Melanie Armstrong joined Mimecast in May 2020 as a Digital Marketing Specialist. She has a wealth of experience in providing impactful marketing solutions across a variety of industries and clients. Melanie takes great pride in her work which has seen her recognised through the Media Federation of Australia and Pro Print Emerging 50 awards. She enjoys helping businesses to stay informed about cybersecurity in Australia, and how to remain resilient in this space.
With everyone working remotely these days, it’s harder than ever to disconnect from being “at work”.
Because it’s ever present in our homes, integrated across multiple devices and popping up at all times of day, it’s easy for the lines between work and rest to become blurred. A quick reply to an email, a project update, proofreading that report quickly before it goes out… does any of it sound familiar?
When your work life and home life blur together
The cumulative drip feed of engagement that modern technology promotes is stealthily putting us all at risk of burnout. Our tech fatigue is compounded by overextending ourselves when we work from home, showing how damaging it can be when we don’t enforce clear work/life boundaries.
The dangers don’t end with our own emotional and mental wellbeing. Your mind and its alertness, besides making your body go, is a vital gateway to the security and continuity of business operations. Hackers have become masters of probing for cyber weaknesses, and like sharks to a feeding frenzy, fatigued remote workforces signal blood in the water to them.
Stop, revive, thrive
Recent studies into sleep reveal surprising insights about how important it is to our cognitive processes. Without the right kind of rest, and enough of it, you’re increasingly likely to make rookie mistakes throughout the day.
Your fatigue might manifest in seemingly small things like forgetting where you parked, or accidentally opening a malware link in a work email. It could be calling someone by the wrong name, or logging into a malicious spoof site without spotting the red flags. A moment of distraction is all it takes for one successful attack to get through—that can be anything from having your personal bank details stolen to the entire company network being brought down by a ransomware attack.
If you’re not structuring your day around getting enough sleep to begin with, you’re setting yourself up for personal and potential business failure. Becoming fatigued is a bit like running out of air. You can slowly sense yourself fading, and you only know for certain that soon you will be making bad calls. This is the time to ask yourself, “What do I do next to keep making good decisions?” In the case of the air example, obviously that’s going to be “get more air”. So what do you do when you sense fatigue setting in?
Just as drivers are urged to pull over and get some rest when they’re tired, if business-as-usual is eating into your sleep schedule, it’s time to pull over. Take yourself out of the equation before you steer the heavy machinery of your organisation right into an oncoming cyber incident.
It’s not rocket surgery
There isn’t a complex system to follow here. You don’t need to know about sleep cycles and circadian rhythms—although it couldn’t hurt!
Technology professionals have long been on the cutting edge of personal research into staying up late, marathon nose-to-screen sessions, and getting so angry at computers that keyboards are sometimes flung right across the room.
Our industry has put in the hard hours being guinea pigs for sleep deprivation as a direct result of creeping technology burnout. Brave men and women in every discipline that compels them to yell at computers have collectively experienced the dangers up close, so that the rest of the world might benefit from the ensuing insights:
1. Enforce work and home boundaries
Having a separate space for work and rest helps delineate the two activities. Define work times and sign off when the workday is scheduled to end. Avoid checking emails and messages, and get out of the habit of thinking about work problems during personal time. And get moving! Exercise is a great way to refresh your mind and can do wonders for your mood. Even something as simple as a walk around the block can help you mentally recharge.
2. Plan to be unavailable
Blocking out time where you’re uncontactable is key to being effective when your business needs it most. Knowing a work call could drop in at any moment eats into the enjoyment of personal time and prevents us fully separating from the responsibilities we carry there. Mute your work notifications, shut off your work devices, and go do something you enjoy. Bonus points if its physical and outdoors.
3. Avoid screens before bed
Excessive screen use has been shown to overstimulate the mind with intense blue light, making it most harmful right before bed. Experts recommend avoiding screens for an hour or more before bed to promote a better, more restful sleep. Try going screen-free for a while before bedtime. Read a book, try to unwind, and do something that takes your mind off work. The mind abhors a vacuum, so if you don’t occupy yourself, you’ll find your thoughts drifting back to work-related matters.
These three steps alone can ensure a better night’s sleep by decreasing the cognitive overhead that follows you around when you’re “always on”. You have to take rest seriously, because it’s difficult to remain cyber aware when you’re barely even awake.
Burnout is sneaky because you can never see it coming. The best way to avoid it is to rest up on schedule, whether you feel tired or not. Resting is a habit that needs to be practiced like any other, and the payoff is huge in terms of your mental and physical well-being.
By managing your own cyber wellbeing, you set yourself up for success and you’ll be better able to make the right decisions when it matters most.