Remote Work Burnout? Read Our Tips to Fight It cover

Remote Work Burnout? Read Our Tips to Fight It

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Working from home (WFH) has been an integral part of the office strategy for startups, franchise businesses, and SMEs for years now. Unfortunately the benefits of remote work often come at a price. Increasingly, remote work burnout is becoming a reality for many teams.

Management teams must first learn about the problem of burnout in order to develop solutions. Let’s take a look at a few of the top reasons for burnout amongst remote workers. After that, we’ll provide proven tips for how to fight this insidious problem in the workplace.

Understanding Remote Work Burnout

In a 2022 National Bureau of Economic Research study, a majority of employees reported being pleasantly surprised by their work from home productivity during the pandemic. But productivity is a delicate balance. The American Psychological Association notes that 3 in 5 American workers reported negative impacts from work-related stress in a 2021 study. This stress is especially challenging for remote staff.

Some factors that often lead to overwork among remote workers include external pressure, lack of physical workspace, constant connectivity, and a lack of boundaries and time management. In the next section, we’ll unpack each of these factors.

Unraveling the Drive to Overwork

Sometimes inherent pressures and motivations drive remote employees to overwork. This is an unfortunate phenomenon that stems from entirely good intentions. Remote team members want to make a difference, but their contributions lead to burnout.

Here are a few factors that contribute to the drive to overwork:

  • Proving productivity
  • Job security fears
  • Company culture
  • Industry or client demands
  • Poor communication

Some workers may feel the need to “prove their worth,” which directly leads to remote work burnout. Distributed team members especially susceptible to this because they often struggle to remain visible in the workplace. This may also stem from poor performance reviews, job security fears, or desire for a promotion. Whatever the reason, proving productivity often leads to burnout.

A company’s culture, particularly the messaging coming down from management, can also contribute to overwork. Even when managers caution employees against overwork, it’s important to follow suit. Most employees will naturally mimic the behaviors of leadership, regardless of the official party line.

Another factor to consider is the calendar. Some businesses operate in a cyclical climate that can drive overwork during particular times of year. For instance, accounting firms will be incredibly busy during tax season. This is a predictable phenomenon that businesses can counteract with strategic planning.

Lastly, poor communication can lead to overwork. We’ll dive deeper into communication later in this article, as it is absolutely essential in a well-functioning workplace.

Wing Assistant VAs can help to minimize burnout among core staff by handling many workplace tasks, including:

  • Calendar management
  • Basic research and reporting
  • Reception
  • Travel booking
  • Ordering office supplies
  • Data entry
  • Expense tracking

Your dedicated, fully managed Wing VA can take on these tasks and more, freeing up full-time remote staff to do higher level work.

Blurred Physical Boundaries Causing Remote Work Burnout

The absence of a physical workspace is a proven contributor to burnout for remote employees.

In one study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, employees reported developing resentfulness and bitterness because their job takes valuable time away from their personal life. Multiply these negative feelings across several employees and the problem increases exponentially. Eventually most remote employees realize the toll that burnout has taken on their personal lives and opt to step back – or leave the company entirely.

For these workers, it can be helpful to have a dedicated workspace at home, such as a home office or even just a desk. When in this physically discrete space, employees can focus on work. When they’re done for the day, they can (and should) close the door on that workspace.

Though they may not be sharing a physical space with you, Wing employees have plenty of support to navigate the virtual work environment. Each Wing Assistant VA has the support of trainers, supervisors, and your Wing Customer Success Manager. This rigorous quality control ensures a successful remote working experience for both you and your assistant.

The Constant Connectivity Conundrum

Virtual collaboration tools like Slack, MS Teams and email can be great, but they can create an ‘always-on’ mentality for employees. It’s not the tools themselves but the culture of the organization. Team members feel obligated to respond to work-related communications outside traditional working hours.

According to one study, 58% of workers reported that their work-life balance integration increased during the pandemic. However, in that same study, 47% of respondents expressed concern about blurred work-life balance and the expectation to always be “on.” Hybrid workers expressed many of the same concerns, too.

To add to this problem, many employees struggle to de-normalize an already stressful working situation. As employees devote so much time to projects and initiatives, it can be hard for them to step back and recognize whether or not the environment is beneficial to their mental health.

Your dedicated Wing Assistant VA is available full-time or part-time. During working hours, you can assign your VA unlimited tasks. Using the Wing Workspace App you can track assistant progress and timely task completion.

Setting and Maintaining Proper Boundaries

Traditionally, employees were able to “log off” when they walked out the office door. Trips home in the car or via public transportation were spent decompressing. For many teams these opportunities for vital decompression time are now spent rolling calls or answering emails. Employees arriving home after a long day at work feel compelled to open their inboxes and catch up on a barrage of emails that may or may not be time sensitive.

Here a few things virtual employees can do to set up proper boundaries:

  • Schedule specific hours to work
  • Protect personal time
  • Block time for emails and communication
  • Communicate boundaries to other team members
  • Learn to let go

Wing Assistant offers access to a global workforce of talent. All of our virtual assistants are fluent in English and proficient in common workplace communication tools like Slack and MS Teams. If you have another tool you’d like to use, they’re fully capable of adapting.

During the onboarding process, your Wing Customer Success Manager gets to know your business and matches you with the perfect Wing Assistant for your needs. Whether it is a general virtual assistant or someone more industry-focused, we take care of the time-intensive vetting process so you don’t have to.

10 Tips for Preventing Remote Work Burnout

Now that we’ve addressed many common causes of burnout, let’s take a look at how to prevent it. In the past, employers considered ideas like setting check-ins, using mental health breaks, and leveraging productivity tools as surefire solutions. But those methods are band-aid solutions at best.

Here are a few tips for preventing remote work burnout:

  • Build work-life balance
  • Set predictable schedules
  • Improve communication
  • Understand expectations
  • Digital detox

Let’s dive deep on these tips and more in the next section.

Work-Life Balance: the First Step to Fighting Burnout

These days management teams are consistently being asked to do more with less. But it’s important to remain invested in your employees’ work-life balance as an investment in long-term success.

Routines, sometimes maligned as contributing to boredom, are actually scientifically proven to contribute to work-life balance. Having a reliable routine supports cognitive functions, boosts health, provides social opportunities, limits cognitive energy expenditure, and helps employees focus on their tasks.

Put simply, routines help employees adjust to the constant changes and demands of the modern workplace.

Predictability as an Antidote to Remote Work Burnout

Humans are creatures of habit. With this in mind, having a predictable cadence of events during the workday can provide a solid foundation to help remote employees make the most out of their jobs.

A good example might be instituting a daily or weekly standup meeting. If your remote team does not already have this, it can be a good way to add accountability and focus. During this meeting, remote team members will each be responsible for reporting on what long and short term goals for their department. It’s a predictable everyday ritual, but one that can lead to cross functional partnerships and avoid isolation and burnout.

Wing Assistant VAs are available to work when you need them. For a flat monthly rate, your team will get a dedicated assistant and a free replacement should anything come up. Assistants can work for four or eight hour blocks whenever you need them. Each Wing account also will come with access to the Wing workspace app, unlimited file sharing/storage, and a Customer Success Manager to ensure your account’s success.

Improving Communication

In a previous section, we discussed how check-ins are a band aid solution to burnout. But these meetings aren’t a bad thing. By all means, set periodic check-ins every week or every month to ensure your team is on track. But don’t think that just setting the meeting will solve your team’s challenges. You need to ensure that all team members are making the most of the time, otherwise it’s a missed opportunity.

Coordinate schedules effortlessly with Wing Assistant. When your remote assistant is on the clock, they’ll respond in a matter of minutes. Wing Assistant employs a global workforce, so you could assign your remote team member to complete tasks overnight so that they’re done when core staff begins the day.

After a brief introductory call in which we learn more about your business, Wing Assistant will connect you with the VA that’s right for your business. Wing Assistant remote workers can specialize in areas like sales, CSR and reception, or general admin. You can even elect to work with a remote assistant with bilingual English-Spanish skills or specifically US-based talent so that your virtual teammate is in the same time zone.

Understand Teammates’ Expectations

Nothing is worse than working hard on a project, only to discover you were chasing the wrong goals. This outcome can be demoralizing for team members and a time waster for the company. Not only that, but if remote employees don’t feel seen, they may begin to feel burnout.

One surefire way to avoid this problem is to manage expectations during the assignment phase. It may not always be easy, but transparency about skill levels, availability, and potential delays in response are critical when assigning tasks.

The Wing operations team oversees each Wing Assistant VA, ensuring that they are delivering tasks on time and making a meaningful impact in their roles. Your Wing Customer Success Manager (CSM) is your point of contact to make sure the assignment is going smoothly and to relay any feedback that might improve performance.

Expectations can take a lot of different forms. Aside from the expectation of certain deliverables, there’s also the expectation of timely delivery. Managers should also account for this when assigning remote work.

Clarify Response Time Expectations

Clearly defined timelines go a long way to limiting confusion. For instance, you may not be expecting a response to a specific email for 24 hours, a week, or even a month. If that’s the case, let your team members know and they can adjust their schedules accordingly. Instant messages, on the other hand, may require a quicker response. You can also note this as well.

Wing Assistant remote VAs respond within minutes during working hours. Connect with your Wing VA via instant message, text, email, or on the phone. Wing Assistant remote assistants are familiar with popular teamwork platforms like Slack, MS Teams, and more. They may be hundreds or even thousands of miles away, but your Wing VA is committed to staying on task and in the loop.

Address Urgency Levels

Priorities are everything when it comes to effective communication. Remote workers and new workers always benefit from extra communication on this front. It’s easy in a program like MS Teams or Outlook email to indicate the urgency of a message. One possible solution is to institute a color-coded alert system. For instance if a message is red, remote employees will know they must act on it immediately. Green or yellow messages can be a lower priority.

Promote ‘Task, Not Time’ Evaluation

When it comes to employee hours, think quality not quantity. Measuring employees’ success based on hours worked is a very 20th century mindset. In the modern workplace, successful managers evaluate outcomes and completed tasks. A results-oriented approach fosters efficiency and reduces pressure to stay connected at all times. Employees can carve out their own time in their schedules to finish the assigned tasks.

Establish a Digital Detox Protocol

As a method of last resort, you might recommend unplugging entirely. A periodic digital detox day or weekend encourages employees to disconnect from work-related digital platforms entirely. This strategy has helped many businesses to prevent burnout associated with constant connectivity. It’s particularly helpful as a “reset” to get employees back on track after an extended period of burnout.

Fight Remote Work Burnout with Flexible Schedules

Remote work offers some pitfalls, but it also offers an astonishing amount of flexibility. Employers should leverage this by adopting flexible work schedules. This allows employees to choose their own optimal working hours based on productivity peaks.

A flexible work schedule strategy is especially helpful to adapt when working with employees in multiple time zones. Depending on the industry, this might be an opportunity to set up non-traditional work hours, such as compressed workweeks or staggered start times.

Wing clients come from a variety of industries, including:

  • E-commerce
  • Consulting
  • IT Services
  • Construction
  • Marketing & Sales
  • Medical Services
  • Real Estate
  • Staffing
  • Startups
  • Talent Agencies

No matter what the demands of your particular industry, you can work with a Wing Customer Success Manager to connect with the right remote talent for your needs.

Implement “No Meeting” Days

Some of the tips on our list involve scheduling additional meetings to build communication. But this has its limits. Employees in every industry can appreciate the feeling of meeting fatigue. In the worst situations, employees shuffle from one meeting to the next and must play catch up at the end of the working day. It’s a surefire recipe for burnout.

One strategy managers have found to counteract this is advocating for designated “No Meeting” days. This method is a little less drastic than a complete digital detox. Though they may not say it, your employees will appreciate the focused time to delve into deep work without constant disruptions.

If your company puts one of these days in place, it’s important to protect it and set an example that there are no exceptions to the rule. A designated “no meeting” day shows that managers are thoughtful and considerate of their employees’ time. Holding everyone in the company accountable to follow this rule helps lay the foundation for a good company culture.

Remote Work Burnout is Real—But You Can Deal with It

Remote work offers flexibility, opens the door to a global workforce, and has revolutionized how we get things done in the workplace. This productivity is key to business success, but it should never come at the detriment of your team’s mental health. If your team is grappling with remote work burnout, these are a few ways to help.

Wing Assistant is another great way to cut down on overwork and help break the cycle. Set up an appointment for a 15-minute call with our Customer Success team to find out how Wing Assistant can help your business today.

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