4 Ways to Prevent Employee Burnout when Working Remotely
June 1st, 2021
It’s been over a year since the remote working experiment began. As we ease out of the pandemic, it’s become clear that this is no longer “an experiment” – for many companies, remote work environments are here to stay. According to a survey from the accounting and consulting firm Eisner Amper, 60% of business executives plan to let employees continue working remotely after the pandemic. One third of executives are undecided, while only 8% have indicated that they will require all employees to return to the office.
The benefits of remote working have been widely documented over the last year. Many employees have enjoyed the ability to have more autonomy over their schedule, and the elimination of a long commute provides significant quality of life benefits. In addition, most companies have found that productivity has either remained comparable or improved after moving to a remote work environment.
However, it’s important to understand that the risk of employee burnout exists in remote work environments. There are several reasons why remote work may lead to burnout:
- The blurring of home and work environments makes many employees feel compelled to answer emails and keep working well past normal “work hours”
- The increase in social isolation in remote work environments can be difficult for many individuals
- Juggling work responsibilities with parental responsibilities when young children are home all day can create additional stress for employees
For these reasons, it’s crucial that you take steps to prevent employee burnout if you plan on maintaining a remote work environment after the pandemic. The following tips will help you minimize this risk at your company.
Invest in Culture
Creating a strong remote working culture will go a long way towards ensuring the success of this model. It will also significantly help your employees manage stress and the potential for burnout. Some ways to cultivate a strong remote work culture include:
- Provide plenty of virtual social interaction opportunities to help employees remain connected and feel like a team
- Offer flexible schedule options to allow employees to more effectively balance their personal and professional responsibilities
- Create a “buddy system” that provides all employees with a dedicated coworker who can share common challenges and offer mutual support
- Encourage the use of time off benefits to ensure employees take the time they need away from work to recharge and remain productive
- Celebrate the successes and accomplishments of your employees in a public manner so that your team feels valued and appreciated
Establish Clear Boundaries that Promote Work-Life Balance
One of the primary causes of employee burnout in remote environments is the blurring of work and professional life. When your home is also your office, it becomes easy to sacrifice work-life balance. It’s becoming increasingly common for employees to answer emails after hours, work on the weekend, and put in longer hours than would be customary in an office environment. While this is great for your company’s productivity, it can come with serious long-term downsides. Over time, this leads to a much greater level of burnout.
To combat this risk, it’s crucial that you set clear expectations regarding work hours in a remote environment:
- Establish a standard number of hours employees are expected to work per week
- Encourage your employees to turn off email and work notifications after working hours to prevent them from feeling like they’re “on the clock” all the time
- Allow your employees to take breaks during the day to go for a walk and get out of the house for a few minutes
- Suggest that emails crafted after typical work hours be sent the next morning to prevent other employees from feeling more compelled to work into the evening
Keep in mind that the best way to establish these work-life balance boundaries is to model the behavior from the top down. If the executive team is working late hours and responding to emails, chats and other communications after hours and on weekends, many employees may feel compelled to do the same. If the executive team never uses their vacation time, other employees may feel less comfortable using theirs. Make sure the behaviors that promote mental health are being modeled by the individuals at the top of your organization.
Communicate Regularly with Your Team
One of the most important ways to manage burnout is to relate to your employees as individuals. This is much easier when everyone is in the office and your managers have personal conversations with their employees on a daily basis. It’s crucial that these conversations still occur in a remote working environment.
Empower your managers to schedule regular (at least once a week) calls with their direct reports. These conversations can be used to:
- Check in with employees and make sure they’re receiving all the tools and assistance they need to do their jobs
- Provide coaching and support when needed
- Make sure employees feel comfortable with any new changes in policy or protocol
- Provide an opportunity for employees to ask questions or raise concerns
- Take a few minutes out of a busy day to share personal items unrelated to work (i.e., the conversations that used to occur at the water cooler)
Employees need to feel as though their managers are on their side. These conversations will build a better rapport and trust between your managers and employees. Over time, this can be an important tool to prevent burnout.
Help Your Employees Create a Dedicated Work Space
Having a dedicated work space is beneficial for mental health and productivity. While your employees aren’t arriving at and leaving work in the same manner as when they were in the office, it’s still important for them to feel like they can compartmentalize the work portion of their day. This will help reduce burnout.
Check in with your employees and ask them what they need to create a dedicated office space in their home. This may include either providing them with equipment or a stipend to purchase the equipment they need, such as:
- A good desk
- An ergonomic chair
- Proper lighting
- Computer equipment, including extra monitors and ergonomic keyboards
- Any software programs they need to perform their job
Premier Employer Services Can Help You Create Policies that Minimize Remote Worker Burnout
Premier Employer Services can help you establish your long-term remote working policies to ensure you maintain a strong culture and minimize the risk of employee burnout. As part of our human resources consulting services, we’ll work closely with your management team to understand the subtleties of your workforce dynamic and culture. Our consultants will make customized recommendations that help you maintain high levels of employee engagement in a remote environment.
Our Elevated Engagement Plus Approach™ was created with your needs in mind. This unique method is focused on helping you create a more successful and inspired organization by:
- Identifying your specific organizational goals
- Understanding your challenges
- Evaluating your work culture
We’ll use this information to create customized program that helps you navigate the challenges of a remote work environment in order to thrive in this new virtual workplace.