Burnout Becomes a Bigger Fear in WFH Environments

A recent survey by the IBM Institute for Business Value found more than 75% of respondents would like to continue working remotely at least occasionally, while more than half want it to be their primary way of working after the coronavirus crisis ends.

Company decision-makers seem open to the idea of remote work — at least part time — but many are not comfortable with the idea of full-time work-from-home arrangements. Workers’ mental health is a chief concern. Companies are stepping up their health insurance programs’ mental health offerings, and employees are taking advantage of it.

“We are social animals — it’s in our deepest nature,” says business writer Geoff Colvin. “We evolved into humans in groups. Alone we died; together we survived. Social interaction has been declining in the U.S. for decades. Employers ought to consider the full effects of removing more face-to-face interaction from employees’ lives.”

Lack of work boundaries

One problem that has been widely reported regarding new WFHers is the inability to distinguish between the workday and home life. “The 9-to-5 workday, or any semblance of it, seems like a relic of a bygone era,” states a recent Bloomberg article. “I honest to goodness am wearing the exact same outfit that I started with on Monday. I think I’ve showered three times,” Rachel Mushahwar, the vice president and general manager of U.S. sales and marketing at Intel, told Bloomberg.

Managers will be wise to increase the frequency of one-on-one check-ins as WFH becomes more prevalent. It’s important, however, for managers to also monitor their own mental health. “If we don’t understand where we are in a crisis and what we are feeling, it will be tough to lead ourselves or others to something different,” change consultant Talita Ferreira states in an article for Conference & Incentive Travel. “Identify and acknowledge where you are and what you are feeling. Is it frustration, fear or anxiety? Accept this without judgement. Set an intention to move to a more positive place and exercise choice in doing so.”

Ferreira warns not to make these other mistakes regarding managing remote workers:

  • Thinking you don’t have time for team bonding and small talk. Set aside time for virtual team engagement activities. Ask powerful questions and engage everyone in the answers, drawing out the more quiet voices.
  • Allowing too much negativity to seep in. How you show up impacts your team. Be more intentional with your energy, noticing as soon as negativity leads to a dark mood and actively choose something different.
  • Expecting to have all of the answers. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” Be transparent. Share what you know and what you don’t know. Nothing is more disturbing than knowing something is going on and leaders are not sharing. Always communicate with empathy, consider how other individuals might be feeling and stay true to yourself.

“Obviously as long as COVID-19 remains a threat, working from home is a sensible and necessary response. But companies that are looking beyond the pandemic, hoping to cut costs by keeping workers at home permanently, need to think hard about their decisions,” Colvin says. “They should know that they’re sacrificing a significant competitive advantage. The savings from WFH are much easier to calculate than the costs are, but the costs may very well be greater.”

Click on any of the articles below to read more from our “NEXT” special report. 

Is working from home inevitable or overrated?

The office as a recruitment tool

Sales reps are ideally suited to work from home

Burnout becomes a bigger fear in WFH environments

Leaders must be mindful of the story behind the story

Building an office culture without the office

Tackling low morale among remote workers


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