Beat Work From Home Burnout: 6 Ways to Keep Teams Engaged
Take a moment to imagine what a healthy, remote working team looks like. 👀
You may picture little to no silos in your organization where smiling team members effortlessly communicate and collaborate. The projects they work on are high-impact and achieve lasting results. Goals are met and even surpassed, but at the same time, the team reports that their workload is manageable and job satisfaction remains high. It’s an HR dream. To quote the poignant and unforgettable song from The Lego Movie, “Everything is AWESOME!!!” 😍
Now, let’s slowly step off that cloud and return to the real world. What might that same team look like when burnout hits? And why is it important not only to treat the symptoms but be proactive to help your teams avoid work from home burnout?
To answer these questions, we’ll take a look at some of the signs, symptoms, and causes of burnout and then review how to address it.
Note: Please don’t Google burnout symptoms—the more research you do, the more likely you’ll land on a super serious ailment. 😅
Signs and symptoms of burnout
The signs and symptoms of burnout, especially when teams are remote, are sometimes tough to spot. They may include:
- Decreased engagement
- Decreased productivity and motivation
- Poor attitude or outlook (that may rub off on other team members)
- Low eNPS scores
- Decreased retention rates (see also: our Cost of Turnover Calculator)
According to Forbes, burnout is also linked to physical symptoms including:
- High blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
- Decreased cognitive function
- In very rare cases, even death 😞
In addition, Forbes states that nearly 70% of remote employees are experiencing work-from-home burnout symptoms.
In a recent Bonusly survey, we found that 49% of U.S.-based managers are dealing with employee burnout. The discrepancy between employees experiencing burnout compared to the managers that say they are dealing with it might be a sign that you should check in with your employees. 👀
If you’re not sure if your team is feeling burnt out, there is a simple way to find out: ask them! Send an anonymous survey to see how your employees are feeling about their workloads and overall wellness. Here are 14 survey questions designed to understand and combat burnout to give you some inspiration.
Causes of burnout
The team at Polly surveyed nearly 600 employees and found that their top challenges were:
37% of people listed meeting fatigue as their number one challenge. This is understandable since, on average, we're spending twice as much time in meetings than before COVID. 😩
25% of people surveyed mentioned personal connection as another difficulty. Stanford researchers uncovered the causes of virtual meeting fatigue which mostly boil down to unnatural personal interactions. They note the increased amount of close-up eye contact with everyone on screen all the time (not just the speaker), seeing and looking at yourself on screen in real-time, not being able to move as much as you would in person or on the phone, and more effort or “cognitive load” to express yourself and understand the non-verbal cues of others.
It seems that nothing can replace in-person interaction with your coworkers. Maybe a hybrid work environment could be the answer?
With two times more meetings and turnover rates like we've never seen before, there’s less time to get focused work done and fewer people to actually do the work. These are prime conditions for burnout to develop within your teams.
If you’re hiring new team members, it’s important to consider the amount of time it takes for them to fully onboard before they can start taking on substantial responsibilities, and remember that onboarding new employees alone can be a strain on your teams.
How to address work from home burnout
Now that we’ve looked at some of the symptoms and causes, you may be wondering how to prevent work from home burnout or treat it if you know it’s already an issue.
Our very own VP of People Operations here at Bonusly, Vicki Yang and Co-Founder of Polly, Samir Diwan hosted a webinar where they shared their best advice.
Want to watch the webinar on your own time? Get it on-demand: How to Beat WFH Burnout
1. Check in regularly
It’s easy to think, “My team is doing great; they’ll never experience burnout!” However, you’ll never really know until you ask. Make sure to check in with your employees regularly to find out how they’re doing and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Could your weekly one-hour meetings be cut down to 30 minutes instead? Does everyone need to attend or can you include only pertinent attendees and then email a summary to auxiliary team members after? Are leaders asking their direct reports if they could use support on any projects they’re working on? Small changes like reducing the number of meetings and facilitating additional support on tasks to help reduce workload can go a long way.
2. Make recognition visible
In a recent study, researchers analyzed data from over 7,000 employees and found that there was a strong link between burnout and employees who felt unappreciated. For example, nearly 75% of employees who felt unappreciated at work said that their workload was too heavy compared to only 40% who felt appreciated. In the same study, 54% of unappreciated workers reported that the amount of stress they dealt with at work was too great compared to only 13% of those who felt appreciated. Additionally, 60% of unappreciated employees reported feeling alienated from the rest of their team compared to just 15% in the appreciated category.
Working from home can make it difficult to celebrate team wins, big or small. However, if you have a system for making recognition visible within your organization, it can do three things:
- It improves communication company-wide providing visibility into projects different departments and employees are working on.
- It opens up cross-departmental collaboration opportunities.
- Making recognition visible helps your team members feel connected, appreciated, and less burnt out.
3. Spark conversations
One of the side effects of transitioning to a more hybrid and remote working world is that teams may feel less connected. What was once a quick question in passing at the office which spurred a great collaboration discussion now requires more effort like sending an email or chat message and getting a dedicated virtual meeting on the calendar.
Make sure that you encourage your team to intentionally collaborate on and talk about projects together. When employees are empowered to collaborate, they will be able to connect more, lean on one another’s strengths, and reduce their workloads.
During virtual meetings, don’t forget to check in with the introverts or those who tend to be quiet to ensure they have space to speak and share their ideas.
4. Address Zoom fatigue
In addition to some other great suggestions, Vicki and Samir encourage you and your fellow team members to ask yourself, “Is this meeting really necessary?” They suggest allowing your team to turn off the video and interact via chat during meetings and—this is a big one—start and end meetings on time! Or even (gasp!) end your meeting early.
5. Lean on your culture leaders
The responsibility of creating a stellar culture in the workplace has never rested completely on the HR department. That’s why it’s important to identify and lean on the culture leaders in your organization. These leaders make a massive difference in not only the culture but the productivity of the organization and, spoiler alert, they don’t only exist at the top of the org chart.
Who are the people that help make your company a great place to work? Who typically raises a hand to plan fun team events? Who’s always sharing interesting articles or funny jokes in Slack? It’s important not only to identify but recognize your culture leaders so they keep doing what they’re doing and hopefully, new culture leaders will emerge!
6. Make fun part of your culture
In Polly’s survey of nearly 600 employees, virtual happy hours and company-wide all-hands topped the list of most challenging meetings. Don’t just do what you’ve always done! Instead of “forced fun,” think about surveying your team for new, fun event ideas. Here are some other great team-building ideas to get you started.
The health of your organization is linked directly to the engagement and satisfaction of your employees. Aside from the fact that it can cause legitimate physical symptoms, you can think of burnout as an actual sickness that attacks your otherwise healthy organization. If untreated, it can lead to serious consequences for your staff and business.
As with most illnesses, preventative care is best. If your team is not currently experiencing burnout, now is the best time to put safeguards in place so it doesn’t happen in the future. If your team is currently enduring work-from-home burnout, there’s still hope! Showing your employees that you empathize and you’re taking it seriously is a great first step.
For more in-depth insight on how to treat burnout, identify culture leaders, and engage your remote staff, watch our entire webinar!