FOMO — a phenomenon or an everyday struggle?

What is FOMO?

FOMO stands for “fear of missing out”. It’s a fear of not being included in something (usually an interesting or enjoyable activity). Fear of falling out of the loop. That we will miss something important when we are not online. Nowadays, it’s being used more and more often referring to work. Some call it a civilization disease.

I had FOMO at work even before I even knew that this state has a name. When I joined Traffit, I was the sixth employee, and my role was very holistic. We were in a startup stage when everything was happening so fast that it was challenging to keep up — even if I was spending 8 hours a day at the office. I was checking my Slack 24/7, I had to check every single notification and reply ASAP to every question or request. My clients and teammates loved it, but for me, it started to be overwhelming at some point.

Vacation? No, thanks. Even one day off meant two days of catching up. Would the company survive with me being offline for one day? Probably yes. But I felt I wouldn’t. Even when my manager was telling me: “Anna, take a few days off. Don’t worry about your duties — we will take care of everything. I can see you really need it”.

Did I feel tired? On the one hand, yes — but on the other hand, the adrenaline kept me going. That’s actually weird because tiredness is one of FOMO’s symptoms. Just like lower life satisfaction or sleeping problems.

Is FOMO curable?

There is no magic pillow that can help you to get rid of it. It’s a matter of mindset. And sometimes, some external help.

How to recognize FOMO?

Besides symptoms, I listed above, feel free to answer some of the questions, like:

  1. If you see a notification on your phone, you have to check it right away, or else your anxiety grows with every second?
  2. Do you have difficulties in keeping focused in real life because you think about work?
  3. Do you feel stressed before a day off instead of feeling relaxed?
  4. Do you prefer to do things on your own instead of delegating them — because you feel “no one else can do it better than you”?
  5. Do you feel bad when getting to the office later than usual, even if you don’t have any meetings and you have flexible working hours?
  6. When you find out during your day off that something needs to be done — do you do it right away, even though it’s not urgent?

If you replied YES even to a single one of them, FOMO might be your problem too. Or it will be soon.

How to deal with FOMO — my tips

Now, when you know what FOMO is — and you feel the same as I did — don’t let it ruin your work-life balance! Here are my subjective tips:

1. Uninstall Slack, Facebook, and other social media from your phone. Remember — you don’t have to be available for everyone 24/7. And if you do, there are still some archaic ways to reach people in urgent cases, like calling them on the phone 😉

2. Vacation equals detox. During vacation, use the Internet only to find the nearest bus stop or watch memes. Nothing more.

3. Find a hobby. Use the retrieved time for social life. Offline, not online.

4. Before taking some time off, find a replacement. You can never become really offline feeling that some of your responsibilities are not fully covered. This has to be someone whose skills you truly trust.

5. Share knowledge. If you feel (or if you really are) the best source of knowledge in your company, you will always feel bad when being offline — cause you will feel like cutting off the rest of the team from the knowledge you have. Share the knowledge with other people or teams so that it would be possible for them to cover your responsibilities when you are off.

6. Try to ask yourself: if you really miss something happening at work, how will it influence your life? Will the whole world explode / the company will collapse / all clients will resign — if you become offline for some time?

Not working? Try shock therapy and go somewhere with limited Internet access. It might be really scary in the beginning, but after you realize there is nothing you can do about it, you just let it go.

FOMO or just being responsible?

How did I explain this to myself? I was sure it’s just what “being responsible” means. I didn’t consider it as something bad. I felt this is what being a good employee is all about.

Now I understand it’s not. Stressed and tired employees can never be efficient and can feel burnt out very quickly.

How can company culture help?

Now, after five years, I feel much better — not only thanks to changing my mindset. The team grew, so some of my responsibilities were spread over the team, and I have people to cover me when I’m off. People I truly trust and can always count on.

#powerofrelationships is one of TRAFFIT’s core values

Some elements of TRAFFIT’s company culture also helped me with the whole process. Examples?

TRAFFIT is offering unlimited paid holidays. That means that whenever I feel I need some time off, I can take it. Even more than the limit indicated by law. I don’t use this opportunity often, but even knowing it’s there — makes me feel relaxed already 🙂

We also use modern tools like Calamari for work-time management. I can request for a day/days off in the tool, and when it’s accepted — I can point out the team member who will be my replacement when I’m out of the office. Thanks to that, the team knows who my replacement is and where they can address all the questions they usually send to me. And I feel I’m not leaving anyone without my help.

As I mentioned before, FOMO is something you have to deal with by changing your mindset — but a friendly and helpful working environment is a crucial part of the “treatment process”.

Originally published at https://www.traffit.com on July 6, 2022.

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Chief Evangelist at Traffit.com. Human resources enthusiast.

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