No matter what way you slice it, 2020 has bee, for lack of a better word, pretty intense. The coronavirus pandemic has defined the year. Climate concerns abound. A presidential election is stressing everyone out.
Additionally, a huge amount of the workforce is laboring remotely. If you’re working from home, you are likely well aware of how stressful that can be. If you’re overseeing a remote team trying to work together, the threat of stress and anxiety is amplified.
Here are the burnout facts — as well as what a leader can do to combat them.
The Threat of Stress, Anxiety, and Burnout
Before COVID-19, 83% of U.S. workers reported suffering from work-related stress. Work problems have been a top anxiety trigger for a long time. Remote workers have always struggled with things like unplugging and distractions.
The pandemic only served to exacerbate these existing problems.
Suddenly, employees found that they couldn’t leave work “behind” and go home each day. Their work was their home. They lived, breathed, slept, relaxed, and worked in the same space. This 24/7 existence in the same environment can make burnout a serious issue over time.
There’s no end to the pandemic in sight. Therefore, leaders need to help their teams manage these issues. Here’s how:
Focus on the Positive
Many challenges come with remote work. However, as a leader, it’s important to focus on the positives.
Help your team see the benefits of a remote work scenario. For years, working from home has been seen as a perk. Those with disabilities have been able to find gainful employment through countless work-from-home job opportunities.
Ask your employees how they are making the best of their work-from-home situations. By focusing on the positive, you encourage a better outlook on their current circumstances.
The act of being aware is a powerful tool in the workplace. When applying for a job, self-awareness can be a critical factor. When working the job itself, being aware remains essential. This is especially true for remote work, where everything in your life can blend together.
As a boss, encourage your team to stay mindful as they work from home. This should be done from multiple perspectives. For instance:
- Be mindful of others: If you visit the office or have to work out of the house, take steps to control your behavior. Use elbow bumps, keep hand sanitizer handy, and so on.
- Be mindful of yourself: Examining yourself in a non-judgmental manner is important. It’s a key to overcoming anxiety, in particular.
- Be mindful of your environment: Find a dedicated workspace at home. Try to set boundaries between work and personal life. Avoid distractions while you work.
By practicing mindfulness, your team can stay focused. They can also remain aware of potential issues before they become detrimental.
Breaks are important for remote work success. It’s recommended to work on a task for no more than two hours at a time. Encourage employees to take breaks. They can use these to:
- Get fresh air.
- Indulge in a hobby.
- Do nothing at all.
Taking breaks like these is a great way to manage stress.
Unplug After Work
If you’re a leader, it’s tempting to try to get the most out of your team. However, if you want them to remain effective and productive, you must stay holistic in your approach.
Help your staff focus while they’re working. Then, encourage them to unplug when they’re done. Let them turn off notifications, shut down computers, and clock out mentally. This will give them space to mentally process and recharge for the next day.
Try Virtual Commutes
Microsoft has officially introduced the concept of the virtual commute. The concept involves taking time before and after work to adjust one’s mindset. Employees can listen to music or an audiobook. They can read. They can pray. They can do nothing. Basically, they should do whatever they used to do on the way to and from work.
Rather than always being in “work mode,” encourage your employees to start and end each day deliberately. Have them take a dedicated amount of time to clock in and check out.
Helping Your Team in Trying Times
Managing stress and anxiety is challenging. Feeling burned out can be overwhelming. As a leader, it’s up to you to help navigate your team through the trials of working during a pandemic.
You can’t control your employees’ responses to their situations. However, you can equip them with the tools and encouragement to survive and thrive — even when working remotely.