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Remote Worker Strategies to Identify Burnout

Remote work can be isolating and can lead to burnout if you’re not careful. It’s important to recognize the signs of burnout and take steps to address it before it becomes a more serious problem. 

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that is caused by prolonged and excessive stress or isolation in the remote workplace. It is characterized by feelings of cynicism, detachment, and a sense of ineffectiveness or lack of accomplishment. It affect anyone, regardless of their job or industry, and can lead to a variety of negative outcomes, such as decreased productivity and overall dissatisfaction with work.

How can I recognize it?

Possible symptoms of remote work burnout can manifest in a variety of ways including:

This is often the most common symptom of work burnout. You may feel drained, physically and emotionally exhausted, and have little energy or motivation to complete work tasks.

Burnout can cause a decrease in productivity and job performance. You may struggle to focus, complete tasks efficiently, or find it difficult to meet deadlines.

Burnout can cause you to become detached and cynical about work. You may develop a negative attitude toward work tasks and colleagues, feel disengaged, and have a sense of detachment or disconnection from your job.

Burnout can make it difficult to concentrate and stay focused. You may find it challenging to stay engaged in tasks, complete work assignments, or pay attention during meetings.

Burnout can cause mood swings and irritability. You may feel more easily frustrated or annoyed by coworkers, clients, or customers, and may find it difficult to remain calm in stressful situations.

Burnout can also cause physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, and stomach problems.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to take them seriously and take steps to address them. This may include talking to your manager, seeking support from colleagues or friends, or seeking professional help from a therapist, counselor, or medical doctor. It’s important to prioritize self-care and take steps to prevent burnout before it becomes a more serious problem.

When was it first identified?

The study of worker burnout can be traced back to the 1970s, when a group of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley began studying the effects of stress on human health and well-being. These researchers, Herbert Freudenberger and Gail North, were among the first to use the term “burnout” to describe the physical and emotional exhaustion that many workers experience as a result of chronic stress.

Since then, numerous researchers and academics have studied worker burnout and its impact on individuals, organizations, and society as a whole. Some of the most prominent researchers in this field include Christina Maslach, Michael Leiter, and Cary Cooper, among others. These researchers have conducted extensive studies on the causes and effects of burnout, as well as strategies for preventing and managing it. Their work has helped raise awareness of the importance of addressing burnout in the workplace and has led to the development of numerous interventions and resources designed to support workers and promote well-being.

What has been discovered recently on burnout and remote work?

In recent years, researchers have started to focus on the issue of burnout specifically among remote workers. Here are some prominent researchers who have studied burnout in remote workers:

Sabine Sonnentag, with the University of Mannheim in Germany, conducted research on the effects of remote work on employee well-being and has found that remote workers are at a higher risk for burnout due to factors such as blurred boundaries between work and personal life and reduced social support.

Ariane Ollier-Malaterre’s research at the University of Quebec in Montreal focuses on work-family interface and work-life balance, with a particular emphasis on remote work. She has found that remote workers are more susceptible to burnout due to factors such as isolation and lack of social support.

Veronica Rabelo is a researcher at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. She has conducted research on the relationship between remote work and burnout, and has found that remote workers may be more vulnerable to burnout due to factors such as increased workload and difficulty in setting boundaries between work and personal life.

Tammy D. Allen’s research, at the University of South Florida, focuses on the impact of technology on work and well-being, with a particular emphasis on remote work. She has found that remote workers are at a higher risk for burnout due to factors such as reduced social support and a lack of structure in their work environment.

These and other researchers are shedding light on the unique challenges and risks associated with burnout among remote workers, and their work is helping to inform the development of strategies and interventions to prevent and address burnout in this new era of remote work.

remote professional sitting on sofa engaging with work on laptop

How can I avoid remote work burnout?

Following are some strategies to help you avoid remote work burnout.

Connect with others

Connecting with colleagues or friends can help you avoid burnout. It’s important to build a support network and to have people you can turn to when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Setting up a time to connect with someone virtually can help ease feelings of working in a silo. In addition, working with others on collaborative projects can help you feel more connected and engaged with your work.

Manage Stress

Stress is a major contributor to burnout, so it’s important to manage stress effectively. Strategies for managing stress include prioritizing tasks, practicing relaxation techniques, and learning to say “no” when necessary. Finding ways to stay organized and keep track of deadlines can help reduce stress and prevent burnout.

Set boundaries

Setting clear boundaries between work and personal life is crucial to avoiding burnout. This might include establishing specific working hours and sticking to them, or turning off work-related notifications outside of those hours. Avoid getting up in the middle of the night and working if this is outside your established working hours. It’s crucial to make time for personal interests and activities outside of work that help you decompress and recharge.

Stay Active

Take regular breaks and stay physically active. During working hours, some experts recommend taking stretch breaks from sitting and eye breaks from screens at least every 50 minutes. Longer breaks such as half days or full days off may be necessary. By taking care of themselves, remote workers can stay energized and focused, which can lead to sustainable productivity and success.

Connect Work with Purpose

Finding ways to engage with your work can help turn a task into a passionate pursuit. Consider what you are passionate about, areas where you are highly skilled, and talk with your boss about opportunities to utilize your unique contributions within the department or organization.

How to Talk to Your Boss About Remote Work Burnout

Talking to your boss about remote work burnout requires honesty, openness, and a willingness to work together to find solutions. By approaching the conversation in a constructive and proactive manner, you can work together to address the issue and prevent burnout from affecting your job performance and well-being.

  • Schedule a meeting: Arrange a meeting with your boss to discuss your concerns about work burnout. This will allow you to have a dedicated time to talk, and ensure that your boss is available and prepared to discuss the issue. 
  • Be honest: Be honest and open about your feelings and experiences. Explain how work burnout is affecting you and your job performance, and share specific examples of situations that have caused you stress or anxiety. 
  • Offer solutions: Come prepared with potential solutions or ideas for how to address the issue. This can include suggestions for changes to your workload, work schedule, or work environment, or ideas for support and resources that may help you manage stress and prevent burnout. 
  • Focus on the impact: Rather than placing blame or pointing fingers, focus on the impact that work burnout is having on your job performance and well-being. This can help frame the conversation in a more positive and constructive light. 
  • Listen to feedback: Be open to feedback and suggestions from your boss. They may have insights or solutions that you haven’t considered, and may be able to provide support or resources to help you manage work burnout. 
  • Follow up: After your meeting, follow up with your boss to ensure that any agreed-upon solutions or changes are being implemented. This can help ensure that you are both on the same page and working together to address the issue. 

For more training for remote workers, sign up for the Remote Professional Certification. In this certification track, you will learn more about strategies to help you maintain work-life balance to avoid burnout in the remote workplace.

Important: This post does not provide medical advice, rather it is intended for informational purposes only. This post and information contained within is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site.