Your Work-From-Home Employees Are Burning Out. You Can Help

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 futureDid 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.

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2 thoughts on “Your Work-From-Home Employees Are Burning Out. You Can Help

  1. Love the point about “emergencies.” Remember the old poster: “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”?

  2. I definitely agree with your post on all points. I have been a remote worker since the onset of the pandemic (March 2020) and have often felt burnt out. In my research, I have found many studies that indicate that the work/life balance is impacted heavily for employees that work from home, and that most people reported working longer hours than they did when they could ‘punch out’.

    I’ve been hit with several “emergency” situations over the years, and to add to your suggestions, I would also recommend confronting the requestor directly. For me, in many cases this has had the effective of revealing the true timeframe that the request is expected, but it also help develop my personal assertiveness and establish a mutual respect between my superiors and I… “I will do this to the best of my ability, if you respect my time”.

    Maintaining an office-like schedule is also a very important point, especially to again, maintain that work/life balance. Constantly shuffling back and forth to the computer, or worse, bringing the computer to the bedroom, can really affect family life and set a precedent that you’re willing to work at all times, which you shouldn’t be out of respect for yourself and family.

    Finally, yes.. communication is as important if not more important for remote workers than it was for brick-and-mortar environments. I would add that communication needs to be intentional and meaningful as to not become noise (and ultimately end up in a folder because of an email rule entitled “TL;DR”).

    Very good post and wise information for employee and employer alike!

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