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How To Improve Remote Relationships And Combat Online Fatigue

by Kathleen Largo. |

When was the last time you were stuck at home? Usually, it’s for reasons such as class cancellation, public holiday, or taking an MC (medical certificate) to work. Unless your office is in your house, it’s rare for most people to stay at home because of a global pandemic.

Confining ourselves indoors unexpectedly presents new struggles, and each of us is dealing with it a little differently. Would it help to ask remote workers for advice? However, they have also encountered challenges staying at home, breaking routine social interactions used to balance the amount of time they were isolated.

“Working from home leads to working longer hours, leaving me feeling depleted of motivation and creativity. Antidotes are connection and movement. Make appointments to have cups of tea over calls with colleagues,” says Suchandrika Chakrabarti, a freelance journalist and the host of Freelance Pod, a podcast about how the internet has revolutionized work.

Long-distance couples also have tips to overcome loneliness, but that does not mean that it would work for all of us. No matter how intimate a relationship, bonding virtually is a different challenge in itself. How do we improve our personal and professional relationships when we only see each other across screens and not in the flesh?

1. Step up and show up.

With the many digital apps and online tools available, it’s so easy to plan social hangouts using your device’s microphone and camera. Start by creating a chat group with your friends or colleagues and asking when they’re available. Once you’ve scheduled a time, decide the platform where your event will occur. Finally, make yourself visible, and don’t be afraid to take the lead in setting everything up.

It might feel weird calling your co-worker who you always just used to have small talk with, but it won’t hurt to say hello and ask how they are doing.

2. Leave time for play.

Get creative! For working teams, websites such as Range.co have icebreakers for remote team building ideas. Are there any office activities that you can do virtually? Coffee breaks, birthday celebrations, and even bring-your-child-to-work day can find a place in your new work-from-home setup.

Online versions of tabletop games have also become popular, such as Monopoly, Scrabble, and Catan. Multiplayer games are available on smartphone apps like Plato which allow bigger groups of six to ten people to participate and hang out.

3. Be honest and open-minded.

Some of your friends may have responsibilities at home and can’t participate. Or you may feel unprepared to face your colleagues for online interactions outside of work. Be honest and understand that everybody has different coping mechanisms.

Inviting others to share with you might help maintain the relationship. The most important thing to remember is that you can’t control how other people respond so take it easy.

4. Listen with a heart.

In the absence of social cues, people have to learn how to communicate over the internet. Using emojis, GIFs, and voice notes have become popular, but nothing beats a face-to-face conversation.

No matter which medium you are comfortable using, don’t forget that relationships are a two-way street. If you want to be heard and taken seriously, then you have to listen wholeheartedly.

Genuine relationships will be harder to keep without the physical element. But Joe Pinsker of The Atlantic says that due to economic and technological developments, remote relationships are starting to closely resemble those with sufficient physical contact. “The tools for interacting today - the video chatting, the text and picture messaging, the co-streaming sites - are honestly pretty great, although it’s not clear how long it’ll be applicable.”

Effects Of Extended Screen Time

We rely on laptops and mobile phones to stay connected. However, it can result in excessive screen time and increased pressure on our overall well-being. Before our stay-at-home orders, experts have already warned us about the dangers of spending too much time online. Is there a better way to avoid online fatigue now that it seems inevitable?

If the internet has become a space that tells us what to do instead of the other way around, then it’s time to take our control of it back. Like with any task, setting objectives is important when we go online to watch videos. Stay on track and once we’ve completed the task, log off. It’s important to develop healthy habits and stop the source of stress when needed.

Staying connected to our gadgets and devices can be bad for our health especially when done in long periods. Here are some examples of how we can identify the specific stressors and initiate a digital detox.

  1. If a meeting doesn't need to be on Zoom, consider a phone call. Not presenting ourselves visually or seeing many people on the screen can reduce stress linked to our self-consciousness.

  2. Swap your dystopian-themed books with escapist fiction or romance novels. If you or your kids like to play video games, avoid stories of disease outbreaks or apocalyptic zombies.

  3. Conduct a pulse check on yourself. Determine whether you're jumping in a Zoom call because you want to or because you feel you have to. Sometimes, all you need is to get a break and experience nature.

Psychologists say that more people are prone to social anxiety because we are opening up our homes and personal spaces to others. Quarantine-induced Zoom fatigue is real. Every video call reminds us of how much our lives have changed and how different our connections and opportunities have become.

When every day seems like a test of competence in our duties as a parent, child, student, or employee, it's easy to lose our direction when all the roles combine. But once we accept that we also get tired, we start the path to recovery using tools available to us. Furthermore, taking charge of our relationships helps strengthen the ways we cope - both online and offline.

You can learn more about the writer on Instagram.

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