2020 has been an adjustment for everyone, regardless of the type of work you do. With an estimated 56% of the U.S. workforce holding a job that is compatible (at least partially) with remote work, our day-to-day is looking a lot different than it did last year. Working from home has become a new normal for many Americans and that has created a new cause of concern for many leaders - ‘Work from Home Burnout'.
More than 69% of employees are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home, and this influx is impacting both business productivity as well as the overall health of the workforce, up almost 20% from a similar survey that was conducted in early May. Recognizing the signs of employee burnout or distraction fatigue is crucial to the physical and mental health of an employee.
Work from home burnout is being caused by a lack of boundaries being put into place as well as an inability to disconnect. No longer do we get up in the morning, get dressed, and drive to work. Now, if we aren’t in meetings, we can stay in our pajamas and work from our bed. The home was once our escape from work, yet now it has become the workplace and for some even school or daycare for their kids. Even outside of their work hours, people are still responding to emails, updating task lists, or working on projects when they might have previously left work to spend that time with their families or just decompressing by themselves.
Not to mention, our supportive work environment is missing. We don’t have our coworkers sitting next to us to turn and talk to nor can we go into our team leads office to ask questions--we are completely isolated from our coworkers albeit technology-- enter ‘zoom fatigue’. That lack of emotional and professional support can have a large impact on keeping employees motivated and driven.
While it’s imperative for leaders to recognize signs of burnout in their employees, it’s also more difficult given the physical barriers of working from home.
Since transitioning to a fully remote/work-from-home environment earlier this year, Hueman has attempted to create safe-spaces and optional events for employees to help prevent burnout and WFH fatigue. We transitioned our Bring Your Own Book (BYOB) club to a virtual club to keep members connected. Since going virtual, there have been two meetings and the number of attendees has remained consistent. BYOB allows our employees to safely spend time together and allows an escape from their workload and at home distractions.
Additionally, every Friday, Hueman hosts different games via emails that employees can participate in. These games have ranged from trivia questions to word scrambles to bingo, and winners are awarded every hour with a gift card from a local business. These events, along with a monthly wellness newsletters full of tips, group Zoom exercise offerings and PenPal programs, have helped to keep our employees engaged while giving them healthy, simple breaks from the work day while facilitating contact with one another.
There are ways to prevent work from home burnout on an individual level as well. To start, it is crucial to create boundaries between your work space and your home space.
Employees can start by creating an office area and only using it during work hours. Alongside this, creating set office hours is another great way to avoid burnout. When those office hours are over, make it a priority to disconnect from your work (turn off your work computer, log out of your work email, silence all notifications for the evening) and find different hobbies or simple chores to take your mind off work. Whether you attempt to take up calligraphy or finally start making a dent in your reading list, take the time to relax and practice self-care.
As employers and leaders, some things to consider that will help your team avoid work from home burnout starts with not sending after hour emails. Being “always on” hurts results. When employees are constantly monitoring their email after work hours — whether this is due to a fear of missing something from you, or because they are addicted to their devices — they are missing out on essential down time that our brains need.
Having one-on-one meetings with employees and asking how they are doing both at work and at home, assisting them with any projects or giving them permission to take breaks when needed are also great ways to help employees avoid work from home burnout.
We are living in unprecedented times and while we might feel isolated right now, we are actually more connected than ever. If you need help, don’t fear reaching out to your team or other leaders for help or support. While we may not be in-office, that doesn’t mean we are alone!