Work-From-Home Fatigue: 8 Steps Leaders Can Take to Curb It
For newly remote employees, work-from-home fatigue is a very real and difficult challenge. But as a leader, you can help reduce its impacts using a few strategic tactics.
It’s been a long year since the pandemic hit and it’s safe to say that the novelty of working from home is wearing off for many professionals: work-from-home fatigue is setting in and causing problems for many employees.
In fact, a survey from Monster found that 69% of employees are experiencing burnout symptoms when working from home (up 20% from only a few months earlier). And yet, 59% are taking less time off than they normally would and 42% don’t even have plans to take time off to decompress.
What this tells us is that, while working from home can save time on commuting and provide more flexibility in people’s schedules, it also lacks a lot of the energizing factors offered by working in a traditional office and even presents some new challenges.
So, what exactly is causing work-from-home fatigue and what can leaders to do curb it?
Why Work-from-Home Fatigue is Impacting Employees
In order to develop strategies you can use to reduce the impact of work-from-home fatigue, you first need to understand the root causes that are driving it.
Lack of social interaction
Human beings are social creatures. We crave human interaction and socialization. In the office, this can include everything from water-cooler conversations to in-person meetings and small talk during our lunch breaks.
Being at work presents eight hours per day of human connection.
When you suddenly remove that from people’s daily lives, it takes a toll on our psychological wellbeing. And for the 20% of remote workers who indicate they struggle with loneliness, this is a jarring loss.
Lack of Separation
When you commute to work, the act of leaving your workplace and going home puts a physical and mental barrier between your work life and your personal life.
After all, the office is where you traditionally go to focus and work hard. And your home is where you go to unwind, relax, and be comfortable.
For many people, working from home makes it hard to compartmentalize the two. So, it can be difficult to draw that line between their work and personal lives, in turn making it feel like work is never really finished.
It’s not just the feeling that work is never really finished that contributes to work-from-home fatigue. A survey by Blue Jeans found that remote workers are actually logging an additional 3.13 hours of work per day.
This is partly because work is always close by when your home and office are in the same place. But it’s also a by-product of employees feeling the need to show extra productivity when working from home.
While video conferencing has become the norm these days—and is, in many ways, a great substitute for in-person facetime—it seems as though it can actually have an undesirable side-effect: “Zoom fatigue.”
There are a number of reasons for this, including over-exposure to your electronic devices as well as having to work harder to process non-verbal cues in a virtual world. For a deeper dive into Zoom fatigue, check out our blog article: How to Help Your Team Tackle Remote Meeting Fatigue.
Improper Home Office Set-Up
The pandemic caught a lot of us off-guard, which means we didn’t really have time to set up a functional home office. And many of us simply didn’t have the space.
As a result, a lot of employees don’t have a dedicated workspace or the tools they need to do their job properly.
This could mean they’re working at the dining room table, lacking an extra monitor, missing an ergonomic chair and desk setup, or more—all factors that contribute to a sense of work-from-home fatigue.
It’s not just work-related stressors that are fueling work-from-home fatigue. The reality is that the pandemic has generated massive global uncertainty, from the economy and personal finances to health, relationships, and what lies ahead.
This uncertainty has been incredibly tolling for people around the globe and contributes to an overall sense of stress and burnout.
8 Ways to Reduce Work-from-Home Fatigue
Now that you’re equipped with an understanding of the factors that are contributing to widespread work-from-home fatigue, we know what your next thought is:
What can you do as a leader to help reduce the impact of work-from-home fatigue on your employees and your business?
We’ve got eight suggestions for steps you can take to help make life a whole lot more enjoyable for your remote team members.
1. Encourage a New “Normal” Routine
As a leader, your team will take cues from you on how to go about their workdays. So, it’s important that you set the tone and encourage them to take on a “new normal” routine. This could include:
- Getting dressed in “work” clothes rather than comfortable ones so when they see you in virtual meetings, they recognize that you’re going about your daily routine as you would in normal times
- Encouraging them to take coffee breaks and walks
- Working normal hours and encouraging them to do the same
- Discouraging after-hours emails or calls unless absolutely necessary
As the stats show, employees feel like they have to over-compensate when working from home, so it’s important that you help support a normal routine for them.
2. Facilitate Office Banter Opportunities
Social interaction is a vital part of team dynamics. So, rather than discouraging chit chat and banter, do your best to encourage it.
This could include:
- Having casual conversations via Slack
- Having quick one-to-one touch-bases on a weekly basis
- Hosting team meetings each morning or afternoon to catchup on each others’ days
The key is to understand that non-work conversation is an important aspect of office life and is one that’s lacking when working from home. But by keeping it up, you can help keep your team’s spirits and morale up.
3. Support a Healthy Lifestyle
As a leader, you have an opportunity to support your team’s physical and mental wellbeing by encouraging a healthy lifestyle.
This can be done in a number of ways.
Mindfulness is defined as the ability to be fully present in and engaged with the current moment–our thoughts, feelings, sensations–without distraction or judgment.
It also helps us manage our emotions and channel them in a positive way, and it makes for a great way to take a mental break during stressful points in the workday.
There are some mindful practices you can share with your team to help them reduce stress and improve their mood.
Just share the following instructions with them:
- Paying Attention: Take a few minutes each day to focus on experiencing your environment with all your senses—touch, sound, sight, smell, and taste. For example, when you eat a favorite food, take the time to smell, taste, and truly enjoy it.
- Live in the Moment: Try to intentionally bring an open, accepting, and discerning attention to everything you do.
- Breathing Exercises: Try the 4-7-8 breathing method. Sit in a comfortable place, breathe in through your nose for a count of four, hold that breath to the count of seven, and exhale through your mouth to the count of eight.
- Body Scan Meditation: Lay on your back with your legs extended and arms at your sides, palms facing up. Focus your attention slowly and deliberately on each part of your body, in order, from toe to head or head to toe. Be aware of any sensations, emotions, or thoughts associated with each part of your body.
This type of meditative exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety levels and even increase productivity.
Support Physical Fitness
Physical exercise has been shown to reduce stress by giving your body a kick of endorphins as well as distracting you from your daily worries.
So, as a leader, you can help support your team’s wellbeing by empowering their physical fitness by offering a corporate gym membership or hosting virtual exercise classes that employees can do at home, such as yoga or body weight circuit training.
Educate Them on Healthy Eating
A study by the British Journal of Health Psychology showed eating healthy snacks made employees feel more creative, happier, and more engaged.
When your team is working in the office, you can help them eat healthy by stocking your lunchroom with healthy snacks.
This is more challenging when they work from home, but you can take steps to educate them about foods they can use to fuel their brain during the day, including:
- Bananas, apples, or other fruit
- Baby carrots, sugar snap peas, or other veggies
- Protein Bars
You can also use a service like Caroo to deliver care packages of healthy food straight to your team members, wherever they might be working.
4. Host Virtual Team Building Activities
For remote employees who might be suffering from loneliness and a sense of disconnection from their colleagues, virtual team building activities are a great way to get people together for some much-needed facetime and some socialization that’s focused on fun rather than work.
Your team might enjoy activities like:
- Virtual Code Break: With this high-energy cerebral team building game, your remote employees will split into virtual teams and compete against each other as they work to solve a series of puzzles, riddles, and trivia questions. They’ll need to communicate effectively and work collaboratively as they race against the clock collecting points if they want to be the winning team.
- Virtual Clue Murder Mystery: Using video conferencing software alongside Outback’s proprietary app, your group will split into teams, examine clues, review case files, and channel their inner detectives as they race against the clock to solve the mystery of who had the means, motive, and opportunity to murder Neil Davidson.
- Virtual Game Show Extravaganza: In this virtual activity, teams will work collaboratively to answer trivia questions with topics ranging from pop culture to sports, world history, and beyond. Teams will earn points for each correct answer. Whichever team has the most points when time runs out will be named the winner!
- Virtual Social Shuffle: Get to know your colleagues and build better connections with this ultra-social virtual team building activity for remote groups. Your group will learn fun facts about one another as you tackle a series of themed challenges together and engage in exploratory conversations.
- Virtual Team Pursuit: Help your remote team get re-energized by tackling fun virtual challenges with their colleagues. In groups, your remote employees will tackle a series of mental, physical, skill, and mystery challenges, earning points for each one successfully completed. Whichever has the most points when time runs out will be crowned the winners!
5. Be Flexible
We’re currently in the midst of unprecedented times. So, as a leader, it’s important for you to operate with unprecedented flexibility.
- Being accommodating of employees who need to handle personal matters during the workday—after all, this flexibility is one of the big benefits of working from home
- Offering time off to employees who seem stressed or fatigued
- Allowing flexibility on deadlines if employees are feeling overwhelmed
It’s important to remember that these challenging times won’t last forever, but the flexibility and empathy you show your employees now will have long-term benefits.
6. Offer Support in Creating a Better Home Office
Understanding that many employees don’t have a proper office set-up, you can consider offering support in creating a better remote work environment.
This could be offering a small amount of budget for things like new monitors, keyboards, headsets, webcams, and even decorative items like plants.
It could also be offering to cover or subsidize the cost of a flexible workspace membership.
This need for support also extends to making sure employees have the tools and software at home that they need to do their jobs effectively.
If you’d like to learn more, check out our article: 4 Tips and Tools to Equip Your Remote Employees for Success.
While not every organization will have a large chunk of budget to offer, anything you can do to help improve your team’s remote work environments will go a long way in boosting morale and making their working experience more enjoyable.
7. Keep an Open Rapport with Your Team
Maintaining open lines of communication with your team is absolutely vital right now. You can do this by:
Ensuring your team knows that you’re accessible if they need to talk or address concerns
- Getting proactive about checking in with your team members to make sure they’re feeling alright
- Being proactive in checking in on assignments and tasks and offering support as needed
- Conducting two-way performance management meetings so that you can collect feedback from your team about your performance as well as offer feedback on theirs—this can also help reduce feelings of uncertainty by letting your team know exactly where they stand in your organization and provide clear insights about their future trajectory in the organization
If you’re looking to implement stronger performance management processes in your organization, you might want to check out our Productive Feedback and Performance Reviews training workshop that will help you to deliver feedback more effectively, structure and format review meetings, have “tough” conversations, and set motivational goals.,
8. Encourage Time Off
The numbers have shown that people have a tendency to overwork when working from home. So, as a leader, it’s critical that you not only allow your team to take time off when they need to, but also to encourage them to do so.
After all, if a team member knows they have the support of their leaders in taking time off to rest and re-energize, they’re much more likely to do so.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a massive curveball to the working world. And for all its benefits, working from home also offers some significant challenges. But by getting proactive and taking the necessary steps, you can help reduce your remote team’s work-from-home fatigue and make their professional lives that much more enjoyable.
Have you been helping to reduce your team’s work-from-home fatigue? If so, what steps have you been taking? What has worked well and what hasn’t? Let us know in the comments section below!
Learn More About How You Can Use Virtual Team Building Activities to Reduce Work-From-Home Fatigue
If you’ve got questions about how team building and training programs can help curb work-from-home fatigue, reach out to an Employee Engagement Consultant.