When your commute is only 30 seconds long and doesn’t even require pants, it’s easy to think that a whole lot of stress is gone. And, sure, that commuting stress is gone, but so is your time to sit alone and listen to a podcast.
Working from home can cause a different kind of burnout. One, where you don’t know when work begins and ends, and where you never really have any time off. You’re always at the office, so therefore, you’re always working.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You can set clear boundaries between work time and play time, but that only works if you have a supportive manager.
So, managers: Here’s how to be supportive.
It’s almost never an emergency
Some industries have traditions of long work hours. People know this going into it. Fine. Some businesses have busy seasons where everyone knows that working 80 hours a week is expected. But when you tell your employee that they have to work on this NOW because it’s an emergency, it’s probably not true.
I had a boss once for whom everything was an emergency. She would often call me at 4:30 and say, “[Super important executive] needs this report tonight!” At first, I stayed late and did the reports, and noticed that the emailed reports remained unopened for days. Then I got smart. She would tell me it was an emergency, and I would then call the executive’s admin and say, “I understand Jane needs XYJ report. When does she need that?” The response was never tonight. Frequently, it was many days or even a week away.
I would then pack up my things and go home, and do it the next day.
But I had the advantage of a long tenure and a good relationship with tons of people within the company. Your employees may not have that. Don’t use the word emergency unless it truly is one. And keep in mind what a real emergency is. That varies from business to business, but not everybody who says they want something immediately actually needs it immediately. A little pushback can be a good thing for maintaining healthy boundaries.
Maintain an office-like schedule
Now, this is coming from the management side, and not from the practical side. Working at home during the shutdown means that life isn’t normal. If you’re trying to juggle child care and work, working a 9-to-5 schedule can be impossible. But don’t expect your employees to respond to your 10 o’clock emails.
This can be a hard thing to do. Laura M. Giurge and Vanessa K. Bohns write at Harvard Business Review:
Creating clear temporal boundaries often depends on the ability to coordinate one’s time with others. This calls for leaders to aid employees in structuring, coordinating, and managing the pace of work.?
It’s important to make it clear what your expectations are and that employees aren’t required to respond to things at all hours of the day. Don’t reward people who are constantly working–they are going to burn out. Instead, tell them to take a break.
Keep everyone up-to-date
What’s happening with your company? When will things go back to normal? Are layoffs in the future? Did you get a Payroll Protection Loan? How will that impact schedules? If you know any of the answers to these questions, share them!
It’s far less stressful to know what is going on than to sit and wonder what is coming next. Keeping your employees as up-to-date as possible can help reduce their burnout.
Of course, there are things that you and your employees can do to help, such as get enough exercise and eat properly, but don’t turn into your employees’ nanny by trying to control every aspect of their lives. Help them how you can, and work on these things yourself.
Your Work-From-Home Employees Are Burning Out. You Can Help originally appeared at Inc.