Eight months since the beginning of the pandemic, people priorities have changed. Those who were lucky enough to keep on working welcomed the shift to remote working as a way to have a better work-life balance, spend less time commuting, and more time doing what they loved. As time passed, and it became clearer that the pandemic will stay with us longer than expected, the challenges of these work and life changes also became more apparent.
Gen Z and millennials found it particularly hard to adapt to remote working – often tasked with caring for younger children or sharing their home workspace with flatmates. Many others have been increasingly struggling to switch off from work, with research showing that home workers are putting in an extra 28 hours a month on average.
With the boundaries between work and personal life rapidly blurring, many have started experiencing remote working burnout – effectively one of the biggest threats to your business during this pandemic.
What is remote workplace burnout?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines workplace burnout as an occupational phenomenon resulting from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. The WHO explains that this phenomenon is characterised by three factors:
- feelings of exhaustion
- increased mental distance from or negativism to one’s job
- reduced professional efficacy, or ability to be effective at their jobs
Moreover, the Mayo Clinic lists lack of control, extremes of activity, lack of social support, and work-life imbalance as common causes of burnout.
Sounds familiar? That is because burnout is more common than we’d like to admit, especially during this pandemic. According to a recent study, 47 per cent of managers fear their employees may be suffering from workplace burnout, and 82 per cent of employees have experienced it in the past.
Why should you worry about remote working burnout?
While we have all experienced some sort of stress in the workplace before, the pandemic and remote working have only exacerbated these challenges. Burnout is not an individual’s problem either, it affects employee and employers alike. From poor mental and physical health, to the massive toll on productivity and efficiency – the effects of these issues can be disastrous for organisations during and after the pandemic.
Now more than ever, your employees are your biggest asset, and their wellbeing will directly impact your organisation’s success in the coming months.
Changing expectations for long-term success
In the past months, organisations have focused on keeping the lights on and ensuring the same level of productivity and efficiency while adapting to a new working reality. However, too often this has been to the detriment of employees.
With people working more hours than usual, caring for loved ones or sharing their workspace with many different people, it’s time for employers to change their expectations and make sure their employees’ wellbeing is at the centre of their long-term strategy. Almost 90 per cent of people identify their employer as the most responsible for ensuring a better working world after the pandemic.
In this time of uncertainty, allowing for flexibility is vital to ensure your employees can strike the right work-life balance. Flexible work schedules can help people take care of their personal commitments and responsibilities when necessary, giving them the peace of mind to concentrate on work at whatever time suits them best.
Communication is also fundamental during this time. Struggles with communication and collaboration have been one of the top challenges for remote workers for the past three years – for those who weren’t used to this way of working, the pandemic has only made things worse. In a recent study, only 21 per cent of respondents said they were able to have open, productive conversations about burnout. Pulse surveys are a great way to give employees a chance to share their concerns while working from home, and they can highlight a shift in mindset and perception across the company.
Managing workload expectations, providing mental health support, organising team activities, and recognising results are also simple, yet effective ways to support your employees during these times.
Is your technology stack negatively affecting your employees?
At the outset of the pandemic, organisations implemented emergency solutions to meet unexpected remote working needs – while some relied on what was already available to them, others added new tools to an already clattered toolbox. Employees had to suddenly juggle tens of communications, collaboration, and project management tools, which for many only added to an already stressful environment.
As we’re now settling into this new reality, it’s time for business leaders to evaluate the tools and technology they have in place and understand which actually benefit their internal and external customers, and which need retiring or replacing.
Employees who are struggling with workplace burnout want less, yet more effective tools to communicate and collaborate. According to a recent study, 62 per cent of remote workers want employers to provide better technology that helps them stay connected with their colleagues.
Ultimately, business leaders who are hoping to employ the right technology to support their employees will need to put the user at the centre of that decision. Reducing the number of tools to an all-in-one UCaaS solution is the first step to help your employees communicate seamlessly and more effectively. However, giving people the right tools is not enough – successful remote working and UCaaS implementation will require a complete shift in a company’s culture and ways of working. Onboarding, training, and adoption will need to sit firmly at the heart of any business strategy and technology deployment. Most importantly, your employees’ feedback will be vital to understand which technology is the best for them, and consequently, for your business.