Remote working is not new, though its adoption became more widespread among companies that can offer it as part of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The benefits of granting work flexibility to staff are significant:
- Employees are able to reduce spending on commuting, eating out during lunch breaks, and childcare services.
- The time and effort they save from commuting to work allows them to finish tasks sooner and take on more work.
- Job satisfaction and gratitude toward employers also increase. This is because flexible work arrangements also let employees accomplish non-work-related tasks, like bank runs and staying with their kids during school holidays.
However, work from home arrangements are not without downsides. Let’s take a close look at one of these in particular: burnout.
Wait, burnout? I thought staff had more time to do the same amount of work.
That’s assuming staff and management keep to the same workloads. However, a phenomenon called “intensification of work” often occurs instead. According to research, remote staff often feel a debt of gratitude toward their employers for the ability to work flexibly. This leads to:
- Employees volunteering to do more work as a way of reciprocating the benefit they receive from their employers
- Employers enabling employees to do more work
- Employers requiring staff to do more work
When left unchecked, extra work can lead to exhaustion, which is one of the three major contributors to job burnout (the other two being cynicism toward the job and feelings of being ineffectual at the job). According to another study, job burnout is “a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job.” That response can take physical and emotional forms:
- Finding it hard to sleep and wake up
- Feeling tired, even after having slept
- Losing appetite
- Having heart palpitations and/or shortness of breath
- Finding it difficult to concentrate
- Suffering dizziness and/or headaches
- Finding work once previously enjoyed as either dull or too heavy
- Dreading having to start the workday
- Easily losing one’s temper and having outbursts of anger and frustration
Naturally, burnout has many negative impacts on individual staff members, teams, and the organization as a whole:
- Reduced quantity and quality of work
- Poor results and ineffectiveness
- Higher incidence of teamwork disruption and conflict with coworkers
- Job dissatisfaction and diminished commitment to the work and/or the company
- Emergence of job withdrawal symptoms: absenteeism, impromptu vacations, people showing signs of wanting to leave the company, and people actually leaving the company
What must be done to prevent job burnout?
Social exchange theory proposes that workers tend to exert extra effort to “return the favor” granted to them by being allowed to work remotely. Thus, when employees show this tendency, managers must keep staff from doing more work than what is ordinarily expected of them. They must not enable staff to do so, nor make employees feel that they indeed owe the company a favor.
Instead, managers must clearly communicate that rather than owing the company anything, employees owe it to themselves to make the most of their flexible arrangements. Leaders ought to encourage their staff to redirect their energy toward taking care of themselves, their families, and their communities, especially during these stressful times brought about by lockdowns and the economic downturn.
To help employees relish their experience of gratitude, managers can also ask them how they are doing outside of work. When staff members experience being seen by their leaders as people and not as mere cogs in the corporate machine, they encounter mirrors. That is, employees who stress themselves out too much over productivity are gently reminded that they are individuals with their own personal goals, needs, and desires. They’ll recall that work is meant to enhance life, not detract from it — and that remote work arrangements are meant to improve their lives even further.
Organizations across Missouri depend on Umbrella to help them use IT to effectively implement remote work policies. To learn how you can do the same, contact our IT specialists today.