For years, headlines about work flexibility have touted the idea of offering more options for employees to work remotely. Then COVID hit, and almost everyone who was able to work remotely was thrust into it—ready or not.
For some, this meant more flexibility, saved commuting costs, improved productivity, and more. But for others, the picture has been less rosy.
What Causes Burnout?
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons remote employees may be at high risk for burnout, especially now.
- It may be tougher to separate work life from home life while working at home, often leading to employees’ working longer hours.
- When work is staring at you inside the house, it can be more difficult to mentally switch off from it after the workday ends.
- A lack of commuting time may mean employees are actually working more hours.
- Being away from coworkers may mean less socialization, which means employees might have fewer ways to recharge during the workday.
- During COVID in particular, taking vacation time is an entirely different scenario. With fewer travel options and more reasons to avoid being around crowded places, many are opting to skip their vacation days.
- Fewer interactions with teammates may result in coworkers’ missing the signals that an employee is struggling, leaving problems unaddressed for much longer.
- Managers also see their team less often, making it less likely they’ll realize when there are problems.
Ways to Reduce Risk
With these examples, it’s easy to see how remote working doesn’t guarantee better work/life balance if not treated with care. Thankfully, there are steps employers can take to mitigate these risks. Here are some options:
- Train managers to frequently check in with their team members so they’re aware of how their employees are doing. This may seem awkward at first, but it can be beneficial if handled well.
- Encourage employees to use their vacation time, even if that time is used to just recharge for a bit instead of taking a traditional vacation. Time away from work can help both the employee and the employer.
- Proactively assess employees’ workloads to confirm they aren’t becoming overloaded.
- Ensure managers know the signs of burnout in remote employees. Look for things like messages being sent at all hours or changes in employee demeanor, mood, behavior, or productivity.
- Get input from remote employees on how they’re doing. It seems simple and obvious, but it’s often overlooked.
- Assess the previous benefit structure, and see what benefits can be tailored to be more useful for remote employees right now. For example, wellness programs may have components that can be implemented for remote workers. Or new benefit offerings could be considered that can keep remote employees engaged.
Given that we don’t know how long much of the workforce will be working remotely, what other items has your organization implemented to ensure employees are still getting the work/life balance they need? What would you add to this list?
Bridget Miller is a business consultant with a specialized MBA in International Economics and Management, which provides a unique perspective on business challenges. She’s been working in the corporate world for over 15 years, with experience across multiple diverse departments including HR, sales, marketing, IT, commercial development, and training.