting is to embrace asynchronous communication and collaboration to improve your productivity.
When you choose to work asynchronously, you allow everyone on your team to work on their own time without the need to be online and responsive in real time. There are several benefits you can reap from this, including:
3. Use Asynchronous Communication Tools
After shifting your approach towards asynchronous work, supporting this strategy with tools explicitly made for asynchronous communication would be great. Thankfully, there are several asynchronous communication tools you can use to improve your productivity and work-life balance.
For instance, while Zoom has its place in the remote workplace in specific cases, like live presentations, you don’t want to use it for every conversation. Instead, you can use asynchronous video communication tools like Loom to record video messages that your team can watch on their own time. This is great for sharing updates, giving feedback, or explaining things that are difficult to convey through text.
4. Customize Your Availability and Notifications
Setting your availability as “Active” on Slack during your off days or after work hours to impress your supervisor might seem like a good idea until you find yourself dealing with a never-ending stream of notifications and last-minute requests. In the long run, this will end up affecting the quality of your work and lead to burnout.
So, instead of relying on your notifications, take charge and customize your availability and notifications according to your work schedule. This way, you can focus on your work during work hours and unplug during your free time to recharge.
5. Introduce Wellness Initiatives
When it comes to achieving a healthy work-life balance, your workplace culture and policies play a big role. If your company culture values long hours and presenteeism over employee engagement and wellness, it will negatively impact their productivity and your bottom line. Therefore, introducing wellness initiatives in your workplace is great for business.
Thankfully, there are several workplace wellness ideas you can implement without breaking the bank. From things as simple as encouraging your team to take breaks during the day to challenging everyone to take 10,000 steps a day, there are plenty of ways to promote wellness in your workplace.
Choose Productivity Over Digital Presenteeism
As we continuously adapt to working remotely, it is important to avoid replicating some of the mistakes we made while working from the office. Being visible and responsive 24/7 is not the best approach to stand out when working remotely. Instead, consider embracing strategies and tools that promote productivity rather than digital presenteeism.