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FOBO: What is it and why is it an issue?

By Sam Lingwood

Have you noticed that you tend to over-compensate when you're working remotely?

Are you updating your boss every minute with what you're currently working on? Do you ever take your laptop to the bathroom with you so you don't miss any notifications? Then you may have a fear of being offline (FOBO)

You may have heard about FOBO around our mobile phones, with some people fearful of not being able to check their social media accounts every couple of minutes (the horror!). Well, FOBO at work is slightly different; instead referring to the fear of being perceived as 'lazy' when reporting to duties from home.

According to a recent article from Stylist, more and more remote workers are developing FOBO as they feel like they need to prove to their company that they are productive. This can result in people constantly making themselves available throughout the day, even during scheduled lunch breaks, or checking and responding to emails waaay after their working day has ended.

Where has this come from?

Some people say that they developed FOBO due to their own internal monologue that feels the need to prove their worth more since they are not in the office full-time. Think imposter syndrome, and then add another layer. For others, there can be external pressure from management to always be available as they need to know that their employee is still doing their job. This may have started in the covid pandemic when workers generally had less going on in their personal lives so were happier to put more time into work, but as life has returned to normality there is an expectation from some managers to maintain the same level of availability.

Whilst wanting to prove yourself at work is not inherently bad - many managers will appreciate someone going the extra mile - FOBO is an unhealthy working mindset that can lead to a blurred line between work and personal life. If you work from home and are contactable around the clock, do you ever truly switch off?

So, what can be done to reduce this feeling?

It seems that there needs to be less pressure from management to be constantly present when at home, put trust in your employees that they are getting their work done and having the necessary amount of rest. People are like muscles; rest is just as important as work to achieve growth.

There's also scope to bring in legislation to help protect employees more, with Australia following the likes of France by looking to bring in the 'Right to Disconnect' legislation. This gives workers the right to say 'No' to being contactable outside of their working hours without risk of dismissal. If an employer is found to be pressuring employees to work outside of their contacted hours, they they face the risk of punishment or fines as a result. This is definitely a more drastic move, but goes to show the severity FOBO can actually have.

My views on the matter...

Whilst I appreciate 'Right to Disconnect' as a positive step to protect the work-life balance of many workers, it only solves half the problem. More needs to be done to make remote workers feel comfortable in taking necessary breaks, and the route of this comes from company culture. Putting trust in employees to allocate their own time to tasks will help them feel more comfortable in taking necessary breaks without the pressure to update managers constantly.

And with demand for hybrid and remote working showing no sign of reducing, FOBO is something companies and workers need to keep in their mind to make sure they're staying productive in a healthy way. We've had candidates tell us over the phone that one of their biggest motivators for moving roles is feeling like they can't switch off in their current one. This goes to show that companies and hiring managers need to make sure their employer value proposition is up to scratch or they risk losing top talent.

If you have FOBO at work and feel it's time for a career change, reach out to us on info@fmctalent.com, or take a look at all our live jobs here https://www.fmctalent.com/find-job 

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