Running Your Business

Common Signs of Remote Employee Burnout and How to Support Your Workers

  • Employee burnout was common before COVID-19, and it may be even more prevalent in now-remote workforces
  • Understanding the signs of burnout can help you support your remote workers before their productivity slides
  • In addition to offering support, set the example that self-care is important by taking breaks and encouraging the use of PTO
Posted by September 1, 2020

Often, employee burnout is attributed to fast-paced, always-on jobs. In reality, it’s something many people experience at one time or another. In analyzing data about the United States workforce at large, a 2020 report by Emplify found that around 62% of employees experience burnout at work and roughly 20% are affected by it daily—and that was before the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all the uncertainty in the world and the shift to indefinite remote work, it’s likely that your employees are more prone to burnout now than ever before. As an employer, it’s important to identify burnout before it disrupts productivity or negatively impacts your workplace culture.

We’re sharing the common tell-tale signs of employee burnout as well as what you need to know to keep your workforce feeling their best.

What Are the Signs of Remote Employee Burnout?

What does it look like to feel burned out from work? The effects can vary from person to person and depend on an employee’s temperament. According to Forbes, four common remote employee burnout signs include:

  • Work avoidance.
  • Decreased performance.
  • Increased exhaustion or an apathetic attitude.
  • A tendency to work longer hours.

Burned-out workers may also have trouble concentrating, get easily aggravated or upset, feel hopeless or worried, begin to withdraw or even call in sick more often than normal.

Burnout can disrupt companywide productivity and, in turn, hurt your bottom line. For example, when an employee doesn’t do their job, it can put others behind and ultimately jeopardize important deadlines. Burned-out employees may also encourage others to scale back their efforts in solidarity, which can create a toxic workplace environment if left unchecked.

How Does Remote Work Contribute to Burnout?

Working from home often tops the fringe benefits wish lists of employees who value work-life balance, but the reality of remote work is it’s actually quite hard to set boundaries. If your employees don’t already have a well-established routine or know how to “turn off” their work, they may find it difficult to put their job duties aside to spend time with family or simply rest.

A jump to full-time remote status can be a hard adjustment, especially for those who are new to working from home. Providing best practices for making the shift, including how to prioritize rest and nutrition and techniques for setting boundaries when working from shared spaces, may help your employees better cope with this new normal. Offer burnout specific resources too, such as specialized sessions with wellness coaches or nutritionists.

Why Is Burnout Tough to Detect in Remote Workforces?

When employees work from separate buildings, changes in their moods or productivity are especially difficult for managers and HR leaders to notice. That’s why it’s crucial to regularly check in with workers—weekly may be best—to assess their wellness and whether they’re exhibiting any signs of burnout.

While you’ll want to make sure work objectives are being met, also use these conversations as opportunities to pinpoint problems and help quelch them before they become serious. These talks are also great occasions to give praise and acknowledge the commitment employees have made to the company. Keep these check-ins brief, though, as you don’t want to take up a ton of their already crunched time.

How Can You Combat Remote Employee Burnout?

One of the best ways to fix burnout is by taking a vacation. Your employees may not be able to travel the world during the pandemic, but they should still use their paid time off to rest and recuperate.

If you notice certain workers are sitting on massive amounts of paid time off, it’s worthwhile to ask them what’s going on. It’s possible that they’re just saving it for an event down the line, such as an upcoming medical procedure or a friend’s wedding. Others may find it difficult to step away or worry that doing so could compromise their job status. Encourage workers to use these benefits, reiterating that everyone deserves a break and that they’ve earned this time away.

Flexible scheduling is another possible solution. Allowing an employee to shift their start time by just an hour may have an immediate positive effect on their life, such as giving them flexibility to care for a child or get a better night’s rest. In personalized emails or one-on-one conversations, ask your workforce how they feel about their current schedule and whether they’d appreciate more flexibility.

It’s also key for leadership to set the example for proper self-care. If working late, taking on multiple jobs and sacrificing breaks is rewarded, it sends the message that productivity is more important than well-being. By encouraging breaks—and taking them, too—and speaking up about how important rest is for curbing burnout, managers can foster a positive work culture where employees communicate their needs and put their health and wellness first.

With United Concordia Dental’s Employer Toolkit, running your small business gets a whole lot easier. With expert guidance on benefits to educational newsletters, this resource has everything you’ll need to keep your office informed and in control of their health.

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