At this point, you’re probably shaking your head wondering, “So, can you even prevent burnout in the first place?”
The short answer is, yes, you can. You can absolutely nip the symptoms of burnout in the bud before they escalate into mental or physical exhaustion.
The long answer is, yes, but it takes work. Remote work demands cooperation from everyone involved: your manager, your CEO, your teammates, you name it. When you take relationships to a digital platform, you must be willing to put forth a bit of additional effort.
The key is not interpreting the “additional effort” as extra time spent working.
Additional effort means taking care of your mental and physical health.
Additional effort means setting boundaries and communicating your needs.
It means you must normalize that stress happens and discover effective methods of navigating it.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways remote employees as well as managers, leaders, and founders can prevent burnout among remote teams.
Learning to Prevent Burnout Before it Becomes a Problem
By nature, a strong leader should boast a high EQ, or emotional intelligence. Any individual in a place of power within an organization must have the ability to understand and manage emotions to alleviate stress, empathize with employees, and communicate effectively. Emotional intelligence can acknowledge and defuse the potential risk of burnout. To utilize these skills, it’s paramount the leadership suite gets to know employees as people first instead of just numbers or words on an org chart.
What makes your team members tick — is it money to provide for their family or building the foundation of their career legacy? Are they in an entry-level position with the desire for more seniority or for more hands-on experience? Are they happy in their role?
Burnout is highly personal, but it generally revolves around the concepts of work and high-stress.
If you’re not happy in your role, it will show in your work.
If your teammate is bored with their workload, their disinterest and lack of motivation will impact their output.
And, if a team member is struggling with something in their personal life, and that something trickles into their work life, it will show there, too.
It’s key for leadership and teammates to engage in routine, non-work related conversation to learn more about one another. Once you understand who your fellow employees and managers are at a personal level, signs of burnout become increasingly identifiable—even when conversing remotely, without face-to-face interaction.
What do your teammates do when they’re not working? Between meetings, make it a point to share in a bit of small talk. This is the only way to understand what motivates your peers and how they communicate.
Some of the easiest ways to segue into small talk are to enter the conversation with a few topics in mind. Discussing what interested your teammate in your shared industry, what their favorite part of their job is, or the most challenging aspect of their job can open the door to conversations beyond work.
For instance, if you ask a teammate about why they’re interested in sports management, and they reply that they’ve played baseball their whole life, your follow-up question has been served to you on a silver platter. What’s their favorite team? When did they start playing? In a few short minutes you can learn more about your teammate’s background and drivers in business to better understand their workflow.
Forming stronger relationships can also help alleviate the loneliness yourself or your team members have been facing. Small gestures of kindness, such as weekly check-ins and virtual team bonding events, can make a massive impact in learning to prevent burnout.
Normalizing Mental Health Conversations at Work
Despite the fact that you’re reading this ebook, conversations about mental health are far from common in the workplace. In fact, in the typical work environment, employees won’t reveal things they fear will make them look weak or overly-emotional. This includes feeling burnt out.
As many as 85 percent of employees1 believe there is a stigma attached to bringing up their mental health at work. Another 58 percent say they wouldn’t feel comfortable telling their manager if they were diagnosed with a mental health issue.
Think about how many of your peers are hiding their anxiety, depression, trauma, and stress due to this stigma.
Think about how much you’ve buried in fear of looking unprofessional.
It’s time to let that stigma go.
Sure, that might be easier said than done. But normalizing mental health conversations at work starts with you. Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re too tired. Too stressed. Too upset. You’re human and emotions are natural. Mental stress can manifest in so many ways, and once it begins affecting your physical and emotional being, it’s time to take a step back.
This is another area of improvement for virtual team bonding and learning more about your teammates. Of course, we’re not suggesting you sit in a circle and share your innermost feelings with your coworkers. Rather, make it okay to admit to your teammates, “Yeah guys, I’m feeling a bit unmotivated today.”
Then, consider what might make the situation better. Do you need help with a tough task? Are you unstimulated by your current task? Do you just need a strong coffee and a few relatable memes? Could you use a day off? Ask.
Organizations must create a company culture that accepts these honest statements and provides the much-needed relief you’re after. Again, tackling burnout is a top-down issue. Your company culture should lift you up when you’re feeling down, not stifle your emotions. And remote work shouldn’t be the cause of your burnout in and of itself.
Ask tough questions. Implement a Slack channel that exists solely to share inspirational quotes and funny dog GIFs. Inquire if your employer offers therapy or mental health support as part of your benefits. And if that seems like too much for you to take on, simply ask for a one-on-one with your manager.
Stigmas cannot improve until they’re brought to the light, disproved, and disregarded. The shift must start now, for the better mental health of every employee across the globe.
- Aubrey, Sarah. “How to Create a More Supportive Workplace.” The DPG Blog, 3 Oct. 2017, www.dpgplc.co.uk/mental-health-issues-anxiety-stress-create-supportive-workplace/.