5 warning signs of remote burnout and ways to help prevent it
It can be challenging to spot employee burnout when you only connect with your employees a few times a week via video or chat. But remote burnout is real, affecting 69% of remote workers. That means nearly 7 of 10 of your employees are probably feeling burnt out, too. What can you do about it? Here are five warning signs of remote burnout and strategies to help prevent it.
Warning signs of remote burnout
Burnout is a complex subject that can be difficult to talk about. That’s why leaders need to pay close attention to their remote teams. Here are some of the warning signs to look out for to gauge whether or not your remote workforce is experiencing burnout:
The employee has gone dark
If you have a worker who typically responds quickly but now suddenly takes days to answer or isn’t as engaged, they might be burnt out—check in on workers that appear quieter than usual with regular one-on-ones.
They’re always online (always working)
On the other hand, an employee might overcompensate for burnout by putting in extra hours to get ahead. Plus, it’s hard to separate work and play when your office is the living room. Employees who seem always to be online, even late at night and on weekends, could be overwhelmed with work.
You notice a decrease in the value of the employees’ work
Sometimes burnout appears in more subtle ways. For example, if a worker isn’t as productive as usual, or the quality of their work has declined, it can also be a sign of burnout. When burnout looks like this, it could mean that your employee is experiencing an inability to concentrate, a lack of motivation, or maybe they need a break.
They complain of headaches and no sleep
We all stay up too late or get a headache now and again, but an employee experiencing burnout is likely to experience these issues more consistently. According to research, driving after being awake for more than twenty hours is the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol content of .10%. A lack of sleep affects health, mood, and even productivity.
Newly negative attitude
One of the easiest ways to spot remote workers in burnout mode is when they display a negative attitude regularly that wasn’t there before. Burnout can happen to even the most enthusiastic workers. Pay attention to the tone of your conversations with employees to discover if their negative attitude is a passing phase or an all-out trend. If they constantly seem negative about assignments and tasks, they might be experiencing burnout.
How to prevent remote burnout
Although remote workers have the opportunity to work from anywhere, they are just as susceptible to feelings of burnout as in-office workers. Here’s what you can do to help your remote teams prevent burnout:
Set boundaries for your employees
It can be challenging for remote workers to disconnect when working from home. Help your teams unplug by setting boundaries for your employees. Make it clear when they should be working and when to clock out. Show them how to put their messaging status to “away” and refrain from messaging workers after hours.
Help them structure their days
Working from home can be a blessing and a curse. No commute and the ability to work in PJs are perks. But it’s not easy to find structure in the workday when there’s laundry on the floor, dishes in the sink, and kids to care for. Give your teams access to tools like project management apps and kanban boards to incorporate structure into their daily work routine.
While boundaries and structure are rigid, you can still enhance your remote workers’ experience by embracing flexibility. Instead of focusing on hours worked, consider measuring output instead. And rather than having employees clock in at a particular time, embrace asynchronous communication. A long lunch or extra day off won’t hurt if employees consistently provide quality work.
Use consistent communication strategies
The number of business and productivity apps is somewhat out of control; there is an app for everything. But it’s better to use consistent strategies when it comes to communication.
For example, organize teams with channels in Slack so that workers only have to use one app to communicate. Or, instead of a weekly Zoom call, you could embrace video recordings to communicate expectations for the workweek. Keeping communication consistent is one of the most important tips for maintaining productivity while working from home.
Putting it all together
Remote burnout isn’t anything new. Employee burnout was on the rise even before remote workforces became widespread. It’s not that remote work is bad for our mental health; it’s that working remotely makes it harder to establish work-life boundaries.
You can help your employees be happy to come to work (or log in) by taking action to prevent burnout. Look out for the warning signs that your workers are becoming burnt out and communicate about strategies to help them find a remote work-life balance.