Communication, HR Management

Avoiding Burnout for Remote Workers

Does your organization offer the possibility of working remotely? Perhaps you have a distributed workforce in which employees work from any location they like, or maybe you have a telecommuting policy allowing occasional work-from-home options. If you offer any form of remote working, it may be wise to consider how to keep remote workers from getting burnout.

Remote working is often touted for its many benefits; employees save time by eliminating the commute; they have fewer distractions (which enables employees to be more productive); and work location flexibility may even let employees have a better work/life balance. But with all those benefits, there are also some risks. Burnout is a big one—and it can be more difficult to monitor in remote employees.

Burnout is still a risk for remote workers. While remote working can improve work/life balance by offering flexibility, it can also sometimes make it difficult to separate work and home life—meaning that a remote worker may keep working longer hours than he or she otherwise would. He or she may take that former commute time and turn it into work hours—which can be fine (and can even increase productivity!), but it can also mean the remote worker is at risk of working too much. Sometimes the way a remote employee’s job is set up sets the stage for burnout, such as the case of remote workers who are constantly traveling and working long hours on the road.

The simple fact that a remote worker has less in-person contact with coworkers can mean it’s easier to miss the fact that they’re stressed or overworked. It may not be as readily apparent as it is for someone you can see every day. That’s why employers need to be aware of this risk and take steps to proactively combat remote worker burnout before it becomes a problem.

Avoiding Burnout for Remote Workers

There are a lot of tips out there to help employees avoid burnout, such as assessing workloads (and reassigning when appropriate), giving incentives to use up vacation days, discouraging after-hours work outside of emergency situations, and giving employees the training and tools to work efficiently. All of these hold true for remote workers, too. But there are a few more that can be specifically applied for remote team members:

  • Train managers who have remote employees in how to recognize the burnout warning signs that are less obvious. You’re not going to have many opportunities to physically see that someone looks tired, or that they’re staying at the office too late, so it may mean relying on other cues like frequent e-mails sent at odd hours, or changes in employee mood or behavior.
  • Encourage managers to schedule time to check in with remote employees to informally see how they’re doing.
  • Take extra steps to ensure that remote workers are not being left out of important projects or decisions. When people get left out, they cannot benefit from feeling part of the team, and that can lead to stress and resentment—no matter how many hours someone works.
  • Ensure that remote workers have outlets where they can give input on how the employer can better support them. And of course, take the time to sincerely consider input received—employees will often tell employers exactly what they need, but the employer needs to be open to listening to the ideas and taking action when possible.
  • Whenever steps are being taken to curb employee burnout in general, be sure those steps are inclusive of the remote employees. Unfortunately, “out of sight, out of mind” can mean remote employees are unintentionally left out of some workplace initiatives.
  • Have realistic expectations of the remote workforce. While employers want to be sure that all employees are pulling their weight, it would be unrealistic to require remote employees to have a better response time or higher work output than other employees. Having unrealistic expectations can cause employees to push themselves too far.
  • Consider implementing a mentoring program that specifically includes and encourages participation of remote employees. This can allow the remote workers to remain engaged. It can also serve as an informal means of combating burnout by giving the remote employees opportunities to talk to others and get support.
  • Ensure that company wellness initiatives are accessible to remote employees.

What has been your experience with remote employee burnout? What did you do to combat it?