A Deep Dive Into Remote Employee Burnout
Remote work is undoubtedly one of the best things to come out of the modern, post-Covid 19-era workplace. At first glance, it sounds like the ultimate dream. Working in your pajamas. Taking meetings from wherever you want. No long commutes or sitting in traffic. Saving big bucks on Starbucks. And most importantly, sleeping in until 8:59 to start work at 9. You get the picture.
However, working remotely also means dealing with some unique challenges — and remote employee burnout is perhaps one of the biggest ones. Keep reading as we dive into what it exactly means, and ways you can help tackle this type of burnout.
What is remote employee burnout?
Remote employee burnout happens when people who work remotely feel disconnected from their jobs and coworkers—and sometimes even themselves. So if you think burnout just means being exhausted from your job, think again.
According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout isn’t a disease, but rather, “a special type of work-related stress.” It is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, weak immune systems, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and in some cases, even death.
It is a state of physical and mental exhaustion affecting remote workers that’s caused by a variety of reasons.
Your employees might be working too many hours or too many days in a row; they could be working on a project that’s not meaningful to them, or they might feel like their skills aren’t being fully utilized. On the flip side, remote employee burnout might also be influenced by other underlying conditions, like depression, individual employee lifestyle factors, and certain family attributes.
Whatever the case may be, it’s important for employers to recognize when their remote employees are experiencing burnout. This way, they can take the steps needed toward its prevention before it becomes a serious problem.
What the data says
If you’re experiencing remote employee burnout, chances are that you’re not alone.
A survey of 2,000 remote working U.S. employees explored how changing routines impacted employee performance in the wake of COVID-19. Surprise, surprise: 70% of respondents reported difficulties balancing their work and family lives.
As a result, remote workers also experienced direct stress from their employers. 67% of respondents felt their employers expected them to be available 24/7, 65% felt overworked, and 63% believed their employers did not want them to take time off.
And for the grand finale, here’s the most important statistic of all. Another survey found that 69% of employees experience burnout symptoms while working from home, negatively impacting both business productivity and employee health.
You know what they say — too much of a good thing can be bad. And this holds even more ground when we’re talking about work.
5 ways you can tackle remote employee burnout
Let’s face it: burnout affects people in all walks of life and in all industries. But what exactly makes remote employee burnout different?
If an athlete starts slipping under pressure, it’s likely that their team or the coach will notice that something is up. The same goes for in-office workers. Their co-workers are likely to spot symptoms of burnout early on. However, this simply isn’t possible with remote workers.
Because these employees work around the clock with little to no direct supervision, they often encounter burnout earlier than their office counterparts. But without the opportunity to discuss how they’re feeling with real people or seek outside help, they are at greater risk of burnout due to their isolation and loneliness.
That being said, here’s how you can cope with remote employee burnout before it becomes a bigger problem in your company.
Set a work routine (and honor it)
The best way to tackle workplace burnout is by creating a balance between work and play.
Identify a routine that works for you and stick to it. Wanna get all your work done during the regular office hours of 9-5 and chill after? Silence your non-essential notifications, grab your noise-canceling headphones and get to work for those 8 hours. Then switch off your laptop after 5 and don’t open it until the next day.
If your employees aren’t fans of sitting glued to their laptops for hours on end, try implementing flexible work schedules. In remote companies, flex-scheduling means letting remote workers work when it’s convenient and appropriate for them, rather than conforming to the traditional 9-to-5, 40-hour work week. In other words, you can give your employees the flexibility they need to run that midday errand without comprising employee health or their workplace performance.
Ultimately, the key is to find whatever works for both your employees and your business. Keeping both parties satisfied (and happy) greatly reduces the risk of burnout.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Without the safety net of a cubicle, it can be difficult to spot signs of an oncoming emotional breakdown within your team.
After all, it’s hard to form relationships over a screen. Talking to your co-workers in virtual meetings is nowhere as close to the verbal and non-verbal communication that happens over lunch or Happy Hour at the office. It’s not easy for an employee to tell their manager that they’re struggling with personal issues. However, it’s important that you give them an opportunity to talk, especially if they need it.
So if your remote employee is getting burned out, don’t succumb to the smile they conceal their problems with. Instead, reach out to them by asking how they are feeling or offering advice on how best to tackle their problem at work. All you have to do is swallow your pride, muster up some courage and reach out to someone. It’ll do wonders for your burnout — we promise.
Engage in regular one-on-one meetings
One-on-one meetings are an excellent way to keep your remote employees engaged and working towards the same goals. These meetings should be scheduled at least once per week, but more often if possible.
In addition to talking about your employee’s normal workload, you should also discuss any personal development goals they may have. This will help them grow as a person as well as an employee. Try asking questions that relate back to their overall performance. You can also use these meetings as an opportunity to provide feedback on what is going well or how they can improve at their job.
The best way to make these meetings more effective is by being open with your employees and asking them open-ended questions so that they feel encouraged, rather than interrogated during their meeting with you.
Improve your rest ethic
We’re all familiar with the meaning of work ethic. But what about rest ethic?
As a remote worker, it’s incredibly important to build a rest ethic that’s as strong as your work one if you plan on tackling burnout. This means practicing self-care whenever possible. While everyone’s definition of rest is different, improving your rest ethic can take the following forms:
- Truly unplugging from all work-related tasks and commitments when taking time off
- Checking in with your self– journaling, meditating and taking care of your body
- Taking breaks during the workday (or whenever needed) to exercise, read and do things that make you happy
- Scheduling downtime to spend time alone or with your loved ones
- Practicing self-reflection
- And whatever else your heart desires!
Creating a strong rest ethic is the best way to tackle remote employee burnout head-on. This can be as simple as stealing a few seconds on your lunch break and listening to a podcast, or it can be as complicated as taking a full weekend off every few months. It’s about taking time just for yourself. Don’t necessarily think self-care with facemasks and bubble baths (although if that’s what you’re into, go for it). It’s about taking the time to do nothing and just relaxing.
Develop a stronger company culture
Happy team members are productive team members. It’s a no-brainer, right?
However, with a wide range of remote workers across the globe, it’s inevitable that some will experience feelings of isolation and self-doubt as they work remotely. To help combat this and destigmatize these issues, companies should work to build and sustain a non-judgemental culture. Leaders should recognize that remote employee burnout is a complex issue, and should work to address it with their teams.
Don’t let your employees suffer in isolation. Take the steps needed to promote a culture of collaboration and transparency in your remote teams. When an organization has this quality, it shows that they care about each one of their employees and seek to make them feel included in the team.
By doing so, you can create an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive. Building a diverse team is also essential to fostering creativity and innovation. As an inclusive leader, you keep an open door policy, celebrate differences, and promote a healthy work-life balance. Sounds like a win-win to us!
The bottom line
In the end, everyone is going to experience remote employee burnout at some point.
The important thing is to be prepared for it and to remember that this feeling does not last forever. If you’re a remote worker finding yourself dealing with burnout, take a look at these tips and consider how they could apply to your situation. Remote work is still one of the best options around, and it’s only gonna become more mainstream as time passes. So take a deep breath, don’t let yourself get too down on your own situation, and know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. You got this!