WFH burnout is, quite frankly, inevitable.
Because of the lack of communication and socialization. Owing to the loss of connection with the outside world, our teams are more than likely to head towards burnout.
However, the mundane routine and the lack of a much-needed social life may not be the only reasons that have led us to talk about such a critical topic today. There have been some factors that have been absolutely monumental to this fast-approaching remote work burnout – Factors like:
- Seemingly diminishing job security.
- Economic distress.
- The justified fears of the ongoing pandemic.
In fact, you might not see it yet, but things are getting worse by the minute for the employees working from home. Don’t believe me? Here are some facts:
- Almost two-thirds or 69% of all employees who are working from home are going through some of the most compelling burnout symptoms. This is resulting in a drop in motivation, productivity, and hence, positive outcomes.
- As we talked earlier, remote work has led people to lead less than glorious social lives, this has led to loneliness becoming the primary factor for causing burnouts. Burnout caused by loneliness affects mental and emotional health, and along with that, the longevity of life itself.
- Since working from home means having flexible hours, it has been found out that your remotely working employees are working 3 hours more than average every single day.
And, let’s not forget most of which makes up a home – your family. The effect of running a family while also taking care of business has been especially hard on people working remotely, particularly for women. Upwards of 9.8 million women feel the effects of burnout as they struggle to balance family and work life.
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Table of Contents
- What Does Work Burnout Feel Like?
- What Are The Symptoms of Work From Home Burnout?
- 5 Red Flags That Indicate Work From Home Burnout
- Here’s How You Can Successfully Work On Employee Engagement
- Tips To Prevent Work From Home Burnout
What Does Work Burnout Feel Like?
Excessive and sustained stress can lead to burnout, a state of emotional, bodily, and mental weariness. When you’re stressed, emotionally exhausted, and unable to meet constant demands, it’s called burnout. As the tension mounts, you begin to lose interest in and motivation for the role you took on in the first place.
Burnout saps your vitality and lowers productivity, leaving you helpless, bleak, cynical, and resentful. You may eventually feel as though you have nothing left to contribute.
Burnout has negative consequences in all aspects of your life, including your home, career, and social life. Burnout can also lead to long-term changes in your body, making you more susceptible to illnesses such as colds and flu.
What Are The Symptoms of Work From Home Burnout?
Burnout in of itself is a very complex psychological condition that can befall a person. Burnout happens over time. It isn’t something that happens overnight, but it might sneak up on you. The signs and symptoms are mild initially, but they worsen over time.
Consider the early signs as warning signs that something is amiss and needs to be addressed. You can avoid a severe collapse by paying attention and deliberately reducing stress. You’ll eventually burn out if you disregard them.
Symptoms of Work From Home Burnout:
- Compulsive behavior
- Working excessively hard
- Not paying attention to personal needs
- Internatalized conflicts
- Revision in your value system to prioritize work over everything
- Denial of internal feelings
- Withdrawal from normal activities
- Behavioral changes/mood swings
5 Red Flags That Indicate Work From Home Burnout
If you have been working remotely for quite some time now, chances are that you are on the precipice of having WFH burnout as well. However, burnout isn’t a sudden occurrence. It builds up from certain practices over a significant period of time like water circling around a drain for some time before it is completely flushed out. So if you are wondering if you are encircling the career black hole, that is, burnout, here are some signs you must look out for:
#1 Trouble Getting Started
Mornings are, for most people, the most productive time of the day. Everyone wants to kick off the day with some productive inputs and hence the first half of the day helps people come up with better outcomes as compared to the second half.
So if you reach a point when you have trouble getting started with your day, figuring out things to do, and kicking off with a new assignment, it might be time to implement some burnout precautions.
My friend Celine, who had been working from home for the better part of last year told me that one day she just didn’t have the motivation to get out of bed and prepare for the day. That’s when she realized that she was diving head-first into a potential burnout.
Here’s how you can be the driver of your own motivation every single day while you are working from home:
Keep Changing Your Setting
- For keeping yourself motivated all the time, you need to practice frequent change. You must change your seat, you must keep changing rooms, you must keep changing devices. Do what helps you be more productive.
Breaking the monotony is how you can have a new start at the same old thing again and again. This will help you bring in an air of nuance to your work and help you put an innovative foot forward every time you begin a new day or any time you pursue a new project.
- To keep this up, you can also keep changing all the things you have on your desk. Replace the lamp with a cool new succulent, replace your notebooks with some new ones, bring in some new, cute stationery supplies, find a motto like “keep hydrated” so you can practice a healthier lifestyle while working hard at your job.
The change in scenery will be a good motivator for you to make sure that you start every day with a more motivated and more driven version of yourself.
Kick-off the day with some light workout
I know saying that workout helps with burnout sounds unrealistic. But if we focus on the problem at hand (the fact that we are having trouble starting off the day), this might actually be a great solution. I believe that to start your workday off on a good note, you need to start your day on a high note, do things that you know you will be proud of.
The loneliness and angst of being at home all the time can deprive you of happiness – working out will help replenish you with the lost serotonin and dopamine, which will help you feel better.
In my personal experience, going on a run, going on a bike ride every morning, or even playing badminton with my kids gives me the essential energy boost before I start working.
Therefore, I think, to get rid of this symptom one could try working out in the morning.
#2 Communication Troubles
Another indicating factor of impending remote work burnout is that you are having trouble communicating with your team. Work from home is hard because there can be gaps in communication, there can be a lack in the clarity of assignments, there could be a very high chance of misunderstanding/miscommunication, and eventually, mistakes. And, these mistakes could, in turn, cause low morale and a significant dip in self-esteem.
You must have had experiences at your job wherein you made some kind of error, it might even have been a teeny tiny mistake, but it was enough to make you rethink your whole career path. Communication troubles will make this occurrence a vastly common one.
Here’s how you can deal with this communication problem:
- Working from home can mean not having defined channels for communication. For example, if my design team was to ask me for insight, they would send me the media files but I wouldn’t be able to say all I have to say within the confines of instant messaging, on a voice call, or on a video call for that matter. Maybe what I have to say gets lost in translation, and the product, in turn, never turns out to be as intended.
>This is why teams need software solutions that can help them collaborate in real-time. For example, Google Docs helps teams build airtight content while providing transparency and clarity through task comments and file versions.
>And then there’s ProofHub, which helps you manage projects as a whole and share files on the go. But project management is just the tip of the iceberg. With proofing features, ProofHub helps teams collaborate through features like chat and discussion in real-time and safeguard all versions of the same file in one central location. It helps everyone provide valuable insight that is both actionable and time-efficient.
Another problem is when people cannot be held accountable while working from home. It is hard to hold people accountable for delays in the tasks when they fail to give a helpful response in time.
>Now this problem is fairly easy to resolve. All you need is a remote work guide to help your team understand the acceptable amount of time they could take to revert back to the other employees.
#3 Client Feedback
Another major factor that indicates that there is burnout coming is how much harder it has been for you to document and act on client feedback. Feedback from the clients is a stepping stone in the progression of work — it gives the team a direction to work with, valuable insight into the areas that could use some improvement, and an overall analysis of how the client or the customer is feeling about your product or service.
Here at ProofHub, client direction is invaluable for our team. The feedback is what shapes our goals and helps us prioritize work with certainty. So I can totally see how mixed-up, unclear, unmotivated client feedback can lead to project failure and the burnout of my employees.
Since client feedback is monumental to the working of the whole team and the success of your project, the absence of the same can lead to some frustrating outcomes.
Here’s how you can make sure that you receive helpful and actionable feedback from your clients:
- Maintain transparency: Keep the client in the loop about everything that is going on with their project and make sure that they always stay informed.
- Note Pointers On Project Initiation: Whenever your team takes up a project and commences operations, make sure to note down and take into consideration every little detail that the client wants to see in their product or service.
- Use Mark-up Tools For Actionable Feedback: Mark-up and annotation tools can help teams understand what and where the changes are required. This helps the people involved proof various types of files and gain timely feedback from the concerned stakeholders.
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#4 The Monotony Of Work
Another telltale sign that suggests that you are well on your way to a WFH burnout is that work will seem to be more monotonous by the minute. Same old surroundings, same old desk, the same old view out the window, and the same type of agenda for every single day, can mess with your head. And to that you add some drops of “non-existent social life” and you have a deadly cocktail on your hands.
The monotony and the loneliness make up for a perfect burnout recipe.
The best thing you can do to remedy this situation is to make efforts so that nothing gets to the stage of becoming monotonous in the first place.
- Take planned breaks throughout the day so you don’t turn into a demotivated couch potato.
- Indulge yourself in a regime of dancing or doing aerobics before you start your workday and again when you sign off.
- If you cannot go outside just yet, walk around your home at fixed intervals of time to engage yourself in something other than work.
- Break the monotony by taking up online courses to widen your horizon and then use what you have learned by implementing it into your work.
- People need people to cut out the monotony.
- Make sure that geography doesn’t become a factor that interferes with the interpersonal relationships that people have within their teams.
- Also, events that drive team engagement are an absolute must when your employees are working from home.
These things are going to ensure that the people of your team feel connected to the organization, and hence, to the collective cause you are all working towards.
#5 Team Culture Becoming Apathetic
Once we stop seeing all our team members around us at the office, we start to forget who they were. Were they nice and warm, sharp and cunning, or soft and cuddly? It has been over a year since COVID-19 first came into our lives, and the lack of social life has been deadly.
When I talk about team culture becoming apathetic, I mean to make you realize that if the employees aren’t connected to an anchorage that can help keep them together, they would lose the grasp of the whole concept of collectivity and compassion.
What you need is to maintain an environment where everyone realizes that they are working towards a common goal. The connection I am talking about here is that of employee-to-work and not of employee-to-employee that we discussed in the last point.
I think these are some of the things you can do to ensure that your team feels connected to the work, and hence, help in preventing work from home burnout in the long run.
Setting short-term goals:
Setting weekly or daily goals will help your team become more focussed, more engaged, and hence more productive. These goals will help the team align themselves in a more goal-oriented direction which will help them be more interested in the job at hand.
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Communicating about work, discussing how things are going and how they are developing within the project is also one of the major drivers of motivation. It gives a message that everyone is putting their hundred percent in their jobs.
Working with transparency:
Transparency is what drives accountability and loyalty within a team which, in turn, brings the team closer to achieving collective goals. Therefore practice transparency by collaborating with your team through a project management software platform that helps you track activity and view progress.
I think all of these points above suggest that improving employee engagement might be all that is needed to keep WFH burnout at bay. Therefore, let’s discuss how we can work on that.
Here’s How You Can Successfully Work On Employee Engagement
Employee engagement, as an academic definition would provide, is “a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organization to give of their best each day, committed to their organization’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organizational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.”.
This approach to building a team culture has to be worked upon while your employees work from home. Because staying at home will not only drive them away from their team. Here’s how you can mend that:
#1 Bring Everyone Together
The best way to bring your team together is to have them be on the same page at all times. We tend to do that using ProofHub. Near or far, it does not matter where we are since we can see the comments being added, tasks making progress, and teams meeting milestones all through a small project management platform.
There are many collaboration platforms out there that will help your team work together through a planned workflow. Tools such as ProofHub, for example, helps us coordinate and provide insightful feedback on the go, which, in turn, makes remote work easier all around.
#2 Keep Employee Appreciation Alive
Even though we can’t really make elaborate announcements in team meetings anymore, that does not mean we should curb employee appreciation. In fact, while we work remotely, appreciation should be made a regular thing.
For instance, at our organization, we hold monthly events that are packed with fun activities. As we near the end of these events we appreciate all the people who have recently made some significant progress or those who have reached certain milestones.
Further Reading: Surprising Stats on Employee Recognition You Need to Know
#3 Ensure Deliberate Communication
Communication between the team is also a necessary factor when you consider executing employee engagement. People get to know each other, know how the other person clicks and how the other person thinks, only when there is enough communication.
Therefore, we must always have the appropriate tools to offer to our employees for effective communication within the team. For example, at our offices, we use ProofHub to ensure that everyone is always in the loop about everything. Since it offers one-on-one messaging and group chats, it solves the purpose of day-to-day communication very well.
Another thing you must enforce so that there is always a connection within your team is to have video meetings at least twice a week. Better yet, you could plan a daily 15-minute meeting in the mornings before anyone can start their work so that everyone gets to engage in a quick discussion about the agenda.
#4 Events and Activities
When a team is working out of an office, there are always some fixed days for fun activities and events. However, while people work from home, it’s all work and no play. Now that’s unfair. In fact, our team feels that events should be made twice as frequent while people are working remotely.
Events such as playing games on a team video call or trying to collectively solve puzzles online, or playing “skribbl” with your team can all be great options to keep them engaged. I have to say, I’ve tried this with my team, and all I’ve observed is that instead of losing focus, they start to gain more focus towards work after the fun and games are over.
#5 Keeping Everything Organized
There seems to be a clear disconnect within teams when people cannot collaborate, this often happens as a result of a lack of transparency and clarity. This can be made right by keeping everything organized.
A task management system or a project management tool could suffice for all your organizational needs with ease. We use ProofHub, quite religiously to:
- Schedule tasks, milestones, and events,
- Organize tasks based on type,
- Document important discussion points,
- Conduct conversations, and
- Maintain important notes
Everything – all on the same platform. These few factors help us hold the team together and assure that everything stays in order.
Tips To Prevent Work From Home Burnout
Work-from-home burnout is a typical occurrence for remote workers. While working from home can reduce office stress, virtual employees must prioritize their health and strike a work-life balance. A recent study by researchers showed that nearly 58% of workers were burned out, with only one in every three people claiming the cause was the pandemic.
Hence, here are the top three tips that will help you prevent WFH burnout:
#1 Create Robust Boundaries
You need to demarcate the shift from work to non-work roles through “boundary-crossing actions” in a famous paper. Wearing work clothing and going from home to work are physical and social markers that something has changed. You’ve gone from being “home you” to “work you.”
When working remotely, try to keep these boundaries in mind. It may be a significant change not to have to catch an early train to work or to be able to spend the entire day in your pajamas in the short term. Still, both are boundary-crossing activities that can benefit you in the long run, so don’t altogether quit them.
Put on your work clothes every morning—casual Friday is excellent, but get yourself ready.
#2 Cultivate & Maintain Temporal Boundaries
Cultivating and maintaining temporal limits is essential for happiness and productivity at work. This is especially true when so many employees—and their coworkers—are now trying to balance child care or elder-care duties with regular work hours. Thanks to mobile gadgets that carry our work with us at all times, it’s tough even for employees without children or other family responsibilities.
Maintaining a 9-to-5 routine may be impossible. Employees must devise work-time budgets that are most effective for them. They must also be aware of and respectful that others may work at different times than they do. It could be a child’s nap for some, or it could be their partner preparing dinner for them. Whether they have children or not, employees can set aside time for work.
#3 Prioritize Your Work
This is not the time to be rushing around. Workers should focus their efforts on high-priority issues.
Employees who work from home often feel obligated to look busy, but this might lead them to focus on tasks that are more urgent rather than critical—a trend that research suggests is unproductive in the long run, even if it boosts productivity in the near term. Employees, particularly those juggling home and work responsibilities, should prioritize critical work.
Working nonstop, even on the most vital tasks, isn’t the solution. According to some estimates, the average knowledge worker only works three hours daily, and these hours should be uninterrupted.
This work-from-home period could be a real lull in the lives of your employees, with people losing their jobs left and right, our teams need to feel safe and involved. So, let’s give them an anchorage, a reason to believe in their work, a collective goal to look forward to.
I hope this article will guide you in the right direction and help you make some much-needed changes to the remote team culture to prevent the impending doom, that is, work from home burnout.
Can working from home cause burnout?
Working from home exposes people to a form of dual-stress. Prolonged exposure to such dual-stress can lead to isolation, exhaustion, and depression that can be categorized as burnout.
How can I overcome burnout from working at home?
Take regular breaks from your work.
Ensure you get time to exercise.
Always take some time out to focus on yourself.
Build a routine.
Eat healthy food items.
How long does work burnout last?
It takes at least 11 weeks to recover from a period of stress or overwork that has developed into burnout. Burnout rehabilitation might take a year to several for most people.
How can you cope with work stress?
Keep your mornings simple.
Set and manage expectations.
Always be organized.
Do not multitask.
Take regular breaks.
Control the need to be perfect
Why could remote workers experience burnout?
The isolation of remote work and added stress of home & work-related issues at the same time can cause remote workers to be more susceptible to burnout.