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The situations are different among all employees because some of them feel more productive, while others are starting to feel stir crazy. Since many people spend most of their time at home, especially those that are single, they lack social exchange and interaction, which is crucial for mental balance. 

So, HR specialists must identify employee burnout and help them cope with it and recover from it. As a leader, you shouldn’t forget about asking team members about their mental health and really listening to them because empathy can go a long way. It’s easier to pay attention to burnout signs, try to resolve the issue, and retain remote employees, rather than look for a new employee in a mad rush.

What is Employee Burnout?

As per the World Health Organization, burnout is a syndrome that results from chronic workplace stress. When experiencing it, people often feel energy depletion/exhaustion, increased mental distance from their job, and reduced professional efficacy. Also, a person who encounters burnout often feels like they can’t do their best anymore. But, simultaneously, they don’t necessarily feel like it because they’ve hit rock bottom by burning themselves out.

As for the primary employee burnout symptoms, the researchers point out three following ones:

  • emotional exhaustion;
  • depersonalization;
  • reduced personal accomplishment.

Burnout is not the same as stress; it comes in different degrees and manifests via various mental and physical symptoms. These conditions often include high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, anxiety, cognitive decline, etc. Recognizing burnout when it happens is good, but it’s better to prevent it from happening at all. 

 

Identifying the 12 Stages of Employee Burnout

stages of employee burnout

Psychologists Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North came up with the 12-stage burnout model, some elements of which are evident among many remote employees today:

  1. The compulsion to prove oneself: demonstrating worth obsessively; constantly proving oneself; never feeling good enough; wanting to do more, better, and faster.
  2. Working harder: frequently working late nights and early mornings; staying in a permanent work mode; finding it hard to switch off. 
  3. Neglecting needs: saying goodbye to caring for or about oneself; not sleeping enough; not eating healthy; lacking social interaction; forgetting about things one enjoys (like reading or going for walks with loved ones).
  4. Displacement of conflicts: dismissing problems due to the inability to face confrontation; pretending like conflicts don’t exist.
  5. Revision of values: work becomes the only focus.
  6. Denial of emerging problems: becoming aggressive and cynical; denying real reasons for being in that mood; neglecting to acknowledge the impending difficulties. 
  7. Withdrawal: avoiding social life.
  8. Odd behavioural changes: witnessing odd behavioural changes within oneself; denying the changes when speaking with loved ones, but knowing the truth deep down.
  9. Depersonalization: feeling like all efforts are meaningless; seeing both others and oneself worthless.
  10. Inner emptiness: feeling empty inside and looking for the things to fill up this emptiness, such as overeating, alcohol, or drugs.
  11. Depression: feeling lost, unsure, hopeless, and exhausted all the time; not caring about the things in life about which one usually cared so much. 
  12. Burnout syndrome: experiencing a total and mental breakdown; needing full medical attention; officially burning oneself out. 

 

Employee Burnout Signs: What to Look Out For?

When communicating with employees, ask them about their moods and feelings. Discuss their latest achievements and wonder how they feel about them. If you know that they’ve done their tasks excellently, but their response has nothing to do with satisfaction or positivity, they may be experiencing burnout.

If the remote employee often asks for sick leaves, tells about frequent headaches, and you can hear tiredness in their voice, these are the physical symptoms of an overworked person who is experiencing burnout. 

Changes in professional habits are also a sign of employee burnout. For example, if Linda starts to switch off her camera during meetings and Sam starts to ignore team communications, then it’s time to discuss these changes with them. 

If the person is stressed, it’s hard for them to process information quickly. So, if your team member is repeatedly asking the same question although you’ve explained it in different ways, make sure to ask them about how they feel about your response. 

A sudden change in attitude toward work and decreased productivity or work quality is another employee burnout sign. Also, pushback on deliverables and a decrease in response and follow-up velocity are the early signs that an employee is struggling.  

What are the main reasons for employee burnout related to remote work?

  1. unfair treatment at work
  2. overwhelming workload
  3. lack of clear communication from managers
  4. scarcity of manager support
  5. excessive time pressure

These factors are closely related to how a leader or HR specialist treats their team and whether there are measures aimed at preventing employee burnout. In case you don’t have an HR manager to deal with this task, your employees might be at risk. 

It’s hard to engage remote employees if they are experiencing burnout, but you can help them overcome the challenges if you understand how to keep them motivated. It’s about how leaders inspire their remote teams and establish connectivity and collaboration among their employees. 

Employee Burnout Statistics: Key Numbers

  • 76% of remote workers agree that workplace stress negatively impacts their mental health;
  • 48% of remote team members lack emotional support at work;
  • 47% of employee burnout causes happen because of increased workload, 39% due to challenges with balancing work and personal life, 37% because of lack of communication, 30%—time pressure and a lack of clarity regarding expectations, and 28% of burnout reasons are related to performance expectations. 
  • 37% of remote staff members are currently working longer hours than usual since the pandemic outbreak;
  • 42% of people working from home say their stress levels are high or very high;
  • 56% of distant employees agreed that work flexibility is the most effective way a company can support them;
  • 31% of remote employees would like to have access to webinars about mental health topics at their workplace. 

How to Prevent Employee Burnout?

Since the stages of burnout are there for a reason, the managers have to prevent employee burnout. We’ve gathered some of the effective practices you can adopt to stop remote employee burnout before it advances:

  1. Accept the problem. Unfortunately, a high rate of employers still thinks that burnout isn’t a real thing. Nevertheless, the managers that strive to avoid a toxic work culture educate themselves on the topic, find out what triggers burnout, and what they can do to prevent it. As a business owner, you can invest in mindfulness programs, offer mental health-related perks, and show empathy. Your effort will pay off in increased employee productivity and decreased turnover.
  2. Encourage boundaries. An overworked person is an unmotivated person. Therefore, it’s necessary to take small steps like helping employees create boundaries, like setting the time when they don’t have to check their emails.
  3. Use different forms of communication. Having Zoom meetings several times a day, especially on the topics that can be addressed via messages, isn’t wise. Too frequent meetings often trigger fatigue among remote employees, so opt for juggling different communication tools depending on the problem or question you need to address.   
  4. Mind workload. Remote employees often complain about the increased amount of tasks and the inability to handle them in 8 hours. This leads to poor work-life balance and makes team members tired and unmotivated. The leaders must delegate work correctly and avoid pushing employees to work 12-14 hours per day. Also, avoid sending too many emails with and without a reason because they’ll keep piling up sooner or later. 
  5. Establish trust and offer control. Micromanagement isn’t a good idea because remote employees are more productive when they can control their tasks and set priorities themselves. It’s necessary to build a culture of accountability and show your team that each one of its members can create schedules on their own and take breaks when they need to. It’s about giving enough room for taking solutions on their own and helping employees out when they’re asking about it, but not making them feel like they’re under the radar all the time. 

Conclusion

The stages of burnout are real, and more and more remote employees find themselves coping with certain mental health issues. Preventing employee burnout isn’t an easy thing, and it can’t be done in one click. It requires significant effort and constant support of the activities that can help employees overcome the problems they’re struggling with. 

However, handling employee burnout yourself if you’re a business owner is a nasty problem. You have to constantly pay attention to the employees and timely notice employee burnout signs. This can distract you from primary business tasks. Besides, without having sufficient experience, it’s hard to notice employee burnout signs because you don’t see them every day.

Having a remote HR is a forward-looking solution because the specialist will take care of the issues related to preventing employee burnout. This will free up your time and resources, enabling increased employee performance and high-quality results. 

HR Bit helps companies make their teams happier and prevent a top-performing employee from becoming an overworked person. With us, you won’t have to search for a new employee in a hurry because the previous one burned out. We’ll manage your remote employees, keep an eye on each team member and take action to establish an inspiring and healthy working atmosphere.  

 

 If you’re interested in cooperating with HR Bit, just contact us to schedule a call.