Remote Employee Burnout in the COVID Era: How IT Teams Are Coping

Posted on January 21, 2021 How-To Guides

Get out of bed. Go to your home office or the kitchen table to work. Get off work and make dinner. Go to sleep. Repeat.

Does this sound like your routine recently? Doing a lot of the same things can cause burnout, and it can happen to you or your employees.

Keep reading to learn how IT teams can cope with working remotely while avoiding burnout.

Shift in Focus

IT teams need to shift some of the focus of the workday. In an office, it can be easy to focus on how long people spend at their desks working on projects. However, that can be harder to track remotely.

A recent study found that remote employees can be just as productive. So it’s important to focus on how employees can get work done, rather than how long they work.

As an IT manager, it can be hard to make this focus shift. But if you force employees to stay at their desks after they finish work, that may lead to burnout.

Your employees are home, and they may want to spend time with their families. So if an employee finishes their work two hours early, encourage them to stop working for the day.

Schedule Changes

With entire families working and doing school online, IT teams should also be more flexible with work hours. When kids are in school, it’s easier for employees to work the traditional 9-5 during the week.

However, employees with kids may not be able to do that when working remotely. Kids may need help getting lunch. Toddlers and babies may need more close supervision.

Some employees may not be able to work the normal schedule. As long as a remote employee can get their work done, it doesn’t matter if they start at 6 am or 9 am.

Of course, different schedules can make it hard to communicate. But forcing employees to follow a schedule at home can be hard, if not impossible.

Review Time-Off Policies

If you haven’t recently, you should review your company’s policies for taking time off. All of your employees should be able to take time off and know that option is there.

That way, if they or a relative gets sick, your employee can take time away from work. Even in an office, it can be hard for some people to take time off. However, it can be necessary for avoiding burnout.

When working remotely, your employees are around their families all of the time. So it can be hard to ignore issues at home, making workers less productive.

If possible consider offering more time off, even if unpaid. That way, employees can take the time they need to focus on personal stuff and avoid burning out.

Set Remote-Friendly Expectations

Successful remote IT teams have a variety of expectations, and they can differ from those you had in the office. Remote work can have a lot of unique distractions, like laundry and other household chores.

You can’t expect employees to stay at their desks for eight hours a day. While you should still have expectations for your IT team, you have to be realistic.

Make sure you have remote-friendly policies regarding deadlines and work hours. Then, you can still hold your employees accountable, but you can show you understand the challenges of working from home.

Give your employees a chance to adjust to a new system. Make sure everyone follows security and other essential procedures but also be flexible.

Engage With Individuals

You should also take time each week to talk to individual employees. If you notice someone isn’t performing as well, you can ask if they have any work-related stress that you can address.

Ask about their personal life and if that may be stressful. If an employee does have some added stress, you can talk things out and see if that helps. Reassure them that you want them to succeed.

You can also ask employees how they prefer you to communicate with them. While some may prefer a phone call, others may want an email so that they can respond at any time.

Give your employees some leeway as they get used to remote work. Of course, that time can be hard if you have a lot of projects, but then your team can reduce burnout and stress.

Communicate Regularly

One of the benefits of working as an IT manager is that you probably already have an infrastructure to help you communicate with remote employees. You can use something like a private cloud to send documents and messages.

That way, you can communicate with individuals or your entire team. You should communicate with your employees at least a few times a week.

If your company gives you more updates about projects or returning to the office, you can pass on that info to your employees. Open up your message for questions and concerns so that you can address those issues.

Then, you can reduce the chances of your employees suffering from burnout. You don’t need to communicate each hour, but regular check-ins can help.

Encourage Rest

If you want to have a successful remote team, you should also encourage rest. The COVID-19 pandemic has put a lot of stress on everyone.

While rest has always been important, it is even more crucial than ever. Employees may not move much or leave their house. That cabin fever can build up and make employees feel even worse.

After months of social isolation, rest is a great option for remote employees. But don’t just tell them; be an example.

Take a day off occasionally so that employees can see it’s okay. Make sure you don’t respond to any work messages and that it’s a day of rest. Then, your employees will see rest can be good.

Adjust the Workload

If you can, adjust the workload for your team. You will still have projects for your company, but see if you can take on fewer projects or distribute the work differently.

When employees need to take time off, having a lot of work when they return won’t help avoid burnout. Consider talking to others in your company about how you can adjust the work.

If you can’t reduce the workload, see if you can push deadlines back. Give your employees more leeway with how they complete projects.

Having a manageable workload is essential for avoiding burnout when working remotely. You may not be able to make a huge change, but something small can do a lot.

Focus on Strengths

If you can, give employees some choice regarding the tools they use or the projects they complete. Perhaps you have someone who can work well with Amazon S3, so you put them on projects related to that.

And maybe another employee is better at using HTML to work on websites. So you give that employee more of the website projects.

Giving your employees projects within their expertise can help avoid burnout. You’re letting people work on things they’re good at and enjoy, so they can be more productive and even look forward to work.

If you don’t know everyone’s strengths, ask people what they’d prefer to work on. Then, you can assign tasks that won’t stress people out as much.

Listen to Concerns

A successful remote IT team should also involve listening to concerns. If your employees come to you with issues about work or their home lives, listen to them.

Some people want to feel heard and seen. Even if you can’t change anything, it can help your employees to talk about their issues.

And if you can help solve the problem, you can do that. You can switch projects around or encourage your employee to work hours that are better for them.

Listening to employee concerns is always important, but doing so now can help everyone avoid burnout during the COVID pandemic.

Be Personable

Whether you talk to employees individually or as a group, be more than just a boss. Talk about your personal life and how you’re coping with working remotely.

If you watch shows on Netflix, ask employees for recommendations or share your favorites. Showing you’re a human can make employees remember there’s more to life than work.

You can also sympathize with other working parents if you have kids. And if you don’t you can talk about what you do after you stop working.

Have Virtual Happy Hours

Another big part of burnout when working remotely can come from a lack of community. When you work in an office, it can be easy to ask someone if they want to grab lunch or get drinks after work.

But you may need to work harder in that community. Consider scheduling a weekly video call where employees can chat about whatever, from personal lives to their hobbies.

Then, you can maintain that work bond with your team. But you don’t have to worry about exposing you or your team to others in public.

Avoiding Burnout

As an IT manager, you have a lot on your plate. And with a remote team, it can be even harder to keep employees engaged and ready to work.

Luckily, successful remote teams have a few tricks you can use. Then, you can make sure employees still enjoy their jobs and don’t suffer from burnout.

Do you need some IT tools to help manage your remote team? Contact us to learn more.

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