The way we work will never be the same.
More employees are transitioning to remote work, and larger companies are trying to make do with a smaller staff as a result of the Great Resignation. At the same time, productivity and digital communication tools have become the norm for staying hyperconnected.
Still, the greatest challenge facing HR professionals this decade will be employee burnout. When you work from home, you are always at the office. In addition, you are always home. In other words, you are always getting pulled in all directions and many end up losing their sanctuary – their home – because it becomes a pressure cooker.
As a result, companies need to help employees better balance their personal and professional lives. Otherwise, the ramifications are great, both for individuals and organizations. Learn how remote work can actually lead to burnout:
Remote Work: The Double-Edged Sword
Remote work brings many benefits for employers and employees. Having no commute means more time to focus on work. Obviously, saving money on gas or public transportation is a benefit for employees, while being able to do away with the costs of bricks-and-mortar offices is more affordable for employers. These are just a few of the reasons remote work can be beneficial.
Remote workers are 35% to 40% more productive on average, according to Forbes, probably because they get to avoid long in-person meetings and office conversations. Their output also increases by about 4%.
Besides productivity, research has shown that remote workers make fewer mistakes, feel a stronger engagement to their company, and are more likely to stay in their position for a longer period of time. Ultimately, companies save on office expenses and profit more in the long run.
Of course, while this is true, there are also drawbacks to remote working. Remote workers love their job autonomy and flexible work schedules, yet the flip side is how easy it is to contact them 24/7.
Some managers or coworkers may call them during all hours of the day with questions or concerns. It’s not right, but it happens in our deadline-driven society. These remote workers may even feel guilty for not doing more. Under these circumstances, it’s tough to maintain a work-life balance.
Is Burnout The New Smoking or Sitting?
Earlier this year, Gartner released a report detailing the “always-on mindset.” This is a blurring of the lines between work time and free time. Gartner found that 40% of hybrid or remote workers experienced an increase in the length of their workday this past year. These types of employees are also 1.27 times more likely to struggle with disconnecting from work.
With 25% of the total U.S. labor force working remotely by 2025, HR professionals can expect to deal with more employee burnout thanks to this “always-on mindset.” Work-from-home depression will likely increase as more employees feel like they can’t get a break. The other effects of burnout include lack of motivation, fatigue, insomnia, and substance abuse issues. In some cases, it results in high blood pressure or heart disease.
Not only will burnout tank productivity but employees seeking treatments for these symptoms will drive up insurance costs. The good news is that remote work burnout can be avoided.
How to Prevent Employee Burnout
It’s possible that some remote workers may report their feelings to HR, but many others will keep it to themselves, especially in highly competitive fields.
Find out how HR professionals can help in recognizing burnout in employees:
Work with managers and employees to set clear remote work boundaries.
If flexible schedules are permitted, work with managers and employees to create a fair schedule that allows all work to be completed but doesn’t interfere with an employee’s personal time.
Encourage employees to turn off smart phones or close communication systems during off hours. Emergencies may happen, but there shouldn’t be an expectation of always being on call.
Send regular communication to remote workers about the importance of finding hobbies or activities outside of work. Highlighting exercise and healthy eating will also reduce stress.
Be available for open and honest conversations with staff about how to reduce feelings of burnout.
Remote workers need to ensure they have a work space separate from their living space. Furthermore, they need to stay on top of reducing distractions to stay productive. Missing deadlines will only make them feel worse.
Employees who aren’t feeling like themselves can take a free online mental health assessment. An official diagnosis can only be made by a licensed, professional therapist, but it may be the proof they need that something isn’t right.
Seek Work-Life Balance
Just because new technology makes it easier to reach your employees all hours of the day, doesn’t mean your company should do it. The key to preventing employee burnout is establishing clear boundaries with remote workers. HR professionals should also check-in with remote workers to ensure these boundaries are being respected and that they aren’t starting to feel burnout.
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