How to know if your remote team is burned out
By: Mady Peterson
Warning signs that your team is burned out used to be right in front of you — a once-energetic employee was showing up tired, staying late every night or suddenly eating lunch alone at their desk. But these days you might only see your employees face to face once a day on the computer screen.
With 42% of Americans now working from home full time, it’s harder to spot burnout. Managers must be intentional about identifying work from home burnout for the health of their team and business.
What happens when your team is burned out
Employee burnout is prolonged stress that can manifest in exhaustion, lost enthusiasm or people feeling like they don’t make a difference. Signs are not always easy to recognize in person, let alone on a conference call. Burnout happens when highly engaged employees begin to have low well-being without any support at work.
And it’s those engaged employees — your top performers — who are most at risk. They have to be on fire to burn out.
Forty percent of people say they’ve experienced burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey by FlexJobs and Mental Health America. The survey also indicates that employees are three times as likely to report poor mental health compared with how they felt before the pandemic.
Burnout can lead to actual employee turnover, especially your best people. Research shows it can cost up to twice an employee’s salary to replace them. And for people who stay on the job, burnout can lead to lower productivity and a negative effect on other team members. But through communication and support, managers can prevent their top talent from burning out while working from home. Here are eight specific signs managers can look and listen for to determine if their team is burned out.
8 warning signs of work from home burnout
1. Your employee has gone dark
If you don’t hear from an engaged employee like you used to, something may be going on. Were they always ready to go on Zoom, but now have turned off their camera? Did they actively contribute to calls, but are now mostly silent? Now is the time to check in and assess their risk of burnout. Put regular one-on-one time on the calendar to keep communication flowing.
2. They’re always on
If the green dot by their email shows that your employee is online at all hours — especially late at night or on weekends — they may be struggling to disconnect from work. Since stay-at-home orders began, workers have experienced more meetings, more internal emails and longer workdays, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. If you’re getting emails from your employee in the middle of the night, ask them about their workload and how you can help. Managers should also model what a workday looks like by avoiding after-hours communication themselves.
3. Your employee’s work isn’t what it once was
A decrease in output or quality of work can be a sign that your employee is overwhelmed or having trouble concentrating. Make sure expectations are clear, and split or delegate responsibilities to help them get back on track.
4. They’re complaining of headaches and less sleep
Work is already a significant source of stress, and non-work stress is at an all-time high. Employees are stressed at work about COVID-19, caring for children and loved ones, civil unrest and personal finances. Talk with your employee, and encourage them to take a mental health break from work if necessary.
5. They have a newly negative attitude
Remember that once-enthusiastic employee? A change in attitude can indicate burnout. Talk with them to root out the problem: Do they feel they’re being treated unfairly or left out of decision-making? Having a real emotional connection to work gives people a sense of purpose and energy, especially during stressful times. Reconnect them to their purpose by making sure they’re getting challenging work assignments and asking them for feedback about their newly remote role.
6. Your employee is taking more sick days
People who are experiencing burnout are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times as likely to be actively looking for a new job, according to a Gallup study. Check in with your employee, and be prepared to address work-related concerns.
7. Or they’re taking fewer sick days
Employees may be stressed about job security and hesitant to take time off — they do not want to appear expendable. Managers can provide reassurance by encouraging employees to use their PTO as needed and by taking time off themselves.
8. They say they’re burned out
Seems obvious, but make sure you hear it. Job burnout is an organizational issue with real consequences for your business. If your team is burned out, consider implementing an employee well-being platform that will not only measure risk, but also demonstrate care by reaching every employee with solutions and resources.
Limeade Well-being includes a burnout risk indicator, which identifies groups at risk for burnout and enables organizations to act quickly to prevent it.