6 tips to help your team avoid remote work burnout
Updated: Jan 20
Before the pandemic, remote work was occasional and optional. The option of personal meetings at the office or coffee shop was still accessible. After the social distancing measures and lockdowns arrived, this all fell away. Digital transformation in the past year has again demonstrated the importance of understanding that a company's workforce is crucial to business recovery. It has prompted organizations to completely rethink how they attract, retain, and manage their talent.
The new situation forced businesses to try alternative measures. Those reliant upon footfall pivoted drastically, and all other companies faced the same, urgent question: Can we transition to being 100% remote?
Remote work brought some significant benefits of increased flexibility, enhanced productivity, and saving money while working from the comfort of our own home. While the initial reactions to remote work were positive, it proved challenging for many with time. Some employees found themselves accommodating to new workspaces that were not suitable. As a result, frequent headaches and eye problems occurred. They also started to feel depressed, anxious, and isolated since disconnection between teams and their peers increased. At the same time, many employees became more productive and experienced a better work-life balance while working remotely.
According to McKinsey's research, almost half of employees report being at least somewhat burned out. Productivity may have improved, but many employees report feeling stressed and anxious. According to research, stress may reduce job satisfaction and affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues, decreasing work performance. Matic Moličnik, Business Psychologist, pointed out that remote work burnout is not just a figure of speech or a thing "lazy" workers invented to get more time off. In fact, people are working more and harder while working from home since they are motivated to get the job done faster to spare more time for the family. Burnout issues should be among the top employers` priorities and appropriately communicated. By addressing the sources of employee burnout, leaders can maintain the productivity levels sustainable in the future.
How to recognize work from home burnout
Employee burnout among remote workers is becoming an increasing problem over time. Organizational leaders should be proactive and ensure the team is not overdoing it with their work. If your employees seem overworked, offer them some time off. Burnout can impact a person mentally, physically, and emotionally, leaving them overwhelmed and stopping them from completing their tasks as they usually would. The most common causes of burnout are prolonged stress, an unreasonable workload, or not taking enough time off.
If you don't handle these issues soon enough, your employee's productivity will drop, severely impacting your staff and organization.
There are several symptoms of work from home burnout that can be recognized as the most common.
These symptoms include:
Lack of motivation
Feeling unenergetic and uninspired
Irritability with any work-related task
Negative or cynical feelings about work, colleagues, or employers
Loss of sleep due to work stress
Feeling anxious about work or performance
Reduced professional efficacy
Increased mental distance, or the feeling of mentally 'checking out.'
If you don't take notice of the signs of burnout, employees can become less productive, disengaged, absent from work, or quit.
Help your team avoid remote work burnout
The obvious recommendation for organizational leaders is to share more information with employees, even if they're uncertain about the future. Honest communication can help improve employee wellbeing immediately.
What else can organizational leaders do for their employees?
1. Offer flexible schedule options so employees can better control their workday.
Rigid work schedules usually magnify conflict between work and family, leading workers to mental exhaustion. Flexible schedules also help promote their non-work hobbies, volunteering, or personal activities.
2. Destigmatize vacation: encourage employees to take time off.
Taking time away from work to recharge helps improve long-term productivity.
3. Encourage workers to develop boundaries between professional and personal lives.
Provide office stipends to help them create a dedicated workspace to deliberately "arrive and leave" work.
4. Take time for team discussion.
Taking the time to talk about offering flexibility for their schedule can go a long way in minimizing their stress levels. Working at home means constantly dealing with family members who need their attention. Flexibility provides employees with more time to attend to personal matters without feeling overwhelmed by getting work done on time.
5. Don't overdo video meetings.
Video meetings can drain the life out of a person since it requires more focus than traditional phone calls. Video calls force users to continuously split their attention from the call and other tabs they need to switch over. Organizational leaders need to ensure they are not overdoing it with constant video calls and meetings with their remote employees. They are likely already feeling tired of being on a video call and increasing those virtual calls will only lead to feeling drained and burned out.
6. Focus on the results.
To reduce burnout among your remote employees, you need to focus on the results they provide you with, not the hours spent. Instead, concentrate on their output. Some of the employees may be better at getting things done in an hour, and some people need the entire day. Don't force them to work for eight hours in front of their computer, especially if they can get work done in half that time.
Many things have changed because the hybrid work model brought partially empty offices, new rules, policies, and protocols. Therefore, communication with employees in a hybrid work environment should be frequent and encouraging, promoting workplace socialization where employees interact and participate in employee engagement and team-building activities, essential for a productive and happy workforce.
Recovering from work from home burnout
If organizational leaders don't adequately address the underlying causes, employees will end up back at square one. It takes time to recover, so encourage employees to take vacation often. A proper break where they can unplug from work gives them a chance to reset, revitalize and heal.
What are the best steps to be taken when a team member is recovering from burnout?
Promote positive thinking
Support doing things your team loves (virtual team bonding or coffee breaks)
Talk with employees about their recovery process.
Matic Moličnik recommends having regular check-ins with your employees through what is known as a pulse survey. One simple question on a 1-5 scale, sent out every other week to all coworkers can help you keep track of the general company mood, as well as of who is feeling good and on whom you should be putting more attention. Despite working independently throughout the day, we all should feel supported, seen, and heard by our co-workers and leadership.
Last but not least - to avoid remote burnout, do not let employees skip vacation and relaxation. Harvard Business Review reveals that in 2020 and 2021, fewer people went on longer vacations compared to previous years. Taking a break is the most important part of any work - just ask any athlete what training without proper breaks and regeneration periods would do to them. The same goes for the brain - if we push them to the limit, day by day without proper rest, overstimulation starts causing resistance, and it all leads to - burnout.
Communication is key for flourishing company culture. At Culturate, we ensure that your communication channels are adapted to the hybrid world so everyone feels understood and can communicate in their preferred way.
1. Happeo: Work from home burnout
2. Process: How to avoid burnout
3. Brightful: How to help your remote workers avoid burnout
4. McKinsey&Company: What employees are saying about the future of remote work
5. McKinsey&Company: Employee burnout is ubiquitous alarming and still underreported
6. McKinsey&Company: 2021 The year in charts
8. Engagedly: Embracing hybrid work culture in 2021
9. Harvard Business Review: What your employees want most
10. Harvard Business Review: How to use all your vacation and really unplug