For many companies, remote work is here to stay. It’s important to ensure that employees who work from home are taken care of.
Now more than ever, it’s important to make sure your employees are emotionally stable and happy with their work-from-home (WFH) environment. Seeing how a record number of people are quitting their jobs due to more job availability, ensuring your company’s success requires keeping your best people.
While burnout is not new, the recent change to a work-from-home culture has increased the number of people experiencing burnout in a whole new way. That is just one of the many things that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon us. The number of people working from home is still much higher than before the pandemic and predictions are that the WFH lifestyle is here to stay.
In fact, ”Forty percent of Americans prefer to work from home full-time, compared with 35% who seek a home-office hybrid,” according to a Harris Poll survey in May 2021.
These statistics make it clear that employers need to adapt to the new “normal” by setting up appropriate work-from-home parameters for employees. As WFH becomes a normal part of our lives, it’s important to ensure that employees are emotionally taken care of as this will reduce risks to your company.
How do you spot if your employees need an emotional lift?
Causes of work-from-home exhaustion
First, let’s look into why WFH exhaustion happens…
- Lack of boundaries between work and home life
- Employees might be missing human connection
- It becomes increasingly difficult to ‘switch off’
- There are distractions at home that you wouldn’t have in the workplace
- Video calls take more concentration, causing Zoom fatigue
- There’s a reduction in exercise and movement
Lack of boundaries between work and home life
When your employee had to go into the office, there was an actual physical difference between work and home. Removing this can make it more difficult for employees to separate work life from their personal time. This negatively impacts people’s mental health and can even lead to reduced sleep.
Your employees might be missing human connection
The casual office conversations, meetings by the water cooler, and simple greetings to delivery drivers are absent when someone is working from home. These mundane interactions were enough to break up the monotony of the day and could even prevent burnout.
Furthermore, the increase in video meetings means there is more intense screen time than before. Video calls are exhausting as they take more concentration and cause Zoom fatigue.
Reduced exercise and movement
A lack of exercise, movement, and fresh air can have detrimental effects on overall wellness. Open up the conversation to help your employees stay fit and healthy.
Although walking to the car, to the building, and back is not that much exercise, it was the only movement some sedentary workers had all day. Working from home practically eliminates the only physical activity they did. A lack of exercise, movement, and fresh air can have detrimental effects on overall wellness. Open up the conversation to help your employees stay fit and healthy.
At home distractions you don’t have in the workplace
It’s true that workers were thinking about chores and errands that needed to be done during work hours, but these remained thoughts when people were at the workplace. When the home IS the workplace, it is much easier to act on these thoughts and do the dishes, do the laundry, etc.
It is not ideal to have your employees doing the house chores during company time, and the worst part is that the employee isn’t viciously looking to do it. It just sort of happens. Picture this: your trip to get a coffee suddenly has you thinking about the dishes that are on the side, leading to thoughts about what you will cook tonight. Before you know it, your mind has switched off from work and on to your home tasks.
Telltale signs of WFH exhaustion
Look out for these key signs that your employee might be suffering from burnout.
- Disengagement. You may recognize changes in interest from someone who would usually be optimistic and excited about work.
- Reduced quality of work. Have you noticed their attention to detail slipping or that they’re not producing good work lately?
- Brain fog. Dr. Bryan reports “brain fog” as a side effect of the pandemic. This causes people to have mental fatigue, difficulty thinking, and trouble paying attention. Have you noticed your employees struggling with daily tasks?
- Increased complaints. If there are employees who are normally happy during their workday but then suddenly start complaining about their workload or responsibilities, it could be because they are exhausted. Someone who could previously cope with the amount of work may now find it overwhelming.
How to provide emotional relief from WFH burnout
There are many ways to support your employees if they are experiencing WFH burnout. This will differ depending on your specific company but here are some suggestions to consider.
Longer breaks or time off
Can you offer your employees an additional day off or longer breaks? Encourage taking walks outside (if it’s possible), doing some exercise, and stepping away from the screen.
Create work-from-home boundaries
Do not expect employees to reply to emails or take calls after a certain time. Set strict working hours and make it very clear that it’s ok to not respond right away (meaning that certain things can wait until the next business morning).
Be open with conversations
Introduce more “casual” conversations. Can you try turning some of the video calls into phone calls? Take the opportunity to talk about topics that aren’t related to work. Encourage your employees to take the phone call while on a walk around the park or sitting in their garden.
Ask people how they are managing their work/life balance and workload, now they are working from home. Allow them room to be honest with you, and explain there will be no repercussions for their honesty. Of course, then take the feedback and try to make company changes if possible.
Ask people how they are managing their work/life balance and workload, now they are working from home. Allow them room to be honest with you.
Manage without micromanaging
There is nothing worse for an employee’s wellbeing than unnecessary micromanaging. Allow your employees some space to reduce anxiety around tasks.
Strike a balance between over-managing and under-managing. While this looks different for every company, attempt to find less obvious ways of checking in regularly so that employees don’t feel under pressure or constantly scrutinized.
Praise good work for an emotional lift
Even if you have been noticing signs of fatigue in your employees, find something that you can praise them for as this will boost morale. Celebrating the sometimes seemingly small achievements can increase productivity and employee satisfaction.
Whilst burnout and remote work exhaustion are usually caused by more than one thing, there are ways to limit the negative impact it can have on employees.
Look out for the early signs of burnout and offer a supportive workplace relationship if your employee needs some time to recuperate.