- Remote Workers Facing High Burnout: How to Turn It Around
- Now, working entirely from home during the pandemic might feel more being “trapped at home” instead ofa perk.
- Luckily, even with new challenges at hand, there are opportunities as well.
- So, what can leaders do to help?
- Let's Make Working From Home Feel a Perk Again
- COVID-19 disrupting mental health services in most countries, WHO survey
- Survey finds major disruptions to critical mental health services
- Note on World Mental Health Day: Mobilizing the global community to #MoveforMentalHeatlh
- Employee Burnout Increasing During the Pandemic
- Create Flexible Schedules
- Create Fair Workloads
- Keep Communication Lines Open
- Offer Mental Health Support
- Help your Employees Prevent Burnout
Remote Workers Facing High Burnout: How to Turn It Around
Working from home full time during the pandemic is a very different experience than working remotely prior to COVID-19 — and it shows in our burnout data.
Employee burnout was a rising concern before the pandemic, with the workforce experiencing a significant increase in burnout from 2016 to 2019.
Unsurprisingly, employee burnout levels in 2020 have remained high throughout COVID-19 — with a major shift that we've never seen before: Fully remote workers are now experiencing more burnout than on-site workers.
Employees who experience high levels of burnout are 63% more ly to take a sick day, 13% less confident in their performance and 23% more ly to visit the emergency room.
Before the pandemic, the perks of working remotely — either part of the time or all the time — resulted in lower levels of burnout compared with employees who were on-site 100% of the time.
Line graph. The percentage of full-time employees experience burnout at work always or very often has increase among those who work fully from home, from 18% pre-COVID-19 to 29% during COVID-19. Among those who work from home part of the time, it decreased from 27% to 25%. Among those who do not work from home, it decreased from 30% to 26%.
Before, many employees had the flexibility and autonomy to show up in the office a few days a week or work remotely as needed.
Now, working entirely from home during the pandemic might feel more being “trapped at home” instead ofa perk.
As of September, nearly 40% of full-time employees were working entirely from home (vs. 4% pre-COVID) and under very different circumstances than pre-pandemic remote workers.
Remote work is no longer a choice for many employees who were forced home by health concerns and organizational policies. And this new reality has persisted for more than six months.
That is a jarring shift in how we work — maybe the biggest shift of the modern era.
Being forced home, practically overnight, created challenges in how people work because they didn't have enough time to prepare. In many organizations, employees were told to grab what they could from their office and head home, not knowing how long they would be there. Some businesses had to acquire laptops and home office resources that they'd never considered providing before.
Uncertainty took hold of the entire workforce, and record levels of daily stress and worry emerged. The emotional trauma from stress and worry has been even higher among remote workers than in-house workers throughout the pandemic due to the challenges of balancing home life and work in the same setting.
Stress is associated with serious health problems — including heart disease, diabetes and reduced immunity.
Many parents have kids at their feet while they work or are helping them with distance learning for a good part of the day. Many employees feel the workday never ends as they scramble to shift from home life to work life and back again, trying to keep it all afloat.
And at-home workers, especially those who are not married, are more susceptible to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
This is very different than choosing to work entirely from home pre-COVID — many people are now trapped in an unprecedented set of new circumstances.
Practice helps — which gives us hope for improvement over time. Gallup research shows that experienced remote workers are coping with these challenges better than those who are trying to figure out how to get in the rhythm of remote work.
Luckily, even with new challenges at hand, there are opportunities as well.
Currently, although they report feeling more burned out, fully remote workers are more engaged than in-house workers and feel more prepared to do their job amid the pandemic. They save time by avoiding the commute, there are fewer office distractions, they can wear comfy clothes, and they usually have a more flexible schedule.
Even more encouraging are our data that show fully remote workers can have astoundingly high engagement when they have a good manager and organizational communication that helps them feel connected and supported. They thrive when they have clear expectations and receive frequent, meaningful coaching.
The balancing act for managers trying to figure out how to lead their team through the pandemic lies in focusing on performance outcomes while supporting workers' engagement and wellbeing.
Fully remote employees are managing to remain engaged and effective at work during the pandemic while taking on enormous emotional trauma — higher burnout, stress, worry and loneliness. This puts managers in a challenging position in which they have employees who are highly motivated but pushing them too hard or in the wrong way could sacrifice their already fragile wellbeing.
So, what can leaders do to help?
For employers, it might seem there's not much you can do for employees stressed out by the pandemic beyond providing a steady paycheck, benefits and an employee assistance program.
But the truth is, stress or worry caused by the outside world is only one component that contributes to burnout.
The top five factors that correlated most highly with employee burnout prior to the COVID-19 pandemic are:
- unfair treatment at work
- unmanageable workload
- unclear communication from managers
- lack of manager support
- unreasonable time pressure
(To see all 15 contributing factors, download our report.)
These five factors are all closely related to how a manager leads their team.
While employee engagement and burnout typically go hand in hand, we're seeing that employees can overcome external challenges and still be interested in and even enthusiastic about their work when their manager learns how to engage them.
Yes, adjustments to how leaders engage their teams will need to be made. They'll have to get creative in how they inspire connectivity and collaboration and develop their employees.
But the fundamental human needs of employees remain the same.
Let's Make Working From Home Feel a Perk Again
The typical benefits of working from home — no office distractions, no commute, more time to do errands and housework — are at odds with having family members at home during the day and generally having to figure out new ways to get things done.
And those benefits won't ever outweigh having a bad manager.
Just before the pandemic, work-from-home policies never work out well for employees if their managers aren't truly supportive of and transparent about their specific expectations. When the challenges of remote work transpire into micromanagement or absent managers, that's when things fall apart.
Great managers, un bad or even mediocre ones, can significantly improve their team's performance from any location. Great managers can also boost team engagement and keep burnout at bay much more than anything else can.
When managers do their job well, working from home can create new opportunities for increased autonomy, frequent and meaningful conversations, regular recognition, and more intentional employee development.
Where to start? Your managers can mitigate the risk of burnout by focusing on what primarily causes it — and truly supporting remote employees with individualization, flexibility, and time throughout the day to deal with stress and disruptions and tend to personal wellbeing.
Make sure your managers are funneling important messages from leadership and speaking up about what they expect from employees during this time … and ensure those expectations take into account the added stress and worry that most of us are experiencing. Now is the time to focus on the whole person, along with their performance expectations and development needs.
As the perks of working from home feel they're fading and fatigue is setting in, we are ly headed for a tipping point. Leaders can learn how to guide their people through this crisis and sustain their culture — or let the burnout dam break, dragging down engagement and performance with it.
Working from home could be here to stay for the foreseeable future, but feeling trapped at home doesn't have to.
COVID-19 disrupting mental health services in most countries, WHO survey
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide while the demand for mental health is increasing, according to a new WHO survey. The survey of 130 countries provides the first global data showing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on access to mental health services and underscores the urgent need for increased funding.
The survey was published ahead of WHO’s Big Event for Mental Health ̶ a global online advocacy event on 10 October that will bring together world leaders, celebrities, and advocates to call for increased mental health investments in the wake of COVID-19.
WHO has previously highlighted the chronic underfunding of mental health: prior to the pandemic, countries were spending less than 2 per cent of their national health budgets on mental health, and struggling to meet their populations’ needs.
And the pandemic is increasing demand for mental health services. Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 itself can lead to neurological and mental complications, such as delirium, agitation, and stroke.
People with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection ̶ they may stand a higher risk of severe outcomes and even death.
“Good mental health is absolutely fundamental to overall health and well-being,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization.
“COVID-19 has interrupted essential mental health services around the world just when they’re needed most.
World leaders must move fast and decisively to invest more in life-saving mental health programmes ̶ during the pandemic and beyond.”
Survey finds major disruptions to critical mental health services
The survey was conducted from June to August 2020 among 130 countries across WHO’s six regions. It evaluates how the provision of mental, neurological and substance use services has changed due to COVID-19, the types of services that have been disrupted, and how countries are adapting to overcome these challenges.
Countries reported widespread disruption of many kinds of critical mental health services:
- Over 60% reported disruptions to mental health services for vulnerable people, including children and adolescents (72%), older adults (70%), and women requiring antenatal or postnatal services (61%).
- 67% saw disruptions to counseling and psychotherapy; 65% to critical harm reduction services; and 45% to opioid agonist maintenance treatment for opioid dependence.
- More than a third (35%) reported disruptions to emergency interventions, including those for people experiencing prolonged seizures; severe substance use withdrawal syndromes; and delirium, often a sign of a serious underlying medical condition.
- 30% reported disruptions to access for medications for mental, neurological and substance use disorders.
- Around three-quarters reported at least partial disruptions to school and workplace mental health services (78% and 75% respectively).
While many countries (70%) have adopted telemedicine or teletherapy to overcome disruptions to in-person services, there are significant disparities in the uptake of these interventions. More than 80% of high-income countries reported deploying telemedicine and teletherapy to bridge gaps in mental health, compared with less than 50% of low-income countries.
WHO has issued guidance to countries on how to maintain essential services ̶ including mental health services ̶ during COVID-19 and recommends that countries allocate resources to mental health as an integral component of their response and recovery plans. The Organization also urges countries to monitor changes and disruptions in services so that they can address them as required.
Although 89% of countries reported in the survey that mental health and psychosocial support is part of their national COVID-19 response plans, only 17% of these countries have full additional funding for covering these activities.
This all highlights the need for more money for mental health.
As the pandemic continues, even greater demand will be placed on national and international mental health programmes that have suffered from years of chronic underfunding.
Spending 2% of national health budgets on mental health is not enough. International funders also need to do more: mental health still receives less than 1% of international aid earmarked for health.
Those who do invest in mental health will reap rewards. Pre-COVID-19 estimates reveal that nearly US$ 1 trillion in economic productivity is lost annually from depression and anxiety alone. However, studies show that every US$ 1 spent on evidence-based care for depression and anxiety returns US$5.
Note on World Mental Health Day: Mobilizing the global community to #MoveforMentalHeatlh
On World Mental Health Day (Saturday 10 October), as part of its campaign Move for mental health: let’s invest, WHO is inviting the global community to take part in The Big Event for Mental Health, an unprecedented online advocacy event that will call for increased investment in mental health at all levels ̶ from individuals to businesses to countries to civil society ̶ so that the world can begin to close the gaps highlighted by today’s report.
The Big Event is free and open to the public and will be broadcast on 10 October from 16:00 to 19:00 CEST on WHO’s , , , TikTok and LinkedIn channels and website.
For updated information about the Big Event for Mental Health, including the latest lineup of performances and participants, visit the Big Event web page. To learn more about World Mental Health Day, visit WHO’s campaign page.
Employee Burnout Increasing During the Pandemic
Employee burnout has been a common problem in the workplace for decades; however, the coronavirus health crisis has deepened the burden. Even with most employees working remotely, burnout remains an ever-increasing challenge in the “new normal” of work. As a result, employee wellbeing has become a major concern for business owners in the wake of the global pandemic.
The World Health Organization in 2019 included workplace burnout in the International Classification of Diseases, defining it as a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. And the year 2020 has been described as one of the most stressful years for businesses, increasing the global burden of employee burnout.
According to Monster, a global employment platform, about 69 percent of remote workers said they experienced burnout symptoms in a survey conducted in July last year. This is up from 20 percent from a similar survey two months earlier. Another survey by Flexijobs revealed that employees are now over three times more ly to report poor mental health during the pandemic.
These statistics are not surprising, as many employees are now having to deal with pay cuts, furloughs, and increasing job demands by business owners who want to recover quickly from the financial devastation of the lockdown.
In addition to these concerns, remote workers find juggling work in the home office and the demands of their private lives a major source of stress. Employees who work on-site also experience the anxiety of contracting the infection in the workplace, in addition to dealing with pandemic stress.
Workplace burnout, while often overlooked, impairs the growth of any business.
Poor employee wellbeing may lead to physical and mental health problems down the line, which places more strain on workplace productivity and costs.
Therefore, the challenge for business owners and HR professionals is to pivot workplace wellness strategies to improve employee wellbeing and limit burnout. Some of these strategies include:
Create Flexible Schedules
Letting your workers have some control over their workday takes a lot of stress off work. Creating flexible workhours provides workers with adequate time for personal activities, which helps them enjoy a healthier work-life balance.
Encourage work from home options for your employees. HR managers may need to evaluate what works best for each employee and design work patterns accordingly. While some employees may find on-site work much more productive, others may be more productive working from a home office.
Creating flexible schedules for remote workers also means encouraging clear boundaries. Having clearly-defined work and personal hours helps workers sign off safely after work to attend to personal activities. This reduces stress and gives them time to recharge without feeling guilty about it.
Business owners should also encourage frequent breaks and virtual tea breaks to allow workers to ease off and unwind between assignments.
Create Fair Workloads
Several businesses laid off workers in the wake of the pandemic and are operating at lower staff capacities, so it is tempting to assign more workload to the small number of workers available. This, however, will rebound with poor outcomes, as heavy workload ultimately lowers productivity, increases stress, and limits output.
In addition to maintaining optimum staffing, HR needs to ensure a fair distribution of job responsibilities, to optimize productivity and prevent burnout. Communicate tasks clearly to employees and assign them with reasonable deadlines and at appropriate intervals. Overloading your employees will only drain them physically and mentally and yield poor results.
Further, HR should ensure responsibilities are assigned to those who are capable of executing them. If you assign tasks to someone with inadequate knowledge to handle them, you also need to provide adequate training and resources to guide them in completing the tasks. Assigning employees inappropriate tasks is a surefire way to cause burnout.
Keep Communication Lines Open
It’s bad enough that many workers have been working in isolation for months, as coronavirus restrictions get tough in many parts of the world. Business leaders need to open the lines of communication to reach their employees and build a healthy community. Initiate regular check-ins to know how your employees are doing and how well they are coping in these unprecedented times.
Also, working in a home office is a lot different from working in traditional office settings where collaborations are easy and fast.
Your workers may be having difficulties understanding your goals for a task or how best to execute it, which is a common reason for employee burnout. Do not keep your remote workers in the dark.
Communicate frequently and exhaustively about their job tasks, with regular updates about any changes that may be needed.
Also, business owners should leave no room for uncertainty. One of the major concerns employees have at this time is the future of their employment and finances.
Instead of allowing gossips and speculations to create more uncertainty and fear among your employees, be open with them about plans to make the business thrive.
Your employees may also provide useful feedback and suggestions to help your business grow amid the pandemic.
Offer Mental Health Support
Employees have been faced with many setbacks in the last year, with the surging cases of the new coronavirus strain increasing uncertainty and anxiety.
Given this context, employers need to provide mental health support for their workers now more than ever. This time, however, mental health offerings should go beyond the traditional in-office initiatives.
Consider adding virtual mental health solutions that remote workers can access.
Some creative solutions for mental health support include access to mental health resources, including webinars on stress management and other mental health issues, free subscriptions to mental health apps and platforms, and access to virtual exercise and meditation classes.
Employee assistance programs (EAPs) may also offer access to licensed mental health professionals and counselors to help employees cope with pandemic stress and burnout. These are also important for workers dealing with alcohol and drug abuse to combat pandemic stress.
Help your Employees Prevent Burnout
The coronavirus pandemic has stretched the corporate world beyond its limits, plunging business leaders and workers into the most stressful time in the careers.
These unparalleled times have led to economic downturns, workplace maladjustments, and uncertainties that continue to stress employees.
Employers, therefore, need to pivot workplace strategies to create an environment in which employees are not only productive but also insulated from workplace stress.