In recent years, remote work has gained more admiration as companies recognize its benefits, such as reduced overhead costs, boosted productivity, and improved work-life balance. However, as many workers discovered during the pandemic, remote work isn't all sunshine and rainbows. An unfortunate side effect of this shift is the growing prevalence of remote employee burnout. In this article, we'll delve into every aspect of remote employee burnout, including signs and causes of employee burnout and how to address them.
The term "remote employee burnout" describes the mental, emotional, and physical tiredness that remote workers go through. It is a condition of persistent stress and exhaustion brought on by working solely from home, outside the confines of a conventional office.
Isn't remote work setup supposed to be a stress reliever? Then why are we here talking about remote work burnout? Well! Working remotely indeed offers immense benefits, but it also leads to exhaustion when not done the right way.
According to Melissa Jezior, president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting, "The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we work, where we work, resulted in clashes between our work and home lives like we've never had before, and really has become a big stressor,"
Before we read about the causes of employee burnout, let's first see the signs that tell if you suffer from one.
Burnout becomes a real possibility as remote workers are expected to juggle multiple tasks, maintain productivity, and manage their schedules. Here are some remote employee burnout signs to watch out for:
Excessive fatigue and low energy are among the initial indicators of remote employee burnout. As the lines between work and personal life become increasingly blurred, you may find that you routinely work longer hours and miss breaks. This can cause weariness and exhaustion, which makes it challenging to focus.
Remote work burnout can also decrease productivity. Your work quality and output can suffer when you are overwhelmed and exhausted. This can be especially evident in tasks that require a lot of creativity and motivation. Burnout can also lead to procrastination, as you may find it challenging to focus and complete your tasks in a timely manner.
Working remotely can be isolating for people accustomed to working in an office environment. Without the opportunity for face-to-face interaction with colleagues, remote employees can experience feelings of loneliness and disconnection. This can further contribute to burnout, as you may feel demotivated and unimportant.
Constantly working in the same environment and dealing with work-related stress can lead to increased irritability. The constant sound of notifications and the inability to sort things out in person can increase irritation to manifold levels. This may show up in conversations with friends, family, and coworkers. If you work remotely, you may find yourself easily agitated and have a shorter fuse than people working from an office.
With a lack of physical separation between the office and home, you may find it challenging to disconnect from work. The pressure to be available and responsive at all times can take a toll on your mental health. This can also lead to a blurring of work-life boundaries, making it difficult to relax and recharge.
The behavioral scientist Gleb Tsipursky, CEO of the hybrid work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts, noted that while the rise of remote work has many benefits, it has also brought challenges. He said- "Key factors such as the erosion of work-life boundaries, extended work hours, and the isolation of working alone can collectively contribute to work-from-home exhaustion,"
Burnout doesn't just affect mental and emotional well-being; it can also manifest in physical symptoms. These can include headaches, backaches, and stomachaches. Chronic stress and burnout can weaken the immune system, making remote employees more susceptible to illnesses and infections.
Ignoring personal needs, such as proper nutrition, exercise, or relaxation, due to excessive work demands is another sign of remote work burnout. Since you have a pile of work, it becomes difficult to log off, leading to added work hours.
When working from home, it can be challenging to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Without a separate office space to step into or a daily commute to bookend the workday, you may find yourself working well beyond your typical hours or constantly checking your email, even during downtime. This lack of separation between work and personal life can escalate stress levels and burnout.
2020 saw a record high for workplace burnout due to the coronavirus pandemic worldwide. 43% of respondents from more than 100 countries stated they had gone through burnout at work, up from 39% in 2019.
One significant advantage of office work is face-to-face social interaction with colleagues. Many employees might not realize how vital these connections are when transitioning to remote work until they're gone. The prolonged isolation experienced can lead to feelings of loneliness, disconnect from the team, and a decline in mental well-being.
Even though virtual meetings are now essential for remote team communication, scheduling too many calls in a day can be mentally taxing. Besides the focus needed for video conferences, switching back and forth between numerous online platforms always adds to the cognitive load, which in turn causes increased tiredness and, ultimately, employee burnout.
You might struggle to prioritize tasks effectively without proper supervision or defined daily tasks. The distraction-rich home environment further complicates matters in staying focused on critical items on their to-do list, exacerbating feelings of stress and overwhelm.
Employees who work remotely may occasionally doubt their abilities and worth since they don't receive constructive criticism or encouragement. This self-doubt increases the likelihood of burnout by causing stress and feelings of inadequacy.
When working remotely, you may be uncertain about your roles and responsibilities or how your performance is being measured. This lack of clarity can lead to anxiety, confusion, and, ultimately, burnout as workers try to navigate expectations in an ever-changing environment.
As remote work becomes more prevalent, so does the potential for burnout. With the lines between work and home life becoming increasingly blurred, finding ways to prevent employee burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance is crucial. As we look ahead to 2024, here are some valuable strategies you can implement to stave off remote work burnout.
A clear and consistent daily routine can help establish boundaries between work and personal life. This means setting regular working hours, taking breaks, and allowing time for meals. Sticking to a routine can create separation between your professional and personal responsibilities, which is essential for preventing burnout. It is significant to establish a consistent routine while working remotely to prevent this from happening.
- Set precise working hours: Without a clear division of working hours, it is easy to lose track of your time and end up working longer than necessary. To prevent this, set precise working hours for yourself. Communicate these hours to your team and stick to them.
- Plan your day: Without a structured routine, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the endless tasks and responsibilities while working remotely. To avoid this, plan your day in advance. Set priorities for each day and allocate time for breaks.
- Making a schedule for your workday is the first step towards taking regular breaks. This should include designated work hours and breaks. It's essential to be realistic and not overcommit yourself – make sure to leave enough time for breaks in between work tasks.
- Even if you only stop for five to ten minutes during the day, taking short breaks is still essential. Stand up at your desk, stretch your legs, or take a short stroll outside. This will help enhance your physical well-being and provide your mind with much-needed relaxation.
- Lunch breaks are an essential opportunity to detach and refuel. Try to get up from your desk and move away from your setup instead of eating while you continue to work.
- Apart from taking short breaks during the day, it's crucial to integrate micro-breaks into your schedule. These are quick breaks that you can take to give your mind a little vacation from work. They can last anywhere from one to five minutes. You could, for instance, stand up and stretch, take a few deep breaths, or perform some quick exercises. These little breaks might not seem like much, but they can go a long way toward lowering stress and averting remote employee burnout.
Creating a dedicated space for work within your home can help maintain the mental separation between work and relaxation.
- Set up an area with all the necessary tools and equipment to complete your tasks efficiently. By doing this, you're providing yourself with a clear signal that when you enter this space, it's time to focus on work.
- Make sure the area where you work is ergonomically sound. To avoid physical strain, use an adjustable chair, set your monitor at eye level, and practice good posture.
- Make your workspace cozier and more welcoming by adding personal touches. Photos, artwork, and plants can all add to a happy environment.
- Establish routines to denote the beginning and end of your workday. This could be as easy as changing out of your work clothes at the end of the day or going for a quick walk before starting work.
Taking care of your physical, psychological, emotional, and mental well-being is crucial for preventing remote work burnout. Ensure you eat well, exercise regularly, get adequate sleep, and take breaks when needed. Making self-care a priority will help combat stress and increase productivity in the long run.
Here are some tips on how to prioritize self-care to prevent remote work burnout:
- With remote work, there can be a tendency to feel like there is always something that needs to be done. To prevent this, prioritize your tasks and focus on the most important ones first. This will help you stay on track. You will be able to abstain from unnecessary stress.
- Because working remotely allows for flexibility, there may be a temptation to work through the night or early in the morning. Nonetheless, to prevent burnout, adequate sleep is vital. A good night's sleep is essential, as is taking regular pauses during the day to recharge your batteries.
- While everyone's definition of self-care differs, engaging in activities that encourage relaxation and rejuvenation is crucial. This could be anything from reading a book, going for a walk, or engaging in mindfulness exercises. Regularly scheduling time for these pursuits will improve your mood and prevent you from remote work burnout.
Working remotely can sometimes feel isolating. To avoid loneliness and disconnection from your team, make an effort to maintain regular and consistent communication with colleagues through video calls, chats, or even virtual social events. Staying connected will not only help you feel more supported professionally but also provide valuable opportunities for collaboration and innovation.
- Video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Skype and instant messaging platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams help you stay in touch with your team and collaborate and work together on projects just as you would in an office setting.
- Set up weekly or bi-weekly meetings to catch up on work progress. Further, discuss any challenges or questions, as these meetings provide an opportunity for you to socialize and bond, which can help prevent feelings of isolation.
- There are many ways to create a sense of camaraderie and connection through virtual activities. For example, you can have virtual coffee breaks, where you can grab coffee with your team members and chat over a video call. You can also have online games or virtual happy hours to unwind and have fun together.
- Talk about your latest hobby, a new recipe you tried, or a funny incident that happened at home. This not only helps you connect with your team members on a personal level, but it also makes you feel like a part of a larger community.
It's paramount to set realistic goals and expectations for yourself and how much you can achieve in a day. Remote workers often fall into the trap of overworking or tackling too many tasks simultaneously. Therefore, it is crucial to be realistic about your workload and deadlines. Communicate with your team and manager about your capacity and prioritize your tasks accordingly. Remember that saying no or asking for an extension if needed is okay.
Furthermore, setting realistic expectations helps you understand your workload and manage your time better. When you know what you have to do and when you have to submit it, it becomes easier to manage and complete your tasks. Unclear expectations, on the other hand, will either hinder the quality of work you produce or they will hamper your performance by pushing you towards exceeding your deadlines,
Unrealistic expectations can create a constant state of pressure and stress for you. This, combined with the isolation and uncertainty of remote work, can lead to increased levels of stress and anxiety. On the other hand, having achievable expectations can help you feel more in control of your workload and reduce stress levels.
Therefore, be mindful of your workload and don't be afraid to delegate tasks when necessary or ask for help if you feel overwhelmed.
One of the leading causes of remote employee burnout is the lack of variation and stimulation in a remote worker's work routine. Working from the exact location and doing the same things all day can get boring and sap motivation and creativity. This is where developing one's skills is essential. You can break up the monotony of your work and add variety by expanding your knowledge and learning new skills. This can lessen the likelihood of burnout by keeping you motivated and involved.
Moreover, focusing on your skill development allows you to feel progress and growth in your career. When working remotely, feeling stagnant and disconnected from the company's goals and objectives can be easy. By learning new skills, you can contribute more effectively to the team and feel a sense of accomplishment. This can boost your self-esteem and job satisfaction, thereby reducing the chances of remote employee burnout.
Additionally, skill development may lead to new opportunities for remote workers. A varied skill set can provide you with a competitive advantage as the labor market becomes increasingly competitive. This flexibility and sense of control can make you feel more in control of your career and less stressed and burned out.
Just because you're working from home doesn't mean you shouldn't take time off. Schedule regular vacations or personal days to disconnect from work, recharge, and focus on your well-being. Doing so regularly helps prevent burnout and ensures you consistently perform at your best.
Therefore, we can conclude that remote employee burnout is a real deal. It affects not only physical but also mental and psychological well-being. Therefore, dealing with the factors that cause remote employee burnout is pivotal. The sooner you identify the issues, the better.