7 Ways to Prevent and Tackle Burnout in Remote-First Teams

June 30, 2022
Stela Gineva

7 Ways to Prevent and Tackle Burnout in Remote-First Teams

June 30, 2022
Stela Gineva

Remote work has many benefits. Workers have a better work/life balance because they no longer need to commute. They have more opportunities to work flexibly. They don't have to uproot their lives to pursue career opportunities in big cities.

But, remote workers are not immune to burnout. In fact, a Monster poll found that 69% of employees working from home have experienced symptoms of burnout. In other words, nearly 7 in 10 of your remote workers may be experiencing burnout right now.

This is a worrying trend. Left unchecked, burnout can cause significant mental issues. And, employees who experience burnout are less engaged and more likely to look for work elsewhere.

A significant number of organizations larger than 2,500 employees reported that burnout causes more than 50% of their annual turnover. Tackling burnout is key to creating and retaining a healthy workforce. In this article, we propose 7 ways that managers can do just that.

Ditch the time-tracking software for remote workers

Some remote companies still haven't grasped that remote work is not about surveilling your employees and making sure they get their eight hours of work done every day.

With remote work, the focus should be on the results produced by the employee, not the time spent at work.

Employers who use time-tracking or keystroke software to check on their employees are creating a stressful environment where there is no trust or autonomy.

Instead, employers should focus on setting measurable goals with their employees and empowering them to achieve these goals within a specific time limit.

Ciarán Hourican, Director, H-Training said: "Now, more than ever before, it’s important to place an emphasis on accountability, rather than controllability.

"Be open and honest with your teams, place trust in them that you know they can work effectively from home, empower them and give them the tools they need to flourish.

"Rather than tracking time active, clicks per minute and keyboard inputs, place your time and effort into encouraging them to complete their tasks on time but at their own pace. Your trust will be rewarded."

Stay connected with asynchronous solutions

With remote work, some things just can't be helped. For example, employees in different time zones will struggle to attend certain meetings, or even be online at the same time as their managers.

This can create feelings of disconnect and isolation. Employees could start feeling overwhelmed and unsure about their roles.

This is why it's important for managers to find asynchronous solutions that allow everyone to stay connected and on the same page. There are a number of tools that can help with this, such as Slack or Trello.

Staci Brinkman, Founder and CEO, Sips by, said: "I’ve found the more I stay connected with my employees while working remotely, the more engaged, productive, and happy they are.

"Using online platforms, such as Slack, to check-in, answer questions, and hold work-related conversations along with fun team culture channels, is a great way to keep the work-day momentum going while at home.

Make your meetings more mindful with meditation

Meditation is a great way to help ease anxiety and promote focus. In fact, studies show that mindfulness meditation is a great way to prevent burnout. It can be done anywhere, at any time, and only takes a few minutes.

There are a number of apps that offer guided meditation, such as Headspace or Calm.

Managers can encourage their employees to take a few minutes out of their day to meditate. This will help them to clear their minds, focus on the task at hand, and feel more relaxed.

It's also a great way for managers to bond with their employees and create a sense of community. Starting off each meeting with a short meditation session is a great way to get a habit going, and to show that management is taking employee wellbeing seriously.

This is what Sergei Lugovskoy, President of Luxury Pianos, did at his company. He said: "Since there are a lot of meetings to be attended, one after another, this can be a major cause of burnout.

"I would say the best way I deal with these meetings is to introduce "mindful" meetings, in which the mindfulness of employees is valued.

"There can be a meditation session at the beginning of the meeting as well as in between the sessions.

"You could include pictorial or interactive videos to make it more interesting and create a visual impact."

Provide mental health support for your employees

It's important for managers to remember that employees are human beings, with real emotions and feelings.

This means that they will sometimes need extra support, especially when it comes to their mental health.

Many companies offer mental health support through their benefits scheme. This is a great way to show employees that their well-being is important to the company.

It's also a good idea to promote mental health awareness within the company. This can be done through training days, workshops, or even just casual conversations.

That is what Rafal Mlodzki, CEO & co-founder at Passport-Photo Online, advocates. he said: "Consider enhancing your benefits package by adding mental health support and allowing easier access to psychologists or psychiatrists.

"The pandemic has had its toll on workers all around the world and now, more than ever, such support would be very appreciated."

Establish and enforce boundaries to encourage workers to switch-off

It can be difficult for remote workers to switch-off at the end of the day. This is because they are always just a few clicks away from work.

It's important for managers to establish boundaries, and to enforce them. For example, they could set a rule that no emails are to be sent outside of working hours.

That's what Todd Saunders, CEO of FlooringStores, suggests. He added: "Management can do a lot to set the tone for remote work by implementing policies designed to promote healthy work/life boundaries.

"This includes establishing clear expectations around working on weekends and holidays, perhaps even going so far as to disable employee logins on these days.

"Managers could also avoid praising people for working long hours whenever possible."

Creating a culture where working overtime after hours is encouraged, is a surefire way to get ambitious employees to go the extra mile.

In the short term, you may reap the benefits of additional output, often at no additional cost to you.

But once the employee is burned out and disengaged, they're likely to look for work elsewhere. The result? You've lost out on a great employee who could have significantly improved your company.

Make a conscious effort to discourage workers from staying behind beyond their normal working hours. If this happens often, work with them to identify why they feel the need to do so, and rectify any workload issues that you see.

Spot burnout early and take appropriate action

Despite your best efforts, sometimes employees succumb to burnout anyway. Fortunately, if you have created a culture where your employees feel comfortable speaking up and know mental health is taken seriously, they will likely be proactive in managing the issue.

But if they do not, there are several signs to look for. Your employees could be experiencing burnout if:

  • They seem disengaged and uninterested in their work  
  • They are taking more sick days than usual
  • They are making more mistakes than usual
  • They are withdrawing from social activities  
  • They seem to be constantly tired
  • They spend much longer on tasks than before

If you notice any of these signs, it's important to take steps to tackle the issue head on. Craig Miller, co-founder of Academia Labs LLC, says intervention may be necessary if an employee is burned out. He added: "Advise the employee to turn notifications off. This is the best thing you can do to achieve a better work/life balance.

"You can still do overtime all you want but notifications will no longer show up and stress you out. You can also choose to turn off all your work devices for better peace of mind."

Switching off notifications may seem like a small change, but notifications from managers after work hours have been shown to increase the production of the hormone cortisol in employees. This is also known as the stress hormone.

In asynchronous environments, managers may send texts during an employee's off time. If the employee receives this notification, they may be tempted to check it. If they do not, they made overthink the situation.

Normalize mental health days

Recovering from full-blown burnout can take months or even years. Don't let it get to that stage. Instead, encourage employees to take mental health days when they feel like they need them.

Mental health days are a normal part of working life, and remote workers should not feel guilty about taking them. In fact, allowing employees to take a breather when work feels overwhelming is a great way to ensure they have time to rest and recharge and come back stronger.

Mentally healthy employees are happy and productive employees that are more likely to do their best in the role.

Sam Shepler, Founder of Testimonial Hero, added: "Self-care is essential for preventing burnout.

"Encourage team members to take time for themselves, whether it's taking a break to walk outside or taking a mental health day. It's important that everyone takes care of their own well-being first and foremost."

A great way to normalize mental health days is by paving the way as a manager. Take the occasional mental health day and make it clear that you're taking time off to recharge and get better, much like you would if you were physically sick.

Preventing and tackling burnout in a remote-first team

Burnout is a common problem among employees, and it can have a serious impact on productivity and well-being.

There are a number of ways to prevent burnout in a remote-first team. First, ditch time-tracking software and focus on the results your employees deliver instead. Also, consider staying connected with asynchronous tools like Slack.

Show you value your employees' well-being by introducing mindfulness and meditation sessions. This will reduce stress levels and establish a culture where employees are valued.

Finally, enforce boundaries to encourage workers to switch off. Normalize mental health days. This will help them to manage their time more effectively and prevent them from becoming overwhelmed.

These strategies could help you prevent burnout in your remote-first team.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the signs of remote work burnout?

There are several signs of remote work burnout. They include feeling isolated and disconnected from colleagues, feeling overwhelmed with work, losing focus, producing work of substandard quality, and feeling stressed and on edge.

If you notice any of these signs in yourself or your employees, it's important to take action.

How can I prevent remote work burnout in my team?

There are several things you can do to prevent remote work burnout in your team. These include establishing boundaries, encouraging employees to take breaks, providing mental health support, and practicing mindfulness.

What should I do if I think my employee is experiencing remote work burnout?

If you think your employee is experiencing remote work burnout, the best thing to do is to talk to them and come up with an appropriate solution together. Something as simple as encouraging them to switch off their notifications could help.

What are the consequences of remote work burnout?

Remote work burnout can have several negative consequences. These include high turnover rates, poor mental health, and poor productivity. If you think someone on your team is experiencing burnout, it's important to take action.

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