Countering employee burnout in a hybrid work workplace takes a different approach. Here’s how to do it...
The COVID-19 pandemic set entirely new standards for the workplace.
Companies had to completely digitize complex workflows in an extremely short period of time, often using ad hoc solutions to do so. Employees had to adapt to new expectations while still maintaining productivity. And just about everyone had to accommodate new home, family, and health obligations while still earning a living.
Flash-forward to today, and it’s clear that company leaders and employees alike are now re-evaluating their priorities. Employees ask for flexibility and autonomy, while company leaders look for opportunities to remain competitive in an uncertain work environment.
Today’s companies can’t follow a one-size-fits-all approach to managing their teams. The demand for flexibility means that managers and supervisors have to address employee work arrangements on a case-by-case basis. The hybrid workplace has evolved as a response to this reality, yet despite this newfound flexibility, burnout remains a risk.
What is Employee Burnout?
Burnout is a particular type of work-related stress. Its most noticeable characteristic is a sense of reduced accomplishment and motivation. At its worst, it can lead to a loss of personal identity altogether, paving the way for depression.
Burnout itself is not a disorder or a medical diagnosis. However, research shows a clear correlation between burnout and mental and physical health. Many other factors, like personality traits, family life, and medical conditions can amplify feelings of burnout and make it harder to address.
Burnout typically sets in over long periods of time. While many employees can rightfully describe short periods of intense overwork as burnout, the most serious negative effects occur after months of continuous stress.
Some of the work-related causes of burnout include:
- Lack of Control - When employees feel like they don’t have any sense of agency over their work for long periods of time, burnout can set in. Being unable to set your own schedule, assignments, or workload can contribute to this feeling.
- Unclear Expectations - Employees who don’t have clear guidance on what their employers expect of them are more susceptible to burnout. They may be unable to tell what constitutes acceptable performance in the workplace.
- Dysfunctional Work Relationships - Toxic relationships of any kind contribute heavily to stress, and work relationships are no different. People who feel bullied, undermined, or underappreciated are more prone to burnout than others.
- Unpredictable Extremes of Activity - When job expectations shift from monotony to a chaotic flurry of activity, staying focused requires a great deal of energy. Putting this level of energy in for a long time can cause burnout.
- Lack of Social Support - People who feel isolated at work or at home are far more vulnerable to the negative effects of stress. Social support groups help people deal with stress in healthy, positive ways.
- Work/Life Imbalance - People who chronically overwork and sacrifice time they would spend with friends and family are more likely to report feelings of burnout than others.
Evidently, some jobs are more burnout-prone than others. However, employers can and should implement policies designed to address the causes of burnout consistently across all teams and functions.
What Leaders Can Do About Employee Burnout
At first glance, hybrid work might not seem like a serious contributor to employee burnout. Employees overwhelmingly favor the hybrid approach – seven out of ten employees say they want flexible work options to continue after the pandemic – but that does not eliminate the causes of burnout in hybrid work environments.
Many of the factors that contribute to burnout correlate highly with hybrid work environments. Company leaders need to address these issues and implement company policies that encourage transparency and openness about the risk of burnout.
Establish Boundaries Between Work Life and Home Life
Many company leaders are surprised to find out that a slim majority of employees with children prefer working in a physical office. This suggests that remote and hybrid employees don’t feel like they have clear boundaries between work life and home life, which can lead to unclear expectations, lack of control, and work/life imbalance.
Hybrid employees deserve the ability to set their own boundaries exactly the way in-office employees do. In today’s hyper connected technological environment, it can be easy to assume that anyone who is online must also be available. Supervisors and their teams will have to work together to establish clear rules about availability.
Remote work monitoring software helps make this possible by allowing supervisors to monitor Internet activity while gathering data for the company’s time tracking system. Employees can freely set their own hours and communicate their availability without feeling like their bosses are intruding on personal time.
Put Productivity Targets in Place Before Going Hybrid
Many company leaders are afraid that remote and hybrid work hurts productivity. It’s a reasonable fear to have, but the truth is a bit more complex. Company leaders can’t expect to undergo major digital transformation without impacting productivity – but that impact is neither guaranteed nor permanent.
Leaders who deploy employee performance monitoring systems prior to digital transformation efforts are in a much better position to keep productivity targets high. They can use remote employee monitoring data to support the hybrid workflow and give employees the resources they need to maintain performance standards.
Simply telling remote and hybrid employees to maintain productivity targets without providing the necessary infrastructural support won’t work. Supervisors need to monitor Internet activity before and after hybrid work begins and use the data they collect to adjust performance targets and identify opportunities for improvement.
Implement Data-Driven Hybrid Productivity Tools
Managing hybrid teams presents unique challenges compared to traditional teams physically located in an office. The way enterprise leaders approach those challenges correlates heavily with the risk of employee burnout in the long term. Deploying the right solution from the start is vital to continued hybrid productivity and success.
While many company leaders have shown great interest in remote time tracking software like Time Doctor, for instance, it’s not the best employee tracking software available for hybrid employees. One of the main reasons why is that TimeDoctor pricing is suitably low for small and mid-sized businesses, but doesn’t include the customization and analytics features that enterprises need.
In order to analyze hybrid employees’ productivity efficiently, leaders need data-driven solutions that monitor internet activity without infringing on employee privacy. A fully transparent, high-performance performance monitoring system allows enterprises to identify and mitigate the risk of employee burnout in a proactive way.
Start Using Data to Address Employee Burnout Risks
While many employees will freely admit to suffering burnout, a significant number will keep their concerns to themselves. Company leaders need to monitor their employees’ work and generate reliable, personalized analytics that reflect individual employee performance in order to catch and address burnout before it becomes a problem.
This kind of data-driven approach gives companies the ability to address employee obligations well before burnout sets in. And this is not only great for employees, but companies as a whole.