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Stop FOMO at Work from Killing Your Job Performance

FOMO at Work

What’s your level of FOMO at work? The “fear of missing out,” how the term FOMO originated, took a pleasant break during the early months of the pandemic when we were all stuck at home, and no one was really missing anything. As workers return to their offices and travel and happy hours are underway again, is FOMO at work creeping back? How is it affecting your job performance?

The phenomenon of FOMO is tied directly to the dawning of the social media era. It’s been studied since 2004 because of its effect on mental health and behaviors.

“Once we could stay continuously connected to what others are doing, it became a habit—even an obsession—for many of us to measure our self-worth and become envious when we felt excluded from their rewarding experiences,” says The HT Group’s CEO/Founder Mark Turpin.   

In the past two decades, we’ve all become aware of the dangers of social media and how damaging FOMO can be. Studies have found links between FOMO and anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns. Those dangers can extend to FOMO at work. An American Accounting Association study shows FOMO at work can actually make you worse at your job. The study followed accountants who, during their workdays, saw social media posts of people having fun. It adversely affected the audits the accountants were performing at the time.

FOMO can be reversed without quitting social media altogether, but it takes time and attention (on the right things). Research suggests that those who want to reduce their feelings of FOMO should address their negative self-perceptions. This means practicing better self-compassion by viewing personal setbacks as opportunities for growth, taking steps to reduce loneliness, and shifting focus away from the distant experiences of others.

“You can also try being more in the moment, concentrating on what is in front of you as opposed to focusing on what else is going on out there,” suggests Chris Barry, a WSU psychology professor and the lead author of the study.

The best way to be more in the moment and, thus, reduce FOMO at work is not to check social media throughout the day. Gasp! Sigh! How would one do that?

Psychology Compass offers a comprehensive three-step solution to overcoming FOMO. If you’re methodical and love goals setting, you may want to start there. For the rest of us, try one of these first steps:

  1. Block yourself from FOMO triggers. “This can be easier to do at the workplace. You can ask others to help you stay accountable while at work,” Turpin says. “It’s harder to do at home.” Try using settings and apps on your devices that will block or restrict your social media usage during the day.  
  2. Just walk away. “Taking a mental break is crucial and will help you see things with fresh eyes,” says Gustavo Padron, an Austin-based yoga teacher and mindset coach. “Try standing up for one to three minutes every hour and doing some light stretches. I also recommend going for a five to 10-minute walk without your phone midday. Easier said than done, but if you can make this happen, it will make a world of difference for your mental state.”
  3. Re-evaluate your work situation. If you’re remote and you find yourself increasingly having FOMO about work, it may be time to change your scenery. “Remote employees are experiencing a new kind of FOMO—the fear of missing out on useful updates, critical intel, and key connections,” says Andy Cohen, co-CEO of architecture and design firm Gensler. If heading into the office—even on a hybrid basis—isn’t possible, propose productivity and team-building tools that will help you and other remote workers feel more included. Take a look at these solutions based in Austin, including virtual reality workplace innovator Immersed.

And if you really can’t disconnect from FOMO at work, maybe it’s your job that needs to change. If your head is always in the clouds, that could indicate that your dream job is still out there—we can help you find it.