There was some collective excitement at the prospect of working from home when businesses first transitioned to a remote workforce at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. After all, who wouldn’t want to skip morning traffic and lounge in comfortable sweats all day…right?
Unfortunately, this honeymoon phase was short-lived. Working remotely became increasingly burdensome as the pandemic worsened around the globe and restrictions increased. The daily rhythms of office life disappeared and communication among team members felt strained. Being quarantined was starting to feel like more of a trap than a vacation.
Defining the Source
It’s easy to assume that, because you’re working from home, you’re not allowed to feel burnt out. However, it’s actually become a common problem that we simply can’t ignore. As the road back to normal stretches on indefinitely, leaders and business owners have a responsibility to help employees identify the signs of burnout, then take the necessary steps to alleviate it.
The question: where do you start?
I know I’m not alone in admitting that the last few months haven’t been easy. Given the uncertainty of the situation, stress and burnout often go hand in hand.
Everyday tasks become insurmountable for those suffering from burnout. As you lead your team through the ongoing pandemic, watch out for these telling warning signs:
- Procrastination: Employees who once tackled work projects with feverish intensity and worked long hours now struggle to complete the simplest assignments.
- Withdrawal: Individuals with outgoing, talkative personalities become quiet, reserved, and distant.
- Anxiety and increased emotion: Employees are unwilling to cooperate, often showing a cynical or negative outlook, irritability, and frustration.
If your employees exhibit any of these symptoms, it’s time to act. Remember that the longer they put off addressing the problem, the more their mental health will be negatively affected. With that in mind, here are four tips to help your employees overcome burnout.
While it may feel awkward at first, you can set the tone for how comfortable your employees feel discussing their problems. You should have an honest conversation with your team and eliminate any stigma surrounding WFH (work-from-home) burnout.
Everyone needs to do their part to ensure the workplace prioritizes mental health and encourages individuals to reach out when they face challenges. The more aware you are of other peoples’ struggles, the better chance you have to improve how your business cares for its employees.
We’ve never had to deal with a situation like this before. Unfortunately, that means we’re learning as we go. Use this time to have honest conversations regarding remote work, warning signs, and how your company can ensure that employees aren’t losing themselves to burnout.
#2: Encourage Employees to Take Personal Days as Needed
Let’s face it: sometimes we just need a day off, even when working from home. If an employee feels overwhelmed, it’s important that you listen to their needs. Let them know that it’s okay to rest.
Burnout has the potential to be debilitating and requires an immediate, head-on response. That’s why it’s important to emphasize the importance of investing in selfcare. While work is important, it should never overshadow your employees’ mental health and wellbeing.
There are benefits for your employees, as well as for the business as a whole. Taking one or two days off to rest and rejuvenate could mean increased productivity and renewed passion over successive weeks. In that regard, think of personal days as an investment in future productivity for the company.
#3. Be an Example
Your employees take their lead from you. If you’re constantly working at a high-speed pace and expecting them to share the same urgency, you will reinforce the idea that their work should take precedence over their health. It might also deter them from coming to you with their concerns over feeling overwhelmed and burnt out.
Encourage the practice of taking breaks often by building the same habit for yourself. Remember that you are just as susceptible to experiencing burnout as anyone.
The way you approach your own mental health can help or hinder the rest of the team. Send a positive message by prioritizing rest and knowing when it’s time to stop working and give your mind a break.
#4. Encourage Boundaries
One of the primary causes of WFH burnout is the inability to separate work and home life. It’s too easy to take work with you late into the night and even over the weekend when it’s right at your fingertips. While the temptation might be strong, I suggest that you set strict boundaries for yourself and encourage your team to do the same.
You can do this by working within a set timeframe and having a designated workspace. Resist the urge to return to work after dinner and don’t send emails or assignments to employees late at night or over the weekend, no matter how important they might seem.
Boundaries enable you to “leave” work at the end of the day and enjoy your time off without feeling the pressure to do something. Given the added stress of the situation, having a routine to fall back on can help ground team members and provide structure to a world that often feels out of control.
WFH burnout is real, and its effects can be devastating, but your team doesn’t have to suffer in silence. The right amount of selfcare, honesty, and boundaries will empower them to address the issue head-on and confidently face whatever comes next.
Monica Eaton-Cardone is an international entrepreneur, speaker, and author. She possesses more than two decades of experience in the eCommerce space as both a merchant and service provider, and is one of the world’s leading experts on payments and consumer disputes. Monica is the Co-Founder and COO of Chargebacks911® (https://chargebacks911.com/), a global risk mitigation firm helping online merchants optimize their profitability through chargeback management. Chargebacks911 has more than 350 employees globally, with offices in North America and Europe. Monica’s Twitter handle is Monica_Eaton.