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Why Is Remote Work Burnout Increasing?

Remote workers are experiencing more burnout than ever. Find out how a data-driven approach can help team leaders properly intervene.

Remote work burnout is a serious issue that prevents remote teams from doing their best work. At ActivTrak, we want to help employees work wiser to prevent burnout, and that starts with using workforce analytics data to take a collaborative, open approach to productivity management. But it doesn’t stop there! Even if your processes are optimized and your remote teams have the tools they need to succeed, employees may not be as productive if they’re feeling uninspired, unmotivated, and unaccomplished.

In this article, we’ll start by defining remote work burnout, identifying WFH burnout symptoms, and unpacking what’s unique to burnout in remote environments. Then, we’ll dive into the challenges facing managers and learn how they can use data to target burnout from the beginning.


What Is Remote Work Burnout?

Burnout is an occupational phenomenon that comes from improperly managed chronic workplace stress. While burnout isn’t classified as a medical condition, it does influence the physical and mental health of employees. Burned-out employees will feel disengaged and unfulfilled in their roles, and they will lose productivity and passion as a result.

Feeling high levels of stress is normal — especially for today’s remote workers — but burnout is more about not being enough, not doing enough, and not having enough support to get the job done. Here are some common WFH burnout symptoms that managers should keep an eye out for:

  • Physical signs of burnout like feeling tired and drained, negative changes in sleep schedule or appetite, frequent headaches and muscle aches, and being more prone to illness.
  • Emotional signs of burnout like remote work anxiety, a loss of motivation, feeling helpless or defeated in their position, feelings of self-doubt and failure, detachment, cynicism, and overall negativity.
  • Behavioral signs of burnout like procrastinating or skipping work, shirking responsibility, self-isolation, and taking frustrations out on others.

Remote workers with burnout can exhibit all types of burnout symptoms, but every individual is different. Overall, burned-out employees are less productive, less collaborative, and less attentive than their usual selves.


Unique Challenges Surrounding Remote Work Burnout

Many employees now work in full-time remote or hybrid work environments due to the coronavirus pandemic, and with these growing numbers of remote workers come elevated levels of remote worker burnout. In an Indeed survey, 52% of respondents said they were currently experiencing burnout in 2021, up from the 43% who felt this way in Indeed’s pre-pandemic survey.

There are a few reasons why remote workers in home offices tend to experience burnout more easily than workers in traditional, in-person offices. When “the office” is in your home, it’s sometimes hard to step away from work entirely or truly mark the end of the day. Although remote work allows employees to have flexible schedules, it can be tempting to overwork. In a Flexjob survey, 37% of employed respondents say they’ve been working longer hours than usual since the pandemic began.

Along with making it harder to disconnect, remote work environments can also bring more distractions into an employee’s work day. Companions at home such as family members, roommates, and pets can pull you away from your desk, whether it be due to a caregiving emergency or just to hang out. Even remote workers that live alone can get distracted by household chores, errands, or even apps on their cell phones. In-person offices gave employees a dedicated work environment with clear boundaries between workspace and living space, making it relatively easier to unplug from work.

Many remote workers miss the supportive and social aspects of the office as well. Routine catch-ups with teammates are scarce when you work remotely, and it’s far more difficult to compare processes and ask questions when everything is online. This can yield a lack of motivation and inspiration in remote workers.

Even remote workers who didn’t like office chit-chat feel isolated when working from home. Maintaining a work-life balance, plus taking care of your well-being, can be a challenge when you work by yourself. Many remote workers have struggled with feeling cooped up in general due to the pandemic restrictions, and stress, depression, and anxiety are like kindling for remote work burnout.

Managers also face specific challenges when measuring remote workforce productivity and burnout. Identifying burnout in the office is tricky, but spotting and targeting burnout remotely can feel impossible. It’s difficult for managers to regularly communicate with employees when everyone is remote, especially as an entire team. Plus, without everyone being in the same physical space together, it’s harder for managers to pick up on observable emotions, behaviors, and attitudes of employees. Also, when workers are face-to-face in the office, it’s easy to foster a sense of togetherness. Employee engagement is natural when each individual is working towards a shared goal, but remote employees can become siloed even when collaborating. The isolation that can occur in remote work environments paves the way for remote work burnout.


How To Get Ahead of Remote Employee Burnout

For both remote workers and their managers, gauging the risk of burnout can be incredibly challenging. With ActivTrak’s approach to understanding and addressing burnout, there’s a better way. We recommend these three best practices for addressing employee burnout:

  • Invest time and attention in your teams.

Managers should hold regular 1x1s with each remote team member. Use this time to sync on project deliverables, discuss possible sources of frustration in their personal life, and conduct coaching conversations. This can help you ensure employees have enough personal time to focus on wellness and create a healthy work-life balance.

Team leaders should also really get to know their employees as individuals as well as remote teammates. This extra insight helps leaders recognize an individual’s burnout more quickly, better understand each employee’s strengths and stressors, and make targeted interventions.

Along with managers offering support to their teams, they should also help their team members support one another and foster a community of their own. Not only can this help individuals feel less siloed and turn to peers for help, but this also lets employees feel like a part of something bigger — even in their remote office.

  • Promote transparency and problem-solving.

Managers should host monthly team discussions that allow for open conversations about burnout. These meetings should also address what’s been going well, what can be improved, and any other team-wide challenges or accomplishments.

With monthly check-ins, employees and managers can join forces to identify sources of friction, resource gaps, and other processes that might be contributing to team burnout. Plus, this is a good time for teams to set clear goals together and keep expectations manageable for everyone.

  • Advocate for the resources your employees need with data

Having 1x1s and team discussions are important and give you insight into how your remote employees are working and feeling, but there’s something missing. With the right data from the right workforce analytics software, team leaders can turn these conversations into concrete action plans that will help reduce the risk of remote work burnout.

The ActivTrak approach to targeting burnout uses workforce analytics to discover, understand, and prevent burnout as efficiently as possible. Data collected through workforce analytics enables team leaders to accurately track employee performance and behaviors like working hours, productive time, break frequency, and focus habits. This lets managers truly know how their employees are getting work done both individually and as an entire team.

Using these insights, managers can determine probable sources of their employees’ burnout along with each individual’s level of burnout risk. This way, managers can better understand remote worker burnout and act accordingly by modifying expectations, enforcing new guidelines, balancing workloads, and offering more specific support to the teams that need it most.


Helping Remote Workers with Burnout — The ActivTrak Way

ActivTrak is the modern burnout solution for the modern enterprise. Our workload management capabilities enable managers to view individual insights alongside group summaries, displaying burnout indicators like over-utilization or consistently high work hours. Managers can also define healthy thresholds themselves, so team leaders and members can understand their working habits in ways that make sense to everyone.

Alongside these workload management capabilities, ActivTrak enables managers to access team productivity reports that identify opportunities for improved workload balance. Team leaders can compare all employees together in order to understand each individual’s working habits in contrast with their relative peers. Not only does this give managers insights into best practices that can be shared across teams, but it also helps them identify unique coaching opportunities.

Dashboards on ActivTrak can also help managers understand work habits. By picking up on patterns and displaying them through clear visualizations, these dashboards enable managers to view trends — work time vs. productive time and typical start and end times, for instance — by the day, week, or month. These dashboards give managers the information they need to adjust schedules and workloads to ensure team coverage without burnout.

Managers can also set clear markers for employee productivity with benchmarks and goals, helping employees self-assess their own progress and spot burnout on their own. Managers can schedule a weekly personal productivity report that gets emailed to remote team members, so they can also gain critical insights into their own work-life balance and well-being. Workforce analytics gives everyone the tools they need to collaborate on burnout detection and prevention.


Start Fighting Remote Work Burnout Today

Remote work burnout is on the rise and managers must help their team members spot, assess, and address burnout before it spreads across teams. Unfortunately, the realities of a remote work environment can make it difficult for managers to identify burnout from a distance. The ActivTrak platform helps managers bring concrete data to their burnout assessment and make targeted interventions with the help of workforce analytics.

ActivTrak helps managers start helpful, insightful conversations with employees in order to understand their frustrations and pinpoint sources of burnout. By investing time in their teams, promoting transparency and problem solving, and advocating for team resources, managers can use data to effectively target employee burnout in ways that work for everyone. All this is made easier with ActivTrak’s many burnout-related features like workload management, benchmark and goal setting, and productivity reports and dashboards. With ActivTrak’s approach, you can get to the bottom of remote work burnout and stop it for good!

Pro-Tips:

  1. Having open and honest conversations about burnout and having them often is the foundation for proactive burnout management.
  2. Managers should incorporate data into their burnout management initiatives to create accurate and efficient action plans.
  3. Make sure remote workers have access to their own data so they can understand their own burnout levels and seek out the support they need.

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