Despite the assumptions, working from home can actually cause employees to feel more tethered to their work than they ever did in the office.
Prior to COVID-19, nearly 15% of people were already working from home. Now, that number has increased exponentially, with a new study revealing that 70% of employees are working remotely once a week and 53% are spending half the week away from the office. When the majority of employees are working remotely, organizations need to change the way they operate to ensure productivity remains high.
The pitfall of remote work
Flexible work arrangements lead to higher employee satisfaction when properly executed, but organizations that fail to set expectations and maintain communication can cause employees to easily silo and burn out.
Studies show that employees working remotely are 4.4 times more likely to experience burnout than those who work in a traditional office environment. When employees are given the opportunity to work remotely or flexibly, they often feel like they have to exert additional effort to prove that they are just as effective at home as in the office.
In an effort to maintain productivity, employers might also assign additional work to compensate for the fact that they can’t keep an eye on employees in the office. Everyone pushes so hard on the gas initially that employees overwork themselves and burnout much faster.
In addition to exerting too much effort intentionally, many remote employees might end up inadvertently overworking because there are no clear distinctions between what is work and what is life. Without clear boundaries, it’s hard for some employees to “turn off.”
Organizations can help their remote employees avoid burnout by encouraging a healthier work-life balance. Here’s how:
1. Check on employees frequently
Organizations should go above and beyond to make sure their employees are doing okay, and this isn’t limited to checking in on work progress. While it’s important to get status updates on projects, it’s also important to know what your employees are up to outside of work. For example, if an employee is working on the road. Checking in on your employees helps them feel like valued members of the organization as opposed to indebted to your organization’s flexibility.
2. Encourage PTO
When employees are working from home, they’re less likely to make the distinction between working from home and taking a real day off to take care of home life, or, better yet, take a vacation. Make sure your employees understand that the quality of their work is more important than working long hours answering emails late at night, putting time in on the weekend, and giving up vacation days. Encourage employees to take PTO, frequent breaks, and spend time with family.
3. Set boundaries
When employees work in an office environment, they are forced to implement work life balance when it’s time for a lunch break and at the end of the day when they have to pack up and go home. When employees work from home, there are no regulations to encourage them to leave their workspaces for a break or shut their computers for the day. Organizations can combat overworking by setting expectations for employees to take frequent breaks, sign off for a lunch break, and stop working at 6pm.
4. Determine a daily routine
In the office, it’s easy to stay on task absent from distractions. At home, it’s easy to get pulled away from work when you have the freedom to focus on personal tasks instead. While employees can (and should) schedule these personal tasks into their breaks, it’s important to have a clear schedule of when you should be at your computer and when it’s time to pause. Setting a daily routine to mimic the office environment can help employees stay on task and not work too much or too little.
5. Set aside time for team bonding
Loneliness is the biggest struggle for remote workers, especially for those who live alone. Even if employees are working remotely, it’s important to encourage team bonding to strengthen collaborative relationships and combat loneliness. Team leaders can host virtual happy hours and other online meetings that have nothing to do with work but rather getting to know each other and catching up on everyone’s lives. Organizations should also encourage remote employees who live near each other to meet up and collaborate on tasks in person when it makes more sense than to do so online.
6. Set up a designated workspace
78% of remote workers use their home as their primary place of work. However, working at home also means they are subject to distractions like children, pets, and household chores. If an employee chooses to work from home, it’s important to set up a designated workspace so as not to bring work into spaces meant for relaxing, dining, family time, etc. This helps employees distinguish workspaces from living spaces. When it’s time to double-down and focus on an important task, some employees may forgo the home office for the actual office, a coworking space, or a cafe to avoid distractions.
The role of communications technology
Communicating and collaborating effectively is a challenge for 21% of remote workers. It’s vital to have a communications platform in place that helps employees collaborate anytime, anywhere, so they can get work done more efficiently.
The average worker spends an hour a day simply bouncing between apps on their computers to complete tasks. That’s an hour a day that could be put into meaningful work if organizations had a better communications tool in place. Too much technology slows down productivity
In the era of remote working, deploying a UCaaS platform like RingCentral is key to ensuring streamlined communication. UCaaS, or unified communication as a service, combines team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone into a single, cloud-based application. Users can access their messages, calendars, and files whether they’re at home or at the office. It simplifies communication roadblocks by enabling a faster workflow, because all collaboration is executed on one application.
On average, remote workers say they’re 10% more productive at home versus at the office. Organizations can help their employees achieve this productivity potential by communicating effectively and setting guidelines to encourage a healthy work-life balance.
Originally published Jun 30, 2020, updated Jan 18, 2023