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How to Find the Right Balance for Tech When Managing your Remote Team

By Preethi Jathanna

Senior Writer for HR and Remote Work

How to find the right balance for tech when managing your remote team

If you work in a traditional office, between commutes, water breaks, lunches, and formal meetings, you get many opportunities throughout your day where you can detach from the digital realm. However, if you're someone who is managing your remote team, chances are that you spend almost all of your workday at the computer.

But why a digital detox ? It is because you need to balance your intake of software tech with no-screen time.? Simply put, it helps you avoid screen fatigue and the negative effects of technology. Having to focus on a pixelated screen for hours on end creates a layer of mental and emotional exhaustion, eye strain, and muscle fatigue.

So what can you do?

To effectively manage your screen time and reduce the use of technology throughout the day, we've come up with six strategies that you can implement starting now. These include: 

  • Say NO to 'Zoom Fatigue'
  • Adjust screen brightness and other settings
  • Avoid unnecessary meetings
  • Take the 'old-school' route
  • Humidify the air in your workspace
  • Get computer glasses
  • Create a plan and stick to it 
  • Take breaks from your screen
  • Practice a digital detox whenever possible

How can you implement the above strategies to strike a balance? Let's find out!

1. Say NO to 'Zoom Fatigue'

There's no doubt that Zoom and other video-calling applications are excellent tools that help replicate in-person interactions. However, on the flip side, it can also lead to 'Zoom fatigue' - a new post-COVID phrase that refers to the mental exhaustion that is associated with online video conferencing. 

When managing your remote team, it's easy to simply video-call your colleague and clarify your doubts. But, just because you can use video, doesn't mean it should be your only option. In fact, you can and should switch between synchronous and asynchronous communication. For instance, one of the simplest ways to avoid screen-time and zoom fatigue is to simply pick up the phone and get onto a quick phone call. You can also type out  an email or even update a shared document or task management system that will alert your teammate about your doubts and queries. 

By not defaulting to Zoom or other video conferencing applications throughout the day, you're reducing your screen time significantly without even trying!

2. Adjust Your Screen Brightness and Other Display Settings

Your monitor can typically be adjusted in a multitude of ways to help lessen the strain you’re putting on your eyes as you work from home. The most common settings that can be adjusted that will help reduce screen fatigue include brightness, contrast, and color temperature.

The brightness of your screen is one of the biggest contributors to eye strain while working remotely. The ideal screen brightness is a level that is comparable to the rest of your workstation. If the white background of this article appears to be a light source when compared to your workspace, it’s too bright; if the background seems darker and grey, it’s probably not bright enough.

Whenever you’re reading or typing anything, you want there to be an easily distinguishable contrast between what you’re reading or typing and the background that it’s on. This is so that your eyes don’t have to strain as hard to see what you’re trying to read or type. That’s why the black text on white background — like the one you’re reading right now — is typically the best option as it allows your eyes to easily distinguish the text without excessive stress.

The last setting to adjust on your display that can go a long way towards preventing screen fatigue is the color temperature your display is putting out. Color temperature is a fancy term that describes the spectrum of visible light being emitted by your screen. Without getting into the technical reasons, just know that blue light is associated with more eye strain, red light induces less eye strain. For this reason, it's best to adjust your screen to emit less blue light, which will make a huge difference throughout a full day's worth of work.

3. Avoid Unnecessary Meetings

How much of your time do you spend in meetings? Statistics have shown that if you're a middle manager, it's likely about 35% of your time, and if you're a part of the upper management, it's a whopping 50%. That's literally half your work-day! However, what's worse is how unproductive these meetings turn out to be. 

When managing your remote team, it's definitely essential to communicate with the entire team on a regular basis. But, at the same time, virtual meetings can be extremely draining and time-consuming. So how do you strike a balance? 

Before you start any meeting, make a list of the points that you want to discuss - an agenda of sorts. Send a copy of the agenda to the people involved in the discussion beforehand so they can prepare for the meeting as well. Block out time on your schedule and ensure that the meeting does not overshoot beyond that time. If the conference can be an email, try and do that. By avoiding unnecessary meetings, you're not only limiting your screen-time but that of your teammates as well.

4. Take the Old-School Route

The impact of technology in the workplace is extensive. Taking breaks from your screen is next to impossible, and we depend on technology to complete even the most basic and mundane tasks. So how can you counteract the increased time in front of a screen? How can you take the old-school route?

Start by leveraging physical options over digital ones. For instance, if you're brainstorming for an article, write down your thoughts on paper instead of using a word document. Create roadmaps for large projects on a whiteboard, print out a copy of a document that you have to read, or even jot down your to-do list on a sticky note! The options are endless, and it definitely offers you a chance at a digital break. 

5. Humidify The Air in your Workspace

This method is one that you likely won’t see people doing as often as some of the others, and that’s because the condition of the air you’re sitting in doesn’t typically draw much attention to it. But dry air can lead to your eyes drying out much faster than normal, leading to straining your eyes, factors that fall under the screen fatigue definition.

Doing this is pretty simple! You can pick up a humidifier at your local hardware store or online and have it consistently raise the humidity level in the room you’re working in. This will increase the moisture in the air and prevent your eyes from drying out as easily as before. The humidifier won’t make it rain in your office or anything, it will just keep the air at a much more comfortable level of moisture!

6. Get Computer Glasses

No, we’re not talking about those prototype smart glasses that everyone thought would be the next big thing. We’re talking about anti-glare glasses designed for those who are working at their computers all day long, staring at their screens.

Remember the color temperature you read about earlier in this article? Specialized computer glasses offer a tint to help reduce the exposure to the blue light that your screen emits; some glasses even claim to block up to 98% of the blue light emitted from your screen. You don't need a prescription or anything and they're a super-easy way to help reduce the strain on your eyes and limit screen fatigue. If you do already wear glasses, consider asking your optometrist about adding these lenses to your prescription glasses.

7. Create a Plan and Stick to it

Often, being disorganized can lead to a lot more work than expected. For instance, not having a to-do list at the beginning of the day means that you are unsure of what tasks need to be prioritized. The result? You probably end up neglecting an important task with a deadline that is fast approaching. When you finally realize this, you're almost at the end of the workday, and you inevitably end up working for a few extra hours to finish the task at hand.

The most simple and effective solution to avoid all this is to create a plan or a to-do list and stick to it. You can either make a physical to-do list or use a simple remote task-management system  to sort out all your tasks based on priorities and deadlines, so you have more clarity on what needs to be done. This way, you won't have to work for 12 hours a day and thus, reducing your screen time!

8. Take Regular Breaks

This may seem like an obvious one, but it's often overlooked. When working from the comfort of your home or managing a remote team, the concept of 'taking a break' can sometimes be forgotten. Sitting behind a screen for hours together causes screen fatigue, headaches, and eventually leads to a poor posture. 

To avoid all this, make sure that you're taking a break at least once every two hours, even if it's just for ten minutes. Take a walk to the kitchen to refill your coffee or water, go outside for a quick 10-minute run, or simply roll your shoulders to loosen the knots in your muscles. Stepping away from your desk not only offers a digital break but also helps the creative juices flow.

If you have a standing desk, you can move it up and down so you can alternatively sit and stand throughout the day. If you don't have one, you can use a high counter or your dining table to place your computer on as a makeshift standing desk. This allows you to stretch your legs and get the blood flowing. When you're on a phone call, rather than staring at your laptop, consider walking back and forth during the conversation - anything to give your mind a break!

9. Practice a Digital-Detox Whenever Possible

If you're managing your own remote team, then the need to always be in front of the computer, tending to the queries and doubts of your colleagues, can be overwhelming. And that's why, it's even more important to indulge in a digital-detox whenever possible. 

You might think that it's more efficient to eat lunch at your desk, in front of your computer, but your brain will thank you for taking a break from the screen. Instead, eat lunch while chatting with your family members at the dining table, looking out a window, or even while reading a physical book rather than watching 'that' series or replying to 'that' email.

Similarly, at the end of a workday, rather than watching hours of television, playing games on your phone, or mindlessly scrolling through Instagram and Tiktok, keep all your gadgets aside and practice mindfulness. You can read a book, exercise,  play a sport, tend to your garden or even play with your pets - there's so much you can do! 

Stepping away from technology can also give you the added bonus of perspective. It helps you have a clearer sense of the big picture of what’s occurring in your life and work.

By implementing these strategies and tips in your daily life, you can counter the added digital load of working remotely and reduce digital fatigue to a significant extent. Granted, these strategies may be a little challenging to implement in one day, but baby steps are all it takes.  

Prioritise your mental and physical health, understand the negative effects of technology in your life, and make a conscious decision to do better. With time, you'll realize the positive impact of finding the right balance for tech when managing your remote team.

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