Lauren Hanzel September 14 14 min read

We’re Remote but Everyone is Burned Out: Here’s What’s Happening

Burnout. It’s been a buzzword in the working world, especially over the past year and a half. As offices shut down for remote work, the initial thought was that it would mean more flexibility and better work-life balance for employees, right? 

Well, it’s not that simple. 

Remote work has significantly changed the concept of a flexible schedule, by eliminating factors such as employees’ commutes, the need for extra childcare in some cases, and the anxiety of being in an office all day. Although remote work has given rise to plenty of employees desiring remote work to the point of quitting their jobs when management required them to be back in the office, it isn’t necessarily a stress-free environment.

In a recent survey conducted by Monster.com, they found that 95 percent of workers are considering switching jobs, 92 percent are considering changing their careers to a different industry. The top reason was burnout. 

When focusing on specifically remote work over the course of the pandemic, 67 percent of people surveyed by Indeed believe that their feelings of burnout have increased during the pandemic. On the surface, the shift to remote work has revolutionized opportunities for employers to find talent and for employees to find jobs. Yet there are still many areas that are falling short, causing people to feel burned out and unfulfilled in their working life.

What Exactly is Burnout?

We’ve all been stressed from time to time at work, but there’s a fine line that employees are typically familiar with, leading them to descend into complete burnout. It can happen long before you have a nervous breakdown. 

According to an article from Forbes, burnout is described as “a state of emotional and physical exhaustion that is brought upon by long periods of constant unrelenting stress. It renders you feeling depleted and dejected.” The lack of motivation, constant fatigue, and trouble staying focused are telltale signs of burnout. 

What Contributes to Burnout?

There’s a variety of reasons why burnout can be happening for an employee. A majority of workers that shifted to remote work found it easy to change their work environment. For others, shifting to remote work into a less than ideal environment exacerbated the amount of stress and unpredictability associated with the pandemic. 

When determining what factors contributed to high levels of burnout, the initial disorientation in environment is only the beginning. 

Workers Don’t Have Downtime

For a typical office worker, you commute to the office every day, have a specific time set aside for lunch, and the occasional break throughout the day to chat with coworkers. With remote work, there is no boundary between your life at home and the office. 

Although workers are saving an average of 54 minutes a day without a commute, there’s a sense of separation between work and personal life that’s lacking. Before the pandemic, the drive to work served as a mental space to prepare for a new environment. Now, rolling out of bed and working at the kitchen table in pajamas all day can cause people to feel the constant need to be online and available for work. There is suddenly no room for the boundary between your role as an employee and your personal life, leading to “role spillover.” 

Along with commute time, there were the little moments for workers like a lunch break and moments to walk to the break room to catch up with coworkers. With remote work, employees are working longer hours, answering more emails, and feeling as if they can never disconnect. The combination of the lack of mental boundaries and breaks for employees creates the ideal situation for burnout to hit employees. 

The Average Meeting Time is Longer

Have you ever been on a zoom call that was scheduled for 15 minutes on the calendar but ended up going 45 minutes or even an hour and a half? You’re certainly not alone. 

With so many different meeting platforms, it feels as if every moment not actively doing a task is filled with a virtual meeting. According to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, the length of meetings has increased from 10 to 45 minutes on average. Combine the anxiety of constantly being watched on screen, sometimes being recorded, and the potential technical difficulties like lagging or disconnected audio, it’s no wonder that we’re all feeling Zoom fatigue.

Productivity Is Up but So Are the Hours Worked

Plenty of employees have found that they feel more productive when working from home, but for some, it comes at an extreme cost. According to a survey done by OnePoll, employees voiced that they felt a constant pressure to be available at a moment’s notice with 67% of them feeling like they had to be accessible all the time. It comes as no surprise that along with that issue, 65% explained that they worked longer hours

Despite workers feeling as if they can’t catch a break from the constant push notifications, zoom meetings, and deadlines, many don’t feel like they have the luxury to take time off. This mindset is worsened by 63% of workers feeling that time off is looked down on by their employer. With all of the pressure to perform at your best all the time, employees are pushing harder than ever, eventually to a breaking point that can be devastating both mentally and physically. 

Workers Are Asking the Real Questions

Although burnout is never good, the influx of burnout among remote employees has caused them to evaluate their working environment, and even their careers. It has given people the opportunity to reevaluate their health and understand what has triggered dips in their mental health to help combat burnout when they see the symptoms. 

The typical 9-5 work life in the office has been flipped on its head in response to remote work. It means the possibility of flexible hours and moments to be more productive at the times a worker feels best, yet this can quickly turn into an all-consuming lifestyle when the boundaries blur, giving way to the feeling of working and ending in nothing but a burned-out employee with little motivation. 

As employees have reflected on feelings of burnout, it’s caused them to begin questioning the role of their company in their wellbeing. Reevaluating and even changing careers to mitigate burnout has begun to rise, leaving employers to question what their next actions should be. 

Take Control of Burnout 

Burnout won’t be a condition that you can fix by going on one vacation or taking an hour to rest. It’s about assessing your work life and understanding what’s hurting your mental and physical health to prevent burnout entirely. 

This might mean taking regular breaks throughout your workday to create a consistent schedule in your life. Taking up mindfulness hobbies such as meditation, yoga, or journaling can help you release stress and promote a healthier lifestyle. 

For employers, now is the time to start asking employees for their feedback on their mental health in respect to work. With 56% of employees feeling like they can’t approach the HR department to discuss burnout, there’s a lot of communication improvements to be made. Although there are ways employers can help prevent the burnout of their employees, such as the ones discussed here, it needs to start with open communication. 

Without being able to openly communicate when they are not at their best, employers are setting the company and its employees up for failure. This simply leaves everyone feeling burned out and unmotivated by their mission. 

Above all, by encouraging an environment for employees to honestly voice their concerns and feelings of burnout, you’ll be on your way to creating an environment built on a healthy culture. Finding the right employees that can help strengthen an open and healthy culture can be a long process, but with HubSearch, it doesn’t have to be. If you need help finding the next great fit for your company, contact us below. 

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