How To Reverse Burnout When Your Employees Are Remote

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The post-pandemic job landscape has undoubtedly changed, and in many ways, for the better. Increased flexibility for remote work means more time to spend with loved ones and offers freedom to become a digital nomad or visit family outside a peak holiday travel season. 


Unfortunately, the prevalence of remote work also comes with a significant downside. Since the line between work and home is intentionally and deliberately blurred, the risk of burnout has exploded. No longer is work kept in the office, and the siren song of our laptop, cell phone, or Slack chat keeps many in a work mindset 24/7. 

 

Although many people see this as a boon to business, in reality, it has increased burnout risk and made monitoring employees for burnout signs a top priority. And, if it’s too late, that burnout needs to be reversed. To do this, managers must embody and become experts in the remote burnout reversal trifecta: inspire, motivate, and support.

 

The Remote Work Landscape

 

Employees love remote work, and it’s no wonder. They were fighting long commutes, and drowsy driving benefits both employees and society, as driving while sleep-deprived is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.10%. But safety isn’t the only beneficial outcome. Most remote workers feel more productive when on the clock outside the office. 

 

Attitudes toward remote work have changed post-pandemic as well:  

  • Most executives and nearly all employees think that remote work in some capacity is ideal – less than one in five executives believe that employees need to be deskbound five days a week.
  • 83% of employers say the transition to remote work has benefited productivity and company culture.
  • An equivalent number of employees agree although many think less experienced employees benefit from greater in-office exposure. 

Many employees who report preferring remote work also report experiencing burnout. But, just like managers and business owners make protecting business data a priority, so too must be managing employee burnout. To successfully navigate this tightrope act, make sure you do the following:

 

Inspire 

 

Thankfully, most employees in a position to work remotely already have the core needs on Maslow’s hierarchy pyramid met. It’s up to managers to help them squeeze out the last few steps toward employment self-actualization; the inspiration is where that comes in. Self-actualized employees are happier, more productive, and far less prone to burnout.

 

The primary tool for employers to inspire is to be inspiring. Show up to work with a purpose and convey that purpose to employees. Present the best self you can be every day, and that inspiration will prove infectious. Inspired employees aren’t burned out, and simply taking steps to be the employer they need you to be is a significant first step to preventing and reversing burnout.

 

Motivate

 

Motivation is more than regular inflation-matching pay raises and comprehensive packages, although both certainly help! In addition to material benefits, there are a few key ways to motivate staff remotely: 

  • A pat on the back: Everyone appreciates being appreciated, and a few words of encouragement can go a long way. This is especially true when the nature of remote work has some employees feeling adrift and alone.
  • Autonomy: People learn best by doing, and no one feels motivated with an overbearing and untrusting boss breathing down their neck. Let people work problems and solutions out for themselves – they’ll be less burned out with less pressure and may come up with innovations that improve your business.
  • Work/life balance: This is crucial in the age of remote work. Encourage your employees to take time for themselves but, more importantly, respect that time as a manager. Just because an employee is reachable at all hours doesn’t mean you should take advantage of that during nights, weekends, and scheduled time off. Ask yourself whether it can wait before going with an off-hour call or text.
  • Respect goes a long way: When someone makes a mistake, encourage them to be better next time rather than admonishing them. This keeps motivation high and reduces burnout, as nothing leads to fried employees faster than constant disrespect and beratement. 

Don’t let these motivators be the sole benefit, though. Employees still need material assistance, especially in today’s troubling times, as health insurance and other benefits slip under the weight of a struggling economy. For example, with most life insurance premiums costing around 15% of the total package, employees often need financial assistance to afford extra benefits. Offering insurance packages and other benefits as part of their salary can help alleviate stress in their financial and personal lives.

 

Support

 

The final and most important tool in burnout prevention is to be supportive. Gone are the days of clocking in and out of the assembly line. Americans, and most people globally, are increasingly intertwining their careers and identity. If one falters, the other is close behind. An empathetic, supportive employer or manager is the best way to manage burnout.

 

And, if you notice burnout in an employee, the importance of the support system triples. Ratchet up the empathy and put yourself in their shoes. Why are they burned out? What can you do to alleviate the sources of stress leading to burnout? Most pressing, what will you do right now to reverse the burnout? 

 

Support, inspiration, and motivation are the primary drivers, but they may need material assistance like time off or a friendly ear to vent to as well in these instances. Additionally, you can support employees by encouraging productivity-enhancing behaviors, such as working when they’re the most focused and trying different time-management techniques.

 

Conclusion

 

Of course, preventing and reversing burnout isn’t where your task ends. Burnout management in the era of remote work is an ongoing, cyclical, and iterative unending process. The best managers, recognizing this, cement the best practices for managing burnout as part of a work rhythm and do “burnout reviews” as often as they assess performance. If you aren’t comfortable implementing specific protocols, expert services exist to bridge the gap.

 

Most importantly, the undergirding of a comprehensive burnout management program is simply being there for employees. They need to know you’re only a Slack message away – and that you’ll respond to their concern as quickly as you would to a client emergency.


One way to ensure your team avoids burnout is by making sure your leadership is all on the same page. DH's leadership alignment workshop will do just that. 

Leadership Alignment Workshop

About the Author

Nahla Davies

Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed — among other intriguing things — to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.

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