OHS Canada Magazine

Five ways to reduce burnout risks for remote employees

The insidious danger of remote work: It’s time for leaders to step up


If clear processes are not outlined for staff, it is likely that employees will face one of the most detrimental results of remote work to date — burnout. (thodonal/Adobe Stock)

The move to remote work in some capacity has been widespread, and there looks to be no end in sight.

As some offices close to become a fully remote organization and other companies, such as Google, Microsoft and Apple roll out public hybrid return-to-work plans, the expectations of what a typical workday will look like are changing drastically.

Specifically for employees taking on fully remote positions for the first time, or adapting to a hybrid work model, it can be overwhelming to consider what is expected in terms of hours, output of work, and communication.

It is on employers and the leaders within each and every organization to not only clearly outline what is expected of employees and teams, but also exemplify these expectations in their everyday behaviour.

If clear processes are not outlined for staff, it is likely that employees will face one of the most detrimental results of remote work to date — burnout. As the lines between the office and home continue to blur, so do the once present boundaries between the workday and vital time for rest and leisure.

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Leaders in every industry must support their employees as they introduce them to a new work model, as well as clearly define workday expectations for new onboarded employees.

Moving forward, the right to disconnect is critical for all workplaces and leaders must support the following initiatives to not only maintain employee well-being, but ensure overall organizational success.

Tackling burnout: How to deal with stress in the workplace

Here’s five ways leaders can reduce the effects of burnout for their remote employees:

Instill company policies that promote time off

While the majority of organizations offer the minimum paid time off required by labour law, certain company cultures may make employees unwilling to take these days for fear of coming back to a greater workload than when they left, or being shamed or punished for taking well-deserved breaks.

Providing more than the minimum required paid days off and communicating the use of these days while actively reaching out to employees to encourage them to take their paid time off is vital for reducing burnout and ensuring employees are still stepping away from work, even when not working in a physical office together.

Set work hours, but trust employees to deliver based on their unique work rhythm

While work hours are important to set boundaries, certain companies create a culture that almost encourages overworking. It is seen as a sign of dedication, while those who log on when the work day begins and promptly sign out after 5 p.m. may face resentment from leadership and co-workers.

Ultimately, working longer hours does not equate to better long-term results and employee performance. Each worker also has their unique rhythm at which they work and leaders must trust that everyone can deliver results on their own schedules, whether that means working later in the evening or taking a shorter day every now and then.

Communicating a strong culture that values breaks, logging off at the end of the day and not answering emails on the weekend is critical to ensuring employees are well rested and are motivated each and every day.

Promote half-days and/or wellness days

Alongside paid time off, offering employees half days during the summer months to get out and enjoy the weather can be a great way to create a company culture built on wellness and balance.

For those who need a day off, but do not want to use up their vacation days or a sick day, encouraging the use of wellness days company-wide allows employees to put their mental health first and focus on life outside of work when need be. At Certn, we have proactively retitled “Sick Days” to “Wellness Days,” which encompasses physical and mental health and encourages our team members to take a day off, no matter the health reason.

Introduce employee benefits that focus on mental and physical health

Providing programs to employees, such as paying for gym memberships, funding therapy appointments and offering reimbursement on bike purchases to cut down on commuting are all positive changes that can go a long way in boosting employee wellness.

Even while working out of a physical office space, employees need to feel supported and offering multiple mental and physical wellness benefits ensures all needs are met.

Make sure that initiatives start at the top with leadership

Any initiative needs to be not only adopted and supported, but also exemplified by leadership first to ensure employees follow suit. Too often, organizations present time off or benefits programs to employees, but leadership does not utilize them, which can discourage employees from taking advantage.

Leadership must make the conscious effort to also rest, disconnect and set a strict out of office notice when not online, setting an example for employees across the entire organization.

It is time to set a new precedent for the workplace and redefine the typical workday moving forward.

Instead of focusing solely on the benefits to remote or hybrid work models, leadership should be ready for the potential strain this may place on employees and act proactively.

Putting employee needs first is more important than ever and can make a drastic difference in overall productivity, quality of work and innovation in the future.

The measures taken now will prove that when a team has a clear head and are happy, they can deliver far more impact.

Andrew McLeod is the CEO of Certn, the global leader in human risk intelligence solutions headquartered in Victoria.


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