More than six months have passed since most people began working remotely, and the reality of the new setting is starting to settle in for a lot of workers. In fact, many people say they're experiencing burnout. Whether it’s from poor internet connections, having to manage family responsibilities with work or other reasons, entrepreneurs should recognize remote working burnout.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that’s characterized by feelings of exhaustion or energy depletion; negative feelings related to a job; and reduced professional efficacy. Here’s how managers or founders can recognize burnout, and what they can do to mitigate its effects.
Signs of Burnout
Although remote work can have several benefits in terms of productivity and convenience, it can also have downsides. Employees who prefer to separate their work and personal lives may find it difficult in the current circumstances. With children home because of school, college or daycare closures, the pandemic has placed additional responsibilities on working parents. Here are 15 common warning signs to observe in yourself or your teammates during meetings or conversations:
- Looks exhausted, ineffective, anxious or stressed about the job.
- Shows a lack of communication from colleagues, which can also lead to confusion and negativity.
- Avoids work or procrastinates.
- Misses phone or video calls.
- Consistently late to meetings or less responsive over chats.
- Declining work quality or productivity.
- Blames others for mistakes.
- Shows a lack of pride in accomplishments.
- Not being patient with others, or seems to be careless about things.
- Consistently working more than a specified number of hours per day.
- Takes longer to accomplish similar tasks.
- Attends meetings and conversations, but does not actively participate.
- Avoids voluntary activities.
- Writing or replying to emails after work hours and on the weekends.
- Becomes disengaged, losing interest and motivation.
Strategies to Mitigate Remote Worker Burnout
Once you know the signs of remote working burnout, it’s important to understand how you can prevent it. By considering the following seven tips, you can create healthier work cultures that promote wellness and help remote workers avoid burnout.
Support Flexible Scheduling
Flexibility during the workday can help employees better control their days and balance both personal and professional responsibilities. “Offering flexible scheduling to employees can have a dramatic impact on reducing burnout, since rigid work schedules usually magnify conflict between work and family, leading workers to mental exhaustion,” said Carol Cochran, VP of People and Culture at FlexJobs.
Encourage Time Off
Encourage employees to use their paid time off for a vacation, and provide time off for employees to improve their mental health. This can help employees at all levels cope with COVID-19 and other sources of stress.
Offer Mental Health Days
Good self-care and work-life balance can stop remote work burnout in the first place. “Leaders should strive to create a healthy company culture that values the individual as a person, and prioritizes the overall wellness of its workers,” advised Cochran.
Maintain Regular Communication
Be patient with your colleagues since remote work isn’t the same as working at the office. Staff members are facing an entirely new working environment that the organization no longer controls. These conditions will be unique for every individual, unlike in the office, where the conditions are the same for everyone.
Increase organizational electronic communication, such as newsletters, new staff announcements or team updates, and be sure to include company performance and communications from senior leaders and executives.
Tech or Office Enablement
Companies should consider improving their communication tools and technology for better collaboration between teams, so they can effectively perform while working from home. You can achieve this in the following ways:
- Provide technical and hardware support on how to maximize the use of video call platforms for regular meetings. Schedule video and phone calls to have more personalized conversations that allow you to increase human interaction.
- If staff members do not have Wi-Fi at home, consider subsidizing internet service.
- Offer to provide ergonomically enhanced office equipment for at-home working conditions.
- Dedicate a technology support line, if possible.
- Create forums for remote collaboration, including video social hours, games and team challenges.
- Develop a technology loan program for employees who may not have a laptop, camera or inverter at home.
Managers can review team goals to assess whether changes are needed. You can also manage your team performance with the following steps:
- Set dedicated online availability hours and share them with the team and peers.
- Schedule remote check-ins so you can ask the team how remote work is going.
- Give staff members a chance to share concerns.
- Develop additional training offerings and post to the learning management system.
“While those working remotely still have a job, there is the threat that they, too, could lose their paycheck or have their salary cut at some point if the recession continues,” said Psychologist Melissa L. Whitson. Since people are worried about their jobs due to the pandemic situation, employers need to reinforce that their employees can have confidence in them. Try to prioritize the health, safety and well-being of your employees while simultaneously boosting their productivity.