Remote work burnout is a growing concern for both employees and employers. It is a real struggle, and they must find ways to prevent it.
Working with the Work From Anywhere #WFA system is like a dream. You can choose where and when to work and how to dress. Plus, you don't have to drive to work or get stuck in traffic jams. Remote working comes with many advantages.
Like everything else, remote work has its pros and cons. While it offers flexibility and autonomy, it also increases the risk of burnout.
In 2020, studies indicated that remote workers are less prone to burnout. However, after the post-pandemic, the situation changed dramatically. Tiny Pulse showed that almost 86% of remote workers have work-related burnout. This percentage is 16% higher than in-person workers.
Some might assume that working at home in comfortable clothing doesn't lead to remote work stress. But the truth is burnout knows no bounds.
The definition of Burnout
According to APA, burnout is a person's physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that often results in decreased motivation and performance. When someone has burnout, they typically have a negative attitude toward themselves and others.
The term "burnout" was first used by Herbert Freudenberger, a German-American psychologist, in his book "Burnout: The High Cost of High Achievement." He described burnout as a loss of motivation and intensity, especially when a person fails to meet expectations.
Signs of Burnout
The fact is, you can't prevent something without knowing the biggest risk of it happening in the first place. It's more than just about going to work on Monday. Adopting the Well-Being Index, there are six signs of employees experiencing burnout.
Feeling exhausted all the time could be a sign of burnout. Stress and fatigue can prevent employees from getting a good night's sleep or relaxing at the end of the day. Lack of sleep can result in various symptoms, from dizziness to more severe effects such as hallucinations.
Fatigue can cause a lack of concentration and forgetfulness. When employees are less focused, they may make more mistakes. They may feel like they're not achieving anything. Plus, if the office culture is micro-management or toxic, it can further exacerbate the problem.
It's not only the environment or workload that easily leads to employee burnout. Health conditions also play an essential role in the mental stability of employees. When a person's energy reserves are depleted, they become more susceptible to viruses. Illness can make people more prone to burnout, disrupting day-to-day productivity.
Burnout can be an early warning sign of depression. Employees who feel tired and depressed due to work may have less motivation. They may feel less sure of themselves or worry too much about meeting deadlines. Employers should watch for signs of work-related depression and take them seriously.
When employees are under pressure, they may become irritable. Unacknowledged feelings of frustration can lead to anger. To deal with this, finding out what's causing the tension and anger is essential.
Be aware of the cynicism in the workplace, whether in remote or in-person workers. It could be a symptom of burnout among employees. Forbes mentioned that cynicism breaks the client experience and the company's reputation. Cynicism also affects productivity and organisational culture.
Why do remote workers experience burnout?
Many factors contribute to remote worker burnout. Indeed reported that 53% of remote workers tend to work longer. Additionally, many remote workers struggle to disconnect from work. Here are possible reasons why telecommuters often experience burnout:
1. Feeling lonely and isolated
Harvard Business Review stated that burnout is both exhausting and lonely. When someone feels isolated, their productivity and motivation can decrease, negatively impacting job satisfaction. Feeling lonely can reduce job satisfaction by 12%—bad news for remote workers who spend much time solo.
2. The mindset that wants to be "always on."
Remote workers often forget to switch out from work mode. Sometimes they may feel pressure to be constantly active and productive, so they must be 24/7.
3. Expectations and decisions from yourself
Work from home like you are your boss. There are no clear boundaries around when to stop working or how to collaborate effectively. You have to make the decision, and this raises high expectations.
How to prevent it
Burnout is the responsibility of employees and employers. Companies should strive to cultivate a remote work culture prioritising open and honest communication. Here are some initial steps to prevent burnout:
1. Take time off
Don't be fooled by remote companies' "unlimited leave" policies. Unlimited leave options are sometimes not utilised by employees. Many of them end up taking less or no time off at all.
Instead, employers should consider providing specific time off with clear guidelines. It is essential to recognize that employees need time off to maintain their well-being and productivity.
2. Switch off
Companies must stop expecting remote workers to be available 24/7, on weekdays and weekends. Synchronous culture is one factor that makes it difficult for employees to unplug when working hours are over. Instead, companies should respect work-life boundaries and encourage employees to take time outside of work.
3. Set yourself a work rhythm
A paper revealed that managers unintentionally create an "urgency situation" that encourages remote workers to reply to emails after hours. To prevent this, workers must set their work rhythm. Set limits on when to work overtime or be on time.
4. Find the right support system
Remote working doesn't mean you have to be lonely. Seek support from friends or family. Plan regular check-ins, such as working at a coffee shop or vacationing. Feeling connected can enhance productivity and make your days more positive. Plus, you will feel appreciated, and your days will be more positive.
Burnout is real. Both companies and employees need to take responsibility for preventing it. Remember that exhausting is normal, as long as it's not a persistent feeling. By recognising the signs and taking proactive steps to prevent them, you can maintain your mental health and stay productive. Remember to take breaks, set boundaries, and prioritise self-care. With these strategies in mind, you can thrive in your remote work environment and avoid burnout.