Virtual overload is a growing concern among many team leaders. Some remote workers spend over 90% of their time either on the phone, checking email or in virtual meetings leaving many of them to feel a sense of disconnection even though they are always connected. Avoiding collaborative overload is important because it can negatively impact personal productivity. Mapping out a practical process for workflow is a good place to start. Here are some additional tips to avoid virtual overload when working remotely.

1. Just Say “No”

We all need space and time to recharge and that means learning how to set boundaries effectively. If you are asked to assume more tasks, then you can draw some lines without burning your professional bridges. Sometimes it simply takes explaining your situation to your manager so they understand what you are going through. Or, ask for reasonable adjustments to project deadlines to prevent overload.

2. Refrain from Multitasking

It’s tempting to multitask, like reading and responding to emails, when you’re in a Zoom meeting, but it’s usually all of this extra effort that can lead to virtual overload. Instead of extending your effort on a variety of different tasks, spend more time focusing on what and who is in front of you. Multitasking has actually been proven to be very unproductive in most cases. Some other ways that can help you avoid multitasking include:

  • Turning off email and phone notifications during meetings. Reserve certain times of the day for checking inboxes, texts, etc.
  • Following to-do lists. Can help keep you on task all day.
  • Prioritizing challenging tasks. Don’t put off challenging tasks, rather accomplish those first.

3. Take Regular Breaks

There are a variety of strategies that promote working smarter instead of harder, and nearly all of them include taking reasonable breaks between virtual meetings. From the “50-minute hour” to the Pomodoro Technique, scheduling regular breaks is the essence of working with the clock rather than against it. Then, focus on completing tasks that offer the biggest long-term impact. Don’t strive for perfection on the first try because the key to productivity is to just get a running start. The Parkinson’s Law can be applied to avoiding virtual overload by taking away your ability to procrastinate. It emphasizes that if you allow yourself unlimited time to complete a task then it will take all day. Try giving everything in your schedule a deadline, even those tasks that seem insignificant.

Saying “no” is a skill that also takes time to perfect, and it is only effective in the right situations. Instead of always relying on multitasking to catch up, taking regular breaks can recharge you and improve productivity.


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