Working from home has undoubtedly changed the way we work, offering flexibility and convenience to many folks who have desk jobs. However, the blurred lines between work and personal life can often lead to burnout and increased stress. Organizations at all levels are talking about this topic, how we address it, and what role managers, employers, organizations, and family members play in the equation. The question remains: how do we make a tangible change to prevent burnout in WFH employees?
First–what is burnout, and why should we pay attention? Employee burnout refers to a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that results from chronic workplace stress. It is a condition where employees feel overwhelmed, drained, and unable to cope with the demands and pressures of their job. Burnout often develops gradually over time, affecting people’s performance, motivation, and overall well-being.
And burnout is bad for people and businesses. Burnout has a substantial financial impact, costing the US economy between $300 to $500 billion annually. These costs arise from various factors such as absenteeism, employee turnover, reduced productivity, and increased healthcare expenses due to stress-related illnesses. Some organizations attempt to counter these losses by implementing individual health programs, on-site gyms, and lunchtime yoga sessions. However, these efforts often fall short of achieving the desired results because they only address the surface-level symptoms, not the root cause of burnout.
Today, employees want to feel valued and have their voices heard, sometimes even more than they want monetary rewards and the existence of burnout makes fostering inclusive workplaces near impossible.
Below, we’ll explore five practical strategies to help managers, employees, and business leaders alike maintain a healthy work-life balance while working remotely, enabling you to leave work at work and prevent burnout.
1. Get clear on expectations for what time is "work time” and what’s “me time”
One of the first steps in avoiding work-from-home burnout is to establish clear boundaries among managers and colleagues. Managers should establish open communication to clarify working hours, indicating when everyone is available and when they’re not expected to be responsive. Clarity about goals, expectations, values, and open communication is crucial to creating a thriving environment conducive to a healthy work-life balance. By setting these expectations early on, workplaces can ensure that work-related requests don't intrude on anyone’s time. It's essential to foster open communication within teams so that everyone respects each other's work-life balance.
And managers, take a look in the mirror–employees are 5 times more likely to be burnt out if you are, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself, as well.
2. Take a fresh look at the resources at your disposal
Having a designated workspace can significantly impact productivity and mental well-being. Set up a comfortable and ergonomic workstation that mimics an office environment as closely as possible. A dedicated workspace helps people mentally switch into work mode when needed and switch out of it when the workday is over. When employees physically leave their workspace, they can mentally leave work behind, creating a clear separation between work and leisure time.
3. Talent alignment: focus on strengths
In the pursuit of excellence, we sometimes end up taking on tasks that might not be our forte, leading to additional stress and suboptimal performance. Consider analyzing your workload and identifying tasks where you may not be the best fit. If you find yourself excelling at 90% of your tasks but struggling with the remaining 10%, discuss this with your manager. They may be able to redistribute tasks within the team, allowing each member to play to their strengths.
4. Continuously improve your skills
There’s never a great time to get better, but don’t let that stop you from leveraging some of the amazing productivity tools on the market. Embrace opportunities to enhance your skills and knowledge, which can lead to increased efficiency and confidence in your work. Leverage AI and other technological resources to streamline your workflow and stay up-to-date with industry trends. By continually improving your expertise, you can become more efficient and proficient, ultimately reducing stress and burnout.
And managers, make sure you’re conscientious of how you’re delegating and guiding employees. As managers, remember that no one likes to be micromanaged. No one. Do we need to support new employees to make sure they get up to speed? Absolutely! But we also need to be constantly focused on helping our team members develop autonomy so they can do great work without feeling like they are under your thumb. Make sure you’re avoiding micromanagement of your remote employees to combat mutual feelings of burnout and foster a thriving workplace.
5. Embrace flexibility
Embracing flexibility is vital for enhancing employee engagement in today's work environment. This flexibility goes beyond remote work arrangements, extending to how individuals approach tasks and manage their working hours. Allowing people to work during their most productive periods, whether it be early morning or late at night, boosts their motivation and dedication. Organizations now recognize the importance of setting clear expectations for communication, like reserving Fridays and Sundays for personal time and establishing responsive time frames during the week. By incorporating such flexibility into the workplace, businesses can cultivate a more engaged and fulfilled workforce.
6. Don’t go it alone
When we find ourselves on the brink of burnout, it's common to perceive ourselves as martyrs, believing we're the only ones carrying the weight of heavy workloads, with insufficient hours to meet our self-imposed expectations.
To no surprise, employee engagement can be an antidote to burnout. A recent article from the Harvard Business Review emphasized the importance of this fact: most of the author’s recommendations to address burnout are directly aligned with the practices Activate helps organizations implement in the employee engagement realm. It serves as a powerful reinforcement for our current discussion. With this in mind, let's build on these insights and proceed further.
Remember, you don't have to endure this in silence. Reach out to your colleagues, manager, or a friend. Let your emotions flow freely and then craft a plan, which might involve requesting a transfer of some responsibilities to lighten your load. It's essential to take care of yourself and find support in those around you.
Working from home offers incredible benefits, but it also comes with unique challenges, such as work-from-home burnout. However, employee engagement can be a helpful tool in efforts to combat it. Activate Human Capital Group has leveraged the Employee Commitment Index™, a quick 6-minute survey, offered in 32 languages, to measure 22 items that are scientifically validated to drive engagement and business performance. Additionally, we offer Talent Optimization and Talent Development services that can help you find the right people, align their roles with their abilities, and enable them to thrive.
Activate Human Capital Group is dedicated to forging a better world through the enhancement of work environments. As the leader of the Activate Human Capital Groups team, our primary goal is to assist clients in recognizing and comprehending crucial areas related to employee engagement, talent management, alignment, and profitability. We strive to create improved workplaces that drive success and prosperity for both individuals and organizations.
Give us a chance to help you realize impactful results. For more information about Activate Human Capital Group’s Employee Engagement Offerings or to schedule a demonstration of our tools, contact us today.