Tips for Remote Workers?—?How to Avoid Loneliness and Burnout

By Sara Pollock

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It’s Monday morning and Jane, a marketing associate, begins her workday by pouring a cup of coffee and getting cozy in her home office. Jane is a remote worker. With the flexibility of hours and location, Jane can work from anywhere at any time as long as she keeps her manager in the loop.

Recently, remote and flex work has moved from a progressive perk to standard practice. A study found that 70% of professionals work remotely at least once a week, while 53% work remotely for at least half the week. A flexibility study discovered greater workplace flexibility has improved workplace engagement, retention rates, productivity, effectiveness and job satisfaction. With all of the benefits from working remotely, the struggles are often forgotten.

With remote and flex work increasing in the modern workplace, managers are met with new challenges. Some struggles managers have to account for are loneliness and burnout.

Combat the Loneliness

According to the State of Remote Work 2018 study, 21% of workers believe loneliness is the number one challenge with working remotely. Loneliness is at epidemic levels in America. A survey discovered Generation Z (adults ages 18–22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations. Generation Z is also the most likely group to take a chance on remote work.

Being away from the office and coworkers can make remote workers feel lonely at times. Some workers believe their moments of loneliness impact productivity, connection to teammates and all-around wellbeing.

What can managers do to combat loneliness in their employees? Start remote workers off with healthy habits. One way to do this is by being a part of a community. Many online communities exist for remote workers to interact with one another and learn from other remote workers who have been in this work style for a while. These members will understand what remote workers go through and that loneliness is something most isolated workers experience. This option is best for managers that have workers in different locations.

If your organization allows flex work or has most of its employees living in a similar area, you may want to try an “in-the-office” day. On these days, remote workers would be encouraged to come in.

Gallup poll of 9,917 employed U.S. adults identified remote workers that come into work at least once per week as the happiest. Also, employees who work mostly-remote, report a slightly higher rate of engagement, they were more likely than full-remote or full-office workers to say they had a work best friend, and that their job included opportunities to learn and grow.

Managers may need to do a combination of tactics to make remote workers feel like they are still a part of the team.

How to Keep the Balance

With all of the notable benefits of working remotely, an unexpected struggle these employees face is burnout. Individuals who work flex or remotely often feel more grateful to their employers. However, that feeling can lead to remote employees burning the candle on both ends. According to Christina Maslach, an APS Fellow and professor emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, there are six components of the workplace environment that can lead to burnout:

  • Workload
  • Control
  • Reward
  • Community
  • Fairness
  • Values

Employees end up with burnout when one or more of these areas of their work doesn’t match their needs.

How can managers help their remote employees combat these feelings? Check in with them. Go beyond project updates and ask them how they are feeling about their work or if you and your employees feel comfortable discussing your personal lives, catch up.

Another thing managers can do is be mindful. If you have a remote worker who travels frequently, make sure to check their schedule before setting meetings or asking for documents. Also, keep track of their working hours. Full-time remote employees in New York City save about 343 hours per year by not having to commute, and those working remotely 50% of the time get back 172 hours. It’s been found that remote employees have been using these extra hours to work longer hours. It has also been found that they answer emails outside of work hours, put time in on the weekend, come in sick and don’t take vacation days. Managers can encourage these workers to slow down. Encourage them by supporting mental-health breaks, taking vacations and spending time with family.

Burnout is harder to monitor and catch in remote workers. Your organization should set up a method of checking in and seeing the signs of burnout.

This article was originally published on the ClearCompany Blog.

About Sara Pollock:    
As the head of the Marketing department, Sara makes sure that ClearCompany’s message, products, and best practices reach and assist as many HR practitioners as possible.

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