Staying connected in the remote workspace is challenging on the best of days. Despite the convenience of not having to commute, working from your home office can leave you feeling out of touch and struggling to keep tabs on your team’s mental health.
There’s a common misconception that employee burnout doesn’t occur while working from the comfort of home, but those who have experienced the great telecommute over the better part of last year sincerely recognize this is not the case.
As an employer, you need to be able to read the signs of employee burnout before it happens so you can address and prevent it. To do this, it’s important to consider contributing factors from all angles, including changes in the home atmosphere, adjustments to company protocol, and modified team culture, giving you a better sense of the bigger picture.
The following are a few tips for assessing your team on a regular basis and preventing burnout in the remote environment.
Know the Signs
The first sign to look for is the number of hours your team is working. Have you noticed Ella actively instant messaging around the clock? Is MacKenzie sending messages late into the night? These are both early signs that employees may soon become burnt out.
You can prevent burnout in these employees by gently reminding them it’s okay to remove themselves from the work scene outside of office hours. Also consider that employees will often increase their hours for fear of losing their job, so take the opportunity to ease mental tension by providing reassurance of job security to any extent possible.On the other hand, you may notice that an employee is consistently showing up late, taking excessive or extensive breaks, or calling in sick repeatedly. If this is unusual behavior, be sure to “sit down” with this employee and discuss what may be the cause of their changed behavior. If it is work related, you may suggest some time off to recover.
Enforce the maintenance of social boundaries while working from home. When an employee is outside of working hours or taking some time off, respect their personal time despite their still being accessible to you. This gives them time to mentally recover from the day and plays a huge role in the prevention of burnout.
You should also respect that many are still struggling to maintain a work-life balance amid pandemic circumstances. Be as flexible and accommodating as you can for these employees without adversely impacting the rest of the team.
Remember that it is management’s responsibility to communicate the support programs available to your team at the first sign of stress and anxiety. Make sure your employment assistance programs, such as counselling and stress management, are well publicized and utilized within your organization.
In some cases, encouraging an employee to take a mental break from the workload is the best solution. In severe cases of burnout, total psychological relief from the structure and routine of everyday work may be the only option.
Promote an Anti-Burnout Culture
Communication from management, especially that one-on-one correspondence, has become particularly important in the digital workplace. With your team likely feeling isolated during this time, reaching out to each person for an individual check-in could make all the difference, setting the tone for the workday and preventing a burnt-out headspace from sneaking up.
Work with your team to designate important tasks and train them to handle the workload in priority sequence instead of working to appear productive. A Harvard study indicates that focusing on the most immediate tasks instead of the most important is actually counterproductive and can lead to burnout in the long term.
Try to keep the primary focus on personal and company values, such as trust and support, rather than on bigger concepts like innovation and maximum productivity. Values-based conversations are more likely to resonate with your team’s social needs and keep everyone involved in promoting a positive company culture from a distance.
Encourage teammates to respect each other’s unique mental health needs and promote supporting each other through the use of video chats and other creative channels, such as digital note-passing.
Keep your team engaged by reminding them of the “why” behind their work. This will keep everyday tasks from feeling mundane and give colleagues a sense of purpose, which in turn translates into higher energy and greater focus (rather than exhaustion and burnout).
Prioritize People over Productivity
It’s vital to understand that in the new world as we know it, finding balance in traditional ways is no longer possible. Outlets like going to the gym and getting together with friends just aren’t available in the same capacity. This means that seemingly minor inconveniences like heavy workloads or temporary lack of resources can have a compounding effect on your team’s mental health.
Losing sight of team values and restricting the sense of community and autonomy in the online workspace will quickly work to the detriment of employee engagement as well. Be mindful of the approach you are taking to strike a balance between maintaining a productive workplace and a compassionate one, always being careful to put your people first.
Communicate with your team often and ensure they are comfortable approaching you with any mental health concerns or insecurities related to their role. Pay close attention to the working habits of your team and always have a backup plan ready in the event you need to issue some immediate time off. Your employees will appreciate your flexibility and compassion as they work through these challenging times.