A recent Gallup survey of employed individuals showed that 28% of the respondents feel burnt-out most of the time. A related report they published, titled Employee Burnout: Causes and Cures, states that 63% of this “always burnt out” workforce is highly likely to call in sick regularly and 2.6X more likely to be actively looking for other jobs.
Today, during the coronavirus pandemic, one of the main causes of employee burnout is remote working.
Why remote working causes employees to burnout quicker?
A cross-continental survey of 96 international firms shows that before the coronavirus pandemic, 70% of the respondents were already working remotely at least once a week. 53% were working from home for at least half the week. But today, the coronavirus pandemic has forced thousands of companies to facilitate a complete Work From Home arrangement for their staff. While this type of daily remote working set-up seemed ideal at the outset, now more employees face intense stress from working remotely.
Although remote working offers employees the comfort of a home, healthy food, and reduced travelling expenses, it also introduces a variety of stresses, such as:
- Screaming kids
- Demanding partners
- Inescapable house chores
- Unstable home internet
- Pressure from managers to put in extra time at work (now that employees don’t have to deal with travelling time)
- Absence of socialization & workplace engagement
- The frustration of quarantine & isolation
Apart from these, there’s another reason that adds immense emotional and mental pressure on employees, causing them to burn out faster when they work from home – the relentless team meetings.
A survey of American employees shows that 69% of respondents attend an average of five meetings per week. Worse, 31% attend more than six meetings per week.
Another study shows that 27% of respondents find video conferences are barriers to communication. According to this research, 42% of employees hardly contribute anything of value to these meetings. Instead, employees often indulge in idle talk and online interactive games to make up for the lack of physical engagement. Not only does this affect their productivity, but it also increases the stress of not finishing work on time, thereby increasing their vulnerability to burnout.
Steps to prevent burnout through proper team meeting management
While team meetings can’t be permanently done away with while we’re working remotely, companies can still implement good meeting practices to ensure that team meetings don’t become burdensome to employees.
Here are some things you can do:
Identify if a meeting is essential
Not all team meetings are essential. Some can easily be skipped or postponed. It’s the manager’s job to ensure that a comfortable number of meetings are scheduled in a week.
To know if a meeting is essential:
- Study the agenda.
- Check the relevance of the meeting to the completion of the project.
- Identify high and low priority meetings
If it isn’t very important, just put a pin in the meeting for now and revisit it later.
Choose the attendees wisely
Often, managers tend to call everyone in the team for every remote team meeting. But this isn’t necessary. Not all meetings are relevant to each individual, and calling people who are unrelated to the agenda is wasteful and harmful for the team.
Account for the temporal boundaries
Temporal boundaries refer to workday differences such as work timings, time zones between countries, daylight savings time, and so on that exist between multiple companies, cities, and countries.
One of the biggest disadvantages of remote working is that it blurs these temporal boundaries. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, more employees are being forced to attend team meetings on weekends or take late-night phone calls, which wasn’t the case before the pandemic. Often, the wrong belief behind such occurrences is that employees are home and hence free to attend work calls/meetings at any time. This has become one of the reasons for burnout.
A good way to prevent meeting-induced burnout is to keep these temporal boundaries in mind when scheduling team meetings. Don’t hold meetings at times when one set of employees will have to stretch themselves beyond their work hours, or don’t invite such employees for the meeting and hold a separate session for each time zone or office hour.
Use tools that don’t experience mid-meeting failures
Glitches during video conferences, loss of internet connection and dropping out of meetings, screens getting hanged, faulty presenter views, and hacking by anti-social elements are just some of the many problems that plague remote meeting technology. Tools like GoTo Meeting, Skype, and Google Meet, amongst others, have all at one point in time experienced these technical failures. Some – like Zoom – have fallen victim to cybercriminals, compromising millions of documents and passwords in the process.
These types of faulty remote team meeting tools can cause a lot of stress to employees and make the entire meeting feel burdensome. By choosing a software/tool that doesn’t suffer from so many technical issues, you can alleviate some of the stress that your employees face and prevent burnout.
Share the agenda in advance
Often, meeting attendees waste a lot of time briefing their team about the agenda of the meeting. By sharing the agenda in advance and asking the team to read through the document and prepare for the meeting, you can directly dive into the meeting and not waste any time.
This tactic can also prevent any feelings of disgruntlement or annoyance that are common when some employees are prepared for the meeting, but others aren’t.
Implement flexibility when planning your meeting
Not everyone in a team can do the same work shift. Some team members will have young children or senior family members to care for, making it difficult for them to attend early morning or late-night meetings. Asking them to either log-in early or stay online late for the meeting can disrupt their lives and ruin their work-life balance. This is one of the surest ways for an employee to burnout.
As a manager, you have the power to make things easy for your team by making your meetings flexible. So, if your meetings at the office used to be for 45 minutes, you could reduce them to 30-minute remote meetings; or if you used to hold meetings first thing in the morning when everyone was at the office, you could hold remote meetings mid-morning or post-lunch.
Check-in with your team to identify signs of burnout
You’ll be able to spot the signs of burnout very easily even in a remote employee:
- Inability to sign-off from work at the right time.
- Logging-in at unhealthy times (early morning, late night, weekends).
- Detached attitude towards work.
- Extreme stress, nervousness, and irritability.
- Job dissatisfaction and increased complaints.
- More mistakes on-the-job.
- Reduced attention span.
- Alienation and isolation from team members.
- Frequent headaches, colds, stomach aches, and so on.
- Feeling drained and extreme tiredness.
After you’ve identified burnt-out employees, you can help them recuperate by offering greater workplace flexibility. This could be in the form of shorter working hours, flexible log-in and log-out times, paid sabbaticals, time-off from meetings, and so on.
Set the right expectations and help employees with their workload management
Companies don’t prefer remote working because they have lesser control over how their employees use their time during work hours. Many managers tend to be more demanding with their employees. This can cause burnout.
One way to prevent this is to use your team meetings to clarify the expectations from each team member. If you notice that an employee displays signs of burnout, speak to them and ask them about their typical workload during remote work. Clarify what you expect from them and what their priorities should be. Help them manage their work better either through better allocation of work or re-scheduling of deadlines.
If none of these helps, you can always consider shifting the employee to a team where their competencies could be a value-add. The change in work can be refreshing for them.
Talenx.io provides comprehensive reports about an employee’s performance, competencies, and match with other jobs, projects, and teams. You can use these reports to re-assign your team member to another team and help them overcome burnout.