What to Watch for in Your WFH Teams
By Nicole Martin
Remote work has been a welcome change for many employees. From eliminating commuting time and expenses, to offering flexibility to attend children’s extracurriculars, to providing total silence to focus, WFH has completely transformed when we work, how we work, and the work-life balance. But not all of the remote work changes are necessarily good for everyone.
Working from home has drastically reduced our social interactions. Spending long hours alone connecting with other humans only through a computer screen can have some negative mental impacts. A survey by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) found that around two-thirds of people working from home feel isolated or lonely at least sometimes and 17% do all the time. Surprisingly, despite being the more digital generations, younger adults (18 to 44-year-olds) were more likely to report feeling isolated or lonely working at home compared to older adults (45 to 64-year-olds).
Decreased motivation can also become a factor. Lack of in-office camaraderie and connection can impact one’s productivity, as being together in person with your team is a great motivator.
For many WFH employees, this new way of working has blurred the lines between work and home, resulting in an askew work-life balance. By not leaving the office, they are not leaving their work behind. They end up working longer hours and feeling more stressed and frustrated. The APA study revealed that greater than two-thirds of employees who work from home at least part of the time report they have trouble getting away from work at the end of the day always (22%) or sometimes (45%).
All of these factors are resulting in remote work burnout. I work for a fully remote company; it was remote before the pandemic. While I absolutely love the independence and flexibility afforded me, I have also experienced some of the downfalls. I tend to lose track of time when I’m heads down and focused on a task. It’s easy for me to work straight through lunch and then working later than I had intended. I recently started taking lunch breaks away from my computer. This not only allows me to nourish myself, but I make sure I walk around, stretch, and change my surroundings for mental stimulation.
Signs of Burnout in your WFH Teams
- Not completing tasks on time
- Losing track of time
- Decreased productivity
- Increased absenteeism
- Heightened sensitivity to feedback
- Short tempered
- Sad or down
- Lack of motivation
What Employers Can Do to Prevent Remote Work Burnout
Monitor workloads. Don’t expect workers to maintain unreasonable workloads, schedules or timelines.
Encourage taking vacation time. Too often employees don’t take their allotted days off because they have too much to do at work, they don’t want to let teams down, or they fear someone could replace them. Create a culture that actively supports vacation time.LINK Offer supplemental vacation benefits and/or a stipend. You can even mandate it!
Promote work-life balance. Proactively encourage employees to create work-life boundaries. Don’t just talk the talk, but actually walk the walk by prohibiting communication after official work hours and during vacation time.
Prioritize mental wellness. Promote taking mental health days and offer robust mental health benefits, such as counseling.
While remote work has many benefits, it also has drawbacks. It’s important that employers keep an eye out for any WFH employee who may be struggling with this alternative work environment, as well as take steps to prevent burnout from happening in the first place.