TMCnet Feature
October 25, 2021

Remote Workers Are Burning Out. Here's a Look at Why.

Due to the pandemic, more employees than ever are now working remotely, mostly from home. And while the advantages of remote work are well documented, one burning issue is remote work burnout.

According to statistics, 69% of employees working from home report burnout symptoms.

What are the most common causes of remote work burnout? Is there anything that employers and employees themselves can do to beat it?

1. Difficulty Unplugging from Work

According to a 2021 Gartner survey, remote workers are 1.27 times more likely to have trouble disconnecting from work compared to their on-site counterparts. From 2020 to 2021, the number of workers reporting that their biggest struggle is to unplug increased by 8%.

When an employee’s home becomes his workplace, the boundary between his professional and personal life becomes blurred. The more that a worker can disconnect from work when off the clock, the more that he can recover and improve his well-being. This means that remote workers are barely getting any rest.

According to Prof. Len Shackleton of the University of Birmingham, the solution is for companies to set clear policies on when remote workers can log off from work. This will significantly affect the flexibility of working from home which is often reported as one of the best perks of remote working.

2. Virtual Overload

Another reason contributing to remote workers burning out is virtual overload.

In fact, from just 10 million users in December 2019, Zoom saw a surge of a whopping 300 million signups in just 5 months. According to Professor Jeremy Bailenson of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Zoom fatigue is a real thing and there are several reasons why.

  • Dramatic increase in eye contact and unnatural closeness of other people’s faces
  • Emotionally taxing to see your reflection for prolonged periods
  • Hampers movement
  • Significantly higher cognitive load compared to in-person meetings

Since video conferencing for a huge chunk of the day is so stressful, it’s no wonder that 8 out of 10 remote workers want at least one meeting-free day per week based on a survey by Owllabs.

3. Distractions at Home

Working from home can be challenging because there are more distractions but minimal supervision. A survey of more than 2,000 remote workers by Statista found that the top distractions are:

  • Social Media - 61.6%
  • Smartphones - 53.7%
  • Binge-Watching - 42.1%
  • Kids - 33.8%
  • Gaming - 30.4%
  • News Media - 24.3%
  • Pets - 18.1%
  • Online Shopping - 16%
  • Partner - 12.3%

Even work itself becomes a distraction with remote workers receiving 50% more email than when they worked in the office. They also have to deal with a 96% increase in online meetings and chat.

4. Less Time to Decompress

Distractions, virtual overload, and always being in work mode mean that remote employees are working longer. To be more specific, 70% of professionals are now working on weekends and 45% say that they’re working more than they used to. 8 out of 10 remote workers even feel that they need to work overtime to keep the job.

This compromises work-life balance for remote workers. More time spent working means that they spend less time on self-care, leisure, and social relations.

Those who work more than 55 hours in a week have a 1.3 times higher risk of stroke than those who work 40 hours. Long working hours also dramatically increase the risk of depression for healthy individuals by 1.66 times and anxiety by 1.74 times.

5. Loneliness

In a Hubble HQ’s survey, 76% of remote workers said that the lack of social interaction is the biggest drawback of working from home. Two thirds (67%), especially women (71%), have also said that their social relations have suffered.

Younger workers (74%) are more likely to experience loneliness. According to Dr. Terri Patterson, younger workers haven’t gone through the same adversities that their older colleagues have experienced yet so they’re less well-versed when it comes to coping. What’s more, they often turn to their peers for help instead of getting professional help.

Humans are social creatures. The fact that the average number of people workers get to interact with dipped by 51% since the pandemic started is already a huge red flag. At the office, employees interact with an average of 17 people. When working from home, it’s already a good day if one talks to 8 people - and only virtually.

6. Lack of Motivation

According to a study by Martec Group, job motivation for remote workers went down from 56% to 36% ever since they started working from home.

Aside from the aforementioned difficulties of working from home, remote workers become most demotivated when they’re not given a choice on where to work, according to Harvard Business Review.

When employees are lacking inspiration to work, they become less productive and are more likely to suffer from poor physical and mental health.

How Can Employers Help Prevent Burn Out?

Happy workers means more productive employees. This means that it is a wise move for employers to establish policies and programs that help prevent burnout for their remote workers. Here are some tips on how to achieve this.

  • Encourage vacations. Giving incentives to those who take time off and penalize those who don’t.
  • Strictly prevent access to work emails after hours.
  • Give your employees access to mental support, nutrition counseling, group therapy, and fitness classes. Also, make sure that they know how to use and avail of these wellness tools.
  • Limit the frequency and length of virtual meetings. It’s also a good idea to reduce requirements for video conferences.
  • Encourage teamwork and shared accountability.
  • Alter company system and structure to make remote working less stressful.

What Can Employees Do to Prevent Burn Out?

Remote workers also have the power to prevent burnout. Just follow the tips below.

  • Turn off your work notifications and log out your professional accounts after hours.
  • When you’re spending time with your family and friends, don’t let anything work-related interrupt your quality time.
  • Join virtual clubs, viewing parties, and networking events to establish social connections with other like-minded people.
  • Know your limits and only strive for what you can realistically do.
  • Prioritize self-care. Allot (News - Alert) enough time every day to do things that improve your health and well-being. This also includes doing something for leisure.
  • Establish a daily routine to help you turn on and off your work mode.
  • Take several small breaks throughout the day to decompress.
  • Go out every now and then to get some sunlight and fresh air.
  • Exercising releases happy hormones called endorphins so make working out a part of your routine.
  • Consider therapy or counseling when you’re feeling stressed and anxious. Journaling and meditation can be helpful too.
  • Ask your colleagues for help whenever you need it.
  • Let your family know when you’re working to avoid interruptions.
  • Practice mindfulness. Don’t check your personal messages and social media during work hours.

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