By Mike James
Remote workers are prime candidates for burnout? Why? They are more likely to put in grueling hours that aren’t tracked or recorded. There is little doubt that working from home requires discipline. But often the spotlight is on the idea that remote workers have an opportunity to skimp, not on the fact that they overwork and underreport their hours.
A recent study by Cardiff University, covered by the Mail Online, examined 15,000 UK employees and found that those who work from home are more likely to put in extra hours compared to their office-based counterparts.
Professor Alan Felstead, who led the study said, “The evidence suggests that remote workers are over-compensating to prove to their colleagues they are not in their pyjamas at home and prove to their employers they are a safe pair of hands willing to go the extra mile in return for the discretion an employer gives them to work at home or in a remote location.”
Managers need to understand that overworking is a problem for remote employees. As well as recognizing the problem, they need to find ways of supporting remote workers and culling excessive hours. If they don’t, remote workers will end up feeling resentful and burn out.
Here are four essentials to ensure your remote workers stay focused, but don’t burn out.
Monitor Workload and Working Hours
Managing workload is key to ensuring your remote workers aren’t over-scheduled with tasks. While working from home allows employees a certain amount of flexibility with the times of day they put in the work, encouraging set hours will help to prevent your remote staff from working to excess. Scheduling software and task management software can help you to monitor productivity and hours.
Encourage your remote workers to establish a routine and help them to create and keep boundaries around their working hours. Regularly discuss workload and set clear expectations.
Relationships and collaboration in the workplace has a huge impact on productivity and employee satisfaction. Remote workers can easily begin to feel disconnected.
Last year, IBM ended its decades-old remote work policy and brought its remote workers back into the office. Why? Apparently, the realization that collaborative effort is highly dependent upon well-developed personal relationships was behind the move.
Yahoo banned its employees from working at home in 2013. Though many commentators say the real issue facing Yahoo was unproductive workers (who are just as unproductive at the office as they are at home). Some IBM employees are citing the same reason for the U-turn on remote working, believing it to be a downsizing exercise.
Despite the fact that some big companies have bypassed telecommuting programs (Google and Apple) or abandoned them (Yahoo, IBM, Bank of America), many more business thrive with them. Fostering collaboration is perfectly do-able with remote workers and remote teams, but the value of face-to-face meetings shouldn’t be overlooked. Schedule face-to-face meetings intermittently wherever possible.
With the right balance, collaboration between remote workers can be just as powerful and meaningful as those in the office. Check out some of the best practices for remote collaboration here.
Establish Seamless Communication
Communication between manager and employees is crucial for optimum productivity, employee engagement, and as a means of recognizing the signs of burnout. Communication can be good or bad regardless of whether the employee is in the same office or in another part of the world.
Communicate with your remote workers regularly and understand the signs of burnout. It will be harder to spot in remote employees but keep an eye on decreased productivity and any wane in enthusiasm. It’s your job as manager to pay attention to all of your employees, whether they are working in the office or not.
Establish a system of communication that works for your employees and for different situations, such as emails, phone calls, video calls and conference calls.
Research by Cardiff University on remote working and its consequences found that “while remote working is associated with higher organizational commitment, job satisfaction and job-related well-being, these benefits come at the cost of work intensification and a greater inability to switch off.”
Work-life balance is a big problem for remote workers, especially those who work from home (as opposed to those choosing to sit in a library or a coffee shop). Encourage your remote employees to understand the traps and find ways to prevent burnout.
The fact is working from home should bring a better work-life balance (not the other way around). Don’t ignore the issues employees face when working from home. Encourage open communication and remind your remote employees to build in breaks and set boundaries. Here are 3 ways to encourage a better work-life balance for your remote employees.