Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. I don't know about you, but I make dozens of wishes every day. I wish it would be warmer and rain a little more out here in California.
I wish the semi in front of me would move his rig over to the right lane where he can toddle about at 60 mph on the freeway. I wish my lunch hour were longer, that I could speak another language and that I had a house cleaner and a cook.
And every morning when the alarm sounds, I wish I could just roll out of bed and work in my pajama pants from the middle of my bed.
I got that wish, but one week later—I wished I could go back to the office.
Many of you had the same experience. The pandemic was stressful, and the mandatory work from home restrictions became smothering. Complicating the situation further was that most companies didn't have the logistics to make such a sudden transition.
Working from home was not the dream come true people imagined, and burnout was sitting on the doorstep. You often don't recognize your symptoms as job burnout until you become depressed or exhausted.
77% of respondents agree that after COVID-19, having the option to work from home would make them happier (Owl Labs).
Most people initially exhibit the following symptoms when experiencing burnout:
- Decrease in productivity and efficiency when it comes to work
- Trouble focusing on work and constant forgetfulness
- Physical symptoms like headaches, heart palpitations and indigestion
- Negative feelings about work
- Feeling exhausted, lazy, and unmotivated
- Change in sleep routine
Many states also have local laws that enact higher state standards than the federal labor statutes. Check your state's benefit requirements before deciding what benefits to offer.
Home? Office? Work is Work, and Burnout
The World Health Organization defines burnout as a syndrome that results from unmanaged workplace stress. It is characterized by three dimensions:
- Physical & mental health symptoms like feeling exhausted, nauseous, anxious, & depressed. (Partner with a comprehensive EAP)
- Social symptoms like feeling isolated, ignored or underappreciated.
- Self-efficacy problems like being too hard on yourself, feeling guilty for minimal productivity or reduced self-confidence.
When your employees start their day exhausted and have little interest in doing their job well or doing it all, they aren't being lazy. They are burned out.
This lack of interest is an emotional response to stress and, left untreated, actually changes the anatomy and functioning of the brain. Cognitive functioning and one's ability to learn and pay attention are shut down as the body prepares to switch into survival mode.
69% of employees are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home (Monster).
Peer Literature Review Studying the Effects of Job Burnout on Employee Health
In 2017 researchers reviewed 61 well-conducted studies (after excluding 932 ) on the physical, psychological and occupational implications of job burnout and concluded that job burnout was a significant predictor of serious illness and that the impact of job burnout highlighted the need for preventative interventions.
Systemic Effects of Job Burnout
Physical Consequences of Job Burnout
- Musculoskeletal Pain
- Changes In Pain Experiences
- Prolonged Fatigue and Headaches
- Gastrointestinal Issues
- Respiratory Problems
- Severe Injuries
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Coronary Heart Disease
- Hospitalization Due to Cardiovascular Disorder
- Mortality Below Age 45
Psychological Consequences of Job Burnout
- Hospitalization for Mental Disorders
- Emotional Exhaustion
- Detachment from Work
- Emotional Hardening
- Feelings of Inefficacy
- Reduced Coping Skills
In 2020 nearly three out of every five remote employees reported a diminished sense of overall well-being and increased health problems due to the added stress of working from home.
And while stress is a significant contributor to burnout, it isn't the only cause.
Several other factors that contribute to employee work fatigue include:
- Job expectations are unclear
- Working too many hours
- Workplace dynamics are dysfunctional
- Social support is lacking
- Never taking a vacation
- Lack of control
- Lack of workplace communication
Pre-COVID people put in their day's work, clocked out and went home. Now people wake up at work, split daytime hours between work and home and still go to bed with work on their lap.
Bloomberg.com reported that remote workers worked an average of three more hours a day than when in the office. That's an additional 15 hours, and that is too many hours to work and still maintain a sense of well-being.
The physical consequences of job burnout can kill you. The average life expectancy in 1900 was 46.3 years. Now, even with advanced medicine, your life expectancy is shorter (45 yrs) than it was 120 years ago if job stressors remain as they are today.
Thankfully, most businesses adapted quickly and responded to this infrastructure change by obtaining remote communication tools, offering increased time-off and assisting with after-school tutoring and childcare services. Still, most employees didn't know what assistance to ask for, and management didn't know what to offer.
Technology answered half the problem, but it can only go so far. A gap still exists between emotive humans and literal machines, so leaders must pay attention, listen to their employees' needs, and respond flexibly.
It's equally important for employees to learn and practice the skills that can prevent burnout.
A survey by monster.com found that 69% of employees are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home.
This is primarily due to additional roles and burdens placed on your employees during COVID. Employees cannot just work and focus on their job when they work from home, at least not during a pandemic.
They must also be the babysitter, the parent, the teacher, the playmate, and the house cleaner. How could they not blur the lines between home and work?
What Can Leaders do to Reduce Work From Home Burnout?
Reducing employee burnout does not have to be complicated. A few adjustments that open the lines of communication and show workers they're appreciated and supported can go a long way towards burnout prevention.
Begin by updating HR structures and policies to include current workforce needs.
Try a little FUN!
Other solutions include:
- Offer alternative benefits packages to employees who choose to work from home
- Offer flexible sick and time off days
- Add a mental health day every month and encourage workers to use it
- Offer an employee tool kit that can walk them through the steps of burnout prevention
Employees also need to learn ways to feel better about their job, and many prefer to handle things privately. Burnout toolkits provide workers with actionable steps they can take to reduce stress and increase wellbeing.
Offering these toolkits is also a great way to open the dialogue about burnout and find out how workers are feeling and what strategies would be helpful.
Individual strategies include:
- Evaluate your options and set goals
- Seek Support
- Find a relaxing hobby
- Get plenty of rest
- Practice mindfulness
- Try meditation
Offering your support and being flexible as people try to adjust to a new way of life is critical to your company's health.
It isn't easy to build confidence and reduce burnout when behind a closed office door all day. Communicate with your employees and find out what they need the most, and then find a way to provide it.
Book a development course or design one yourself that can teach new skills and increase resilience among your employees.
Work from home burnout doesn't have to be the end of the line. It just needs better solutions.
When you partner with Ulliance, our Life Advisor Consultants are always just a phone call away to teach ways to enhance your work/life balance and increase your happiness. The Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program can help employees and employers come closer to a state of total well-being.
Investing in the right EAP or Wellness Program to support your employees will help them and help you. Visit www.ulliance.com, or call 866-648-8326.
The Ulliance Employee Assistance Program can address the
• Stress about work or job performance
• Crisis in the workplace
• Conflict resolution at work or in one’s personal life
• Marital or relationship problems
• Child or elder care concerns
• Financial worries
• Mental health problems
• Alcohol/substance abuse
• Interpersonal conflicts
• AND MORE!
4 Tips for Beating WorkFrom-Home Burnout. (n.d.). Retrieved from virgin pulse: https://f.hubspotusercontent00.net/hubfs/393154/_2020-Content/4-tips-for-beating-work-from-home-burnout-virgin-pulse.pdf.pdf
Jodi Oakman, N. K. (2020, November 30). BMC Public Health. Retrieved from A rapid review of mental and physical health effects of working at home: how do we optimise health?: https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-020-09875-z
Physical, psychological and occupational consequences of job burnout: A systematic review of prospective studies. (2017, October 4). Retrieved from Pub Med Central: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5627926/
Stahl, A. (2020, Sept 1). Work-From-Home Burnout: Causes And Cures. Retrieved from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2020/09/01/work-from-home-burnout-causes-and-cures/?sh=6832934bb881