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Preventing remote employee burnout



The past few weeks have brought renewed hope, with new vaccines emerging, showing us a light at the end of the tunnel and a promise of a return to normality. However, the year of uncertainty and anxiety had a significant impact on many of us, increasing the risk of burnout.


Unsurprisingly, employee burnout levels have been high throughout the pandemic, with a major shift not seen before - remote workers are now experiencing more burnout than on-site workers. Pre-Covid, the perks of working remotely, both part of the time or full time, resulted in lower levels of burnout compared with employees who were located on-site. However, working from home is no longer a choice, and for many remote workers, it represents increased levels of stress and anxiety.


Looking on the bright side


Although feeling more burned out, remote workers are more engaged and productive. Time saved on the commute, fewer distractions, and more flexible schedules mean that they can manage their workload better. What’s even more encouraging, is that Gallup’s data suggest that remote workers have significantly higher levels of engagement when they have a supportive manager and organisational communication that helps them feel connected and supported.


Work from home policies don’t work without managers who are transparent about their expectations and deliver meaningful and regular feedback, as they can improve team performance, irrespective of their location and play a key role in preventing employee burnout. The mitigation of the risk of burnout starts with focusing on the primary reason that is causing it and offering individual support to deal with stress and support personal wellbeing.


But leaders can also feel isolated at the top, and they too, need to focus on preventing burnout by tapping into new sources of energy, as they can’t lead on empty. Many leaders have been focused on solving the immediate problems, but whilst it’s been a sprint, no one can sprint forever. Even if thriving on pressure, senior leaders need to be aware that increased levels of stress can lead to burnout and fundamentally, they need to take care of themselves before they can take care of others.


Speaking the language of leadership


Communication plays a critical role, both in sharing expectations and feedback, as well as funneling important messages from the leadership team to keep employees informed. Leaders need to be visible and represent the positive voice of the business, celebrating little wins towards recovery. Employees don’t need to be micromanaged to be motivated, in fact, micromanagement can have the opposite effect. On the other hand, the right communication can build confidence and drive motivation, however, it needs to be regular and easy to digest.


A crisis requires more than a plan for business continuity. Amid chaos and uncertainty, employees can easily loose meaning and connection. When connection is disrupted, we naturally feel unsafe, not knowing what’s happening and making assumptions about what is going to happen next. In uncertain times storytelling can create unity and hope, especially if the story is told by a trusted leader. Stories help to solidify abstract concepts and simplify complex messages, making them easy to understand and digest. They also allow to convey lessons, instill organisational values, and acknowledge individual contributions.


Leaders can learn to protect employees from burnout and sustain a healthy organisational culture, where everyone feels supported and valued, in any location. At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at simon@askacumen.com.