In the past, burnout conjured up images of weary workers staying in the office until the wee hours of the morning to meet a deadline. But since more telecommuting and hybrid working has arrived on a large scale, there has been an explosion of employees leaving work or taking sick leave due to burnout.
So why has working outside the office led to such an increase in burnout? As we move into the new age of hybrid working, what can companies do to support the mental health of their remote or hybrid teams?
What is fatigue?
Two years ago, the World Health Organization officially recognized the term burnout. Very useful considering the year 2020 has been shaped by great exhaustion! Fatigue is formally defined as;
Burnt: Exhaustion of physical or mental resources or lack of motivation that usually arises from prolonged stress at work.
Who is the
The most common signs that someone is heading toward fatigue is feeling constantly tired or emotionally exhausted. Other symptoms include;
- feeling helpless
- Feeling trapped or defeated.
- Feelings of isolation.
- Suspicion abilities and feeling overwhelmed on a regular basis.
- Having an increasingly negative outlook on life.
How does burnout differently affect remote or hybrid workers?
While burnout affects workers of all kinds, it appears to affect remote or hybrid workers in record numbers. In a recent Mckinsey survey, 49% of respondents reported feeling fatigued, while 21% said they had severe symptoms.
There is no doubt that the stress of living in the shadow of a global pandemic has taken a heavy toll. Remote work is not for everyone, and some employees are juggling childcare and other responsibilities at home.
But as we approach the new normal, the risk of burnout remains an important factor for many organizations. So why is remote work considered a trigger for burnout?
- When working off-site, the lines between our home life and our work life become blurred. It can be hard to stop working, especially if we don’t have a home office that we can close the door at the end of the day. The lack of a physical distinction between work and home has caused many remote workers to spend longer working hours but not necessarily tick off their to-do lists.
- During the lockdown, many employees have found themselves spending extra hours to avoid the boredom of staying at home. Now, daily life resumes, the lack of clear boundaries around work time and the emergence of personal time. Many European countries are putting in place legislation to ensure that employees do not receive notifications outside working hours, which is a significant stress and a contributor to employee fatigue.
- When working remotely, it’s easy to lose the sense of belonging and respect that comes from working in an office. We are social beings who crave to be part of a team, and personal interaction is a critical component of that basic biological need. Plus, for ambitious employees, spending time outside the office can feel like kissing the promotion they’ve always wanted for years goodbye.
- We’ve all experienced a major shrinkage of our networks, and many of us feel like we’ve forgotten about you! Over time without interaction within the office, we don’t feel like part of the group, and it becomes difficult to feel confident when sharing our thoughts. If we’re not careful, eventually, we can end up completely frustrated and disconnected from any shared goals.
A Mckinsey survey found that companies that lack clarity about remote work are 2.9 times more likely to experience high levels of burnout among their teams. But efforts to make the mental and physical health of employees a priority must go beyond establishing a clear telecommuting policy. So what steps can you take to help remote workers adjust to their new normal?
5 tips to reduce fatigue after work
Redeem in-office perks for useful benefits
In the past, startups and tech companies would stock their desks with snacks and ping-pong tables, and it wasn’t long before everyone else would follow suit. But even before the arrival of the coronavirus, employees were looking for more rewarding benefits. The pandemic has accelerated workers’ desires for well-being to become a company priority.
As they move to hybrid or remote first business models, companies will have to rethink the benefits they offer. As office space becomes less important, organizations are getting creative and using the latest applications to treat their teams with perks that encourage physical and mental well-being.
For example, at TravelPerk, we’ve partnered with iFeel, an organization that allows companies to provide teams with 24/7 mental health support from registered psychologists. Regardless of your location, access to treatment is often difficult and expensive. With iFeel, we can video chat with a therapist four times a month and talk about any stress or frustration before it turns into something more serious.
Those little trips add to the water cooler and walks to our meetings all, and indications are that employees working from home have increased back pain and other health issues. As gyms close and in-office fitness classes become impossible, companies have focused on online alternatives to help keep their teams healthy at home.
Now that we’ve entered the new normal, employees and employers may prefer the flexibility of these off-site offerings. For example, at TravelPerk, we use Andjoy to access gyms, yoga classes, and tennis courts around town, as well as hours of online content for when we want to sneak in a quick workout from home.
Focus on flexibility
A recent study by Adecco revealed that 50% of employees felt an improved work-life balance with telecommuting. As mixed business models become the norm, people are looking to work smarter rather than longer, and for management to analyze performance based on results rather than hours.
To allow employees to focus on their well-being, we’ve doubled down on our flexible job offers. It’s okay if our team members want to jump in at 11am for their favorite yoga class or take a break to pick up their kids from school. We give our colleagues the independence in their workday to adapt to things that bring them joy and fulfillment.
Enhance a sense of belonging
Working in the office makes us feel part of something bigger. We gain a sense of belonging and self-esteem that is difficult to replicate at home. Therefore, it is imperative in the new hybrid world of work to encourage personal interaction wherever possible and safe to do so.
While we can conduct many meetings online, some businesses benefit from a face-to-face presence. For example, creative sessions are not nearly as effective when played through a screen, and team building is always more fun when we can talk and share our jokes in person.
To make the most of working days in the office, ask your teams to forego administrative tasks in favor of brainstorming sessions and business lunches with co-workers. If you have team members who still need solitude, create some fun after work activities that they can join online. Whether it’s a virtual happy hour or an online art lesson, there are plenty of new ways to bring your teams together, forge bonds over a glass of wine or try something new.
Hosting a weekly All Hands Meeting is another great way to strengthen the company culture and boost your teams’ motivation. Requiring different departments to share important updates and celebrate milestones together can help reduce the silo impact and break down barriers that become easier when working remotely.
Gather those who can come to the office to end the week and enjoy some drinks afterward. But make sure remote workers feel part of the action by investing in technology to stream the session from home seamlessly.
One of the main concerns, particularly among the younger generations of employees, is career development. Part of what motivates many is knowing that their role has room for growth, and that there are opportunities for promotion. If telecommuting reduces talking time with the boss and is unclear about the future, it is easy for employees to lose touch with the company’s goals.
Managers who shrug off these concerns can see team members jump into organizations that reignite these fires of ambition with a clearer commitment to career development. But companies can do some simple things to reassure employees that telecommuting and hybrid work does not signal the end of their dreams of promotion.
Management can demonstrate that being away all or part of the time does not impede productivity or progress by taking the lead and working at home two days each week. Additionally, having regular personal check-ins can allow managers to discuss career development more openly without the embarrassment inherent in a Zoom call.
As we have seen, another important factor in remote workers’ sense of detachment is the shrinking of our professional networks. Another way companies can counter this isolation and increase motivation is by creating an informal mentoring program.
Ask the volunteer mentors to list areas where they can provide support and ideas in a series of monthly get-togethers. Set up an annual program where employees can apply for limited positions, and you might be surprised by the demand.
Host an institutional retreat from Kikas
As we’ve seen in 2020, we can’t underestimate the value of meeting in person. Without face-to-face interaction with our colleagues, it is easy to feel weak about our goals and triggered by frustration. Companies compensate for the lost camaraderie we get by working in the office by organizing envious corporate retreats.
In the past, corporate retreats tended to be a reserve for the best sales force and nomads. These contrabands are directly related to the goals, and are often a reward for the few. But as we emerge from the turbulent past two years, now more than ever, employees need to come together, bond and share their successes.
As companies move away from the traditional office model to hybrid or remote first alternatives, teams will become more differentiated, and management may struggle to keep company cultures strong. As we have less time with our colleagues, creating opportunities to meet will become more important for motivation and morale. Whether it’s semi-annual or quarterly, hosting a corporate retreat gives organizations the opportunity to deliver critical business updates and bring employees together to reignite ambitions and connect with shared goals.
Choosing an inspiring destination and mixing meetings with fun activities is a great way to spread essential updates while acknowledging your team’s accomplishments. After gathering for an all-encompassing get-together, pair up different sections for a cookery class or delicious wine tasting. But to avoid giving a ragged structured fun factor, be sure to set aside some time for employees to get their hair cut and trimmed.
As the pandemic put most of our plans on hold, many of us have realized the power of owning the things to look forward to. Institutional retreat can keep your employees motivated to work for your organization and possibly even a wave of talent seeking opportunities. After all, in the age of social media, great company culture news will spread!
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