Around a year ago, millions of employers worldwide had to make a sudden and unprecedented shift to home office amid the coronavirus pandemic. For most employees, what started as a short-term remote work setup is now a permanent home office and is not going away anytime soon. Work from home has been on the rise and a necessity to contain the spread of viruses and with that, the challenge for you to manage your remote team also comes. However, work from home isn’t the only thing that has been on the rise; employee burnout is another severe threat with the home office setup.
Monster’s research indicates that around two-thirds of employees experience burnout symptoms while working from home during July 2020. The same report also suggested that most workers are taking less time off in the WFH setup than WFO. Around 42% of people working from home are not planning to take any time off to decompress. The reason behind this less day off might be the fear of losing a job, poor management, unreasonable workload, or inability to recognize the signs of burnout.
Another research indicates that after lockdown, working hours have increased by 48 minutes, meetings have increased by 13%, and employees are sending on an average of 1.4 more emails per day, which is relatively higher than the situation before lockdown.
Although people are working from home, taking day-offs, breaks, and having “me time” is very important. As a manager, you need to understand that your remote team has a lot going on and you have to manage your remote team anyhow, especially in this pandemic situation. This article will tell you what exactly employee burnout is and how to manage your remote team without burning out.
What Is Burnout?
Burnout is a situation when you feel there’s no energy left to carry on working. It can affect a person’s mental, physical, and emotional health in several ways, leaving them exhausted and stopping them from completing their day-to-day tasks as they usually would. NO, it is not simply a feeling of being tired; it’s a lack of interest or motivation towards work.
Generally, burnout involves:
- Not feel like working
- Lack of motivation
- Running away from people and responsibilities
- Not able to focus
- Symptoms of depression, like hopelessness or fatigue
- Getting insufficient sleep or experiencing insomnia
- Increase of interest towards alcohol than usual, or drinking to cope
- Physical problems like chest pain, headaches, dizziness or fainting, etc
- Negative thoughts towards your work
- Feelings of helplessness and disconnected
Both employers and employees need to identify and treat burnout because it stops employees from performing their duties as usual. Burnout may even make people quit their job altogether if they’re unable to cope with the burden of burnout. Let’s discuss the main reason behind burnout and its solution for both employers and employees.
You open your eyes, see a hundred emails and messages from the office, and you want to reply to all of them as soon as possible. Sounds familiar? Well, this is the usual routine of most of the people who are working from home.
Stress starts building up at the back of the mind when employees start their day by replying to emails and work meetings. The increase in working hours and shifts is causing some very profound social and personal struggles. As working from home saves time which we used to spend travelling and getting ready; it also makes people workaholic and does more and more.
Work-from-home setup sometimes blurs the line between personal life and work life. Sometimes people are unable to see where work ends and leisure time begins. Some employees might feel overburdened and not able to communicate due to a lack of in-person meetings. This overburden may cause some significant issues and eventually burnout. It also happens in situations when a person is not a good speaker or cannot communicate comfortably on call.
The human body and mind need a sufficient amount of rest in a day. Set boundaries by implementing office hours, allow your employers to switch off work notifications, and activate an out-of-office response for after-shift hours. In this way, your organization or client knows that your office is closed for business.
Encourage your team members to go out of the house, take a walk, exercise outside, or meet their friends. Socializing can help them refresh their mind and stay productive. If a call does not require screen sharing, you can encourage them to take the meeting while sitting in a park or walking on a terrace.
When the task given is to manage your remote team, both their work and personal life. Due to different time zones of teammates working from different places in the world, any notifications or emails can ruin someone’s sleep or disturb their family time. Make sure to discuss work schedules with every team member by respecting their time and don’t pressure them to respond to a chat or email outside of their working hours.
Work from home setup has its own set of blessings and challenges. When you work in an office, people have options to communicate with their colleagues and share ideas. They have people to engage and talk to when they don’t feel well. Now all those instances almost feel like a distant dream which is not going to complete anytime soon. When there is a work from home setup, your employees feel alone in the isolation of home, and they have to deal with the problem alone. Your remote team might feel left out– of consideration for a promotion and your feedback.
We live in an advanced era of technology and the internet. Keep in mind that work from home is not going away anytime soon. Therefore, people have to adjust themselves to the virtual setup; slowly and gradually.
Regularly have one-on-one meetings or team meetings and give them the time to contact you on any application without conflict of time zones. Make sure to turn ON your availability as your employees might hesitate to contact you during odd hours. Schedule a one-on-one to discuss their problems and give them the solutions.
You can also try to set up virtual team bonding activities every week to strengthen the team bond. Virtual team-building activities can help your team members feel connected and increase productivity.
As a team manager, you need to help your team figure out what they should do and set reasonable expectations from their work. Ensure each task and the reasons behind them to make them understand exactly how you will measure success. Clearly define the scope of work, deadlines, and deliverables for each project to your team. Don’t forget to give feedback to each team member to help them stay motivated and interested.
If you have a team of remote workers, they need tools like laptops, required software, mobile devices, and a high-speed internet connection. Sometimes, your employees may hesitate to ask for resources, especially if they are new to the organization and cannot communicate with you openly. Sometimes, due to a lack of awareness, your team might not manually do a task that can be done automatically using a tool. Simple tools might speed up their work and inverse productivity. For example- the availability of planning and tracking tools can help you streamline multiple projects and be on time.
One of the many things that create burnout among employees is that they cannot plan how long it will take to complete a project and arrange their priorities. You can simplify the whole prioritization process by using a Gantt chart maker to act as a game-changing tool in planning and scheduling projects.
You can’t just assume that everyone has all of those things, and it’s your responsibility as a team manager to make sure they have enough resources to do their work. Before assigning a project, make sure your team members have the required tools and technology to get the job done quickly. Encourage your team members to use tools instead of manually doing a task. It will enhance their speed, and they will be able to invest their time in something productive.
Other Ways To Avoid Burnout
Apart from these preventive measures, you can also practice the following to avoid burning out employees:
Due to work from home setup, regular work hours might not be suitable for many people. As a team manager, you have to trust your team and give them the flexibility to get work done on time and help them be the most productive. Being flexible with working hours might result in enhanced productivity and help them avoid burnout. Instead of focussing on active hours, focus on productivity and the result of your employees.
Cultural obstacles are one of the significant issues when you manage your remote team. Your team might consist of people from different cultures and religions. It becomes pretty hard for a team manager to team members of different races, embrace cultural diversity, and make them stick together. Find out how people from other areas and cultures are open to receive feedback. As a manager, you have to promote a mindset of celebrating differences and being respectful about your team’s national holidays.
Make sure to switch your video ON while collaborating with your team members, especially during one-on-one. Whether you want to read their reaction to a change in plans or want to know their overall mood, a video call can tell you way more than an audio-only call. With so many free and paid video calling solutions in the market, it is not hard to collaborate with your team on a video call.
Burnout is REAL, and it is the team leader’s responsibility to make sure their team members are in good mental and physical health. In these challenging times, a remote work environment will be a long-term solution; adopting the right leadership style is crucial. We hope these tips and practices will help you manage your remote team effectively without burning out.