What is work-from-home burnout? In this article, we first define the condition to fully understand it and then identify ways of dealing with it.
The Origin of Burnout
Herbert Freudenberger, an American psychologist, coined the term “burnout” in the 1970s. He defined burnout to be a “state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by one’s professional life.”
Despite being used interchangeably, burnout has key differences with stress. Stress is the body’s natural reaction to any stimuli that causes pressure or tension. On the other hand, burnout is a result of repeated or prolonged stress that can leave you overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and worn out both physically and mentally until you’re no longer able to cope with the situation. That’s burnout for you in a nutshell.
Now 50 years later after the conception of the word, the COVID-19 pandemic happened. Millions of people across the globe had to transition from working office-bound to working remotely, causing the phenomenon of work-from-home burnout. Although there are obvious advantages to the work-from-home setup, it comes with unprecedented challenges as well. One of these is an imbalance between work and life or the boundary between the professional and personal space.
The Reality of Remote Work Setup
While some have learned to adapt, many are still struggling under the remote work setup, increasing the cases of employee burnout. The good news is that there are effective approaches to spot remote work burnout. With discipline and strategy, sustaining boundaries between work and life is totally achievable.
The reality is that more employees are finding themselves working for longer hours to prove dedication to their employers. Despite the lack of direct supervision, they worry that their supervisors might be concerned about their productivity, while they are also preoccupied with other responsibilities at home.
For this reason, it’s more important than ever to combat remote work burnout for a healthy lifestyle.
Why Managers Should Be Wary of Signs of Burnout
Being watchful for signs of professional burnout is one the critical roles of managers. For one, it can save you from losing a once-promising team member due to burnout, which could potentially have a huge impact on your team. Burnout influences both productivity and performance quality. If a manager is reluctant to resolve it, expect losses to become inevitable.
How to Recognize Remote Work Burnout
- Difficulty disconnecting
Remote work can cause people to have difficulty unplugging and disconnecting. The irony is that they feel as though they always have to be available even after office hours, despite this being an early sign of burnout. To prevent this, an employer should encourage their employees to disconnect every once in a while for them to de-stress and stay centered.
- TardinessThe priorities of a burnt-out employee have changed. This means that work becomes less important to them, and they only see it as a way to make a living. As such, they lose respect to their working hours. It’s best to reinforce the rules to remind employees that tardiness can affect team productivity. Consider offsetting or adjusting working hours as a possible intervention.
- Declining performanceThis is a no-brainer; performance quality decreases as someone starts experiencing burnout. The signs to look for are recklessness, lack of drive, and procrastination or inability to meet deadlines. A one-on-one coaching focused on encouragement can prove effective in resolving this type of behavior.
- Work avoidance
Burnt-out employees desire to escape work perhaps by making excuses. They may start not answering emails or picking up important calls. Eventually, their duties start to pile up, and their backlog grows. At this point, it may be necessary to call the attention of the employee but it’s best to avoid being confrontational.
- Exhaustion or apathyEmployees suffering from burnout stop caring anymore about things they once felt passionate about. It’s as if the fire in them to excel is no longer burning. They may not have the enthusiasm to engage in work-related conversations or activities. Help these employees realize that they can open up to you regarding their work struggles, which may be causing them to detach themselves from everyone else in the team.
How to Stop Burnout
Determine the source of burnout. Remote work burnout can be caused by a host of reasons, but a careful assessment allows employees and their managers to see the bigger picture. Identify the triggers and causes of burnout and then deal with it, whether it’s about the workload, complexity of tasks, working hours, a toxic colleague or client, or even an uncomfortable workspace.
Seek help and support from your team. Once you become aware of what’s causing you to feel burnt out, consider talking it out with someone who’s in a position to help you instead of fixing it alone. Remind yourself that you are not alone in this. The people around you, including your colleagues, boss, and even your family may be able to provide the perspective you need to think more rationally.
Set and sustain firm boundaries. As you try all possible means to stop burnout, don’t forget to separate your professional and personal life. Understand that there should be a time and place for everything. That’s why you should have a designated workplace and utilize your time outside of work for your personal activities. Don’t let your work affect your life, and don’t let your life problems affect your work.
Although life-and-work balance is difficult to achieve, having discipline and the right strategy can be helpful. Employees and employers alike should also understand that it’s OK to be overwhelmed at times. Burnout is inevitable, but it should never be neglected.
Recognize when burnout is underway by being mindful of its signs. Then take a step back, recharge, and refocus. Keep in mind that awareness, support from others, and firm boundaries are among the most necessary strategies when it comes to dealing with burnout.
Regina de Rosario is from Booth & Partners, a Seattle-based company with operations in the Philippines. With a solid background in conducting interviews with multiple candidates to identify the one with the most potential. Hired over 100 applicants for positions in dozens of industries and campaigns, at levels ranging from interns to upper-level management.
Excellent communication abilities, including written and oral, professional and interpersonal. Highly organized and is able to complete several complicated administrative tasks simultaneously.