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The #1 reason for work from home burnout

How anxious do you feel when you’re not online?

(4 min read)

What is burnout?

Do you spend most of your day responding to e-mails, being prompt on chat threads and attending audio or video calls?

Do you sometimes feel like the whole day went by and you haven’t even started on real work, your work?

Do you find it difficult to completely ‘switch off’, even when you’re not working?

If any of the above applies to you, even vaguely, then you’re soon going to experience burnout, at least for some time, if you haven’t already that is.

In 2019, the World Health Organization upgraded burnout from a “state” of exhaustion to “a syndrome” resulting from “chronic workplace stress”. Not surprising since in a 2017 survey by Kronos, 95% HR leaders agreed that burnout was not just hampering productivity but also retention.

The constant collaboration trap …

Since then, our world at work has experienced an increasing overlap between people’s ‘work’ and ‘outside work’ lives. The acceptance and inclusion of the whole self at work is already underfoot. More recently, we’ve all been jolted into a pandemic that has made work-life integration more real than ever. Today, there are no healthy boundaries between the professional and the personal, only healthy habits. And unhealthy ones.

One such unhealthy habit that is easy to fall prey to, especially when working from home for the first time, is collaboration overload. This may sound ironic at first but actually is quite logical. When working from home, employees are likely to feel compelled to ‘always be available’ so as to project an appearance of productivity in the absence of physical presence.

All talk and no work makes Jack a dull boy …

What compounds the issue is the tendency for managers and team members of newly remote teams to substitute physical presence with mainly intrusive communication mediums such as chat, calls and videos. And mainly for constant instructions and updates that feel like micro-management. It’s no surprise that employees who are ‘online’ at all times risk burnout when working from home much more than if they continued going to the office.

As you can imagine, constant use of intrusive communication tools leaves knowledge workers with little or no time to actually work by themselves and produce their best work. They are unable to experience a state of ‘flow’ i.e. the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.

Not only does lack of flow lead to emotional exhaustion and a sense of inefficacy, it also leads people to work on tasks that are more immediate than those that are more impactful. The result is a busy team that’s always flirting with burnout.

Save team check-ins for real work …

The most impactful and indeed healthy teams are the ones that deeply value each other’s time and work-life commitments. They replace constant accessibility with a collective rhythm and asynchronous communication tools that allows them to make the most of their time together. To have real conversations about real work and real people. Basically, they stay connected but don’t get in each other’s way! Want to know how? Read our blog about 5 easy ways to make the most of your team check-ins.

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