Remote work fatigue is a real issue for many workers. A recent survey by the Society of Human Resource Management shows that 35% of remote employees are tired or have little energy. About 32% of the workers report feeling this way the majority of the time.
A separate survey conducted by Digital Ocean a little while ago in 2019 confirms these findings. At least half of the respondents to that survey reported feeling fatigued.
The biggest contributor to work fatigue is the blurred line between work and home life. Often for remote workers, these lines no longer exist. There’s no clear end to office work. It’s a situation that often leaves workers spending more time doing office work than they’d have imagined. Thereby, potentially causing mental and physical exhaustion.
Another common cause is work overload. According to a recent study by Blue Jeans, remote workers log an additional 3.13 hours per day. Those often praised for being “productive” log in an extra 4.64 hours each day to reach the “praise-worthy” productivity levels. That’s 11 to 13 hours a day working, often without direct human interaction.
It’s also no secret that sitting in front of the computer all day, interacting with colleagues via videoconferencing tools such as Zoom, can be exhausting. “Humans are social and need typical social contact,” says psychologist Jeffrey Kassinove of Therapy West. Additionally, it’s not easy to read social cues and body language via video. Therefore, workers use much more mental focus when conferencing via video. This can be very draining.
Above all, workers are more likely to pick up poor lifestyle habits when working from home, further worsening fatigue issues. “We do the exact opposite of what we should, from waking up late to eating a lot of junk food and constantly switching between tasks,” says Richard Chaifetz, a neuropsychologist.
Although it’s impossible to eliminate remote work fatigue completely, organizations can take steps to help employees minimize the problem. Consider the following;
Communication is perhaps the most potent tool in managing remote workers. Ensure your company sets expectations on working hours, availability, correspondence channels, and meeting schedules from the beginning. This leads to less micromanagement, which gives workers peace of mind while keeping everyone on the same page. This also helps to minimize extra working hours as employees availability is clear.
If everything is organized, you won’t need to wake your employees in the middle of the night for Zoom calls or ask them to work a little longer into the night to complete a “few things.” Break down your overall goals into small achievable tasks and into micro-tasks. Then work on the micro-tasks one at a time. It significantly reduces the risk of burnout and helps ensure deadlines are met.
It’s crucial that you trust your employees and even more important that they trust you. You should have confidence that your employees will always do their best to get the job done. But at the same time, the employee must know that you have their best interests at heart. They’re less likely to burn themselves out if they know you care about their wellbeing.
Unfortunately, sometimes remote workers just end up overworking without an explanation. One could just feel like spending another two hours interacting with company resources. Or, they might just find themselves there. One way to address this issue is through work-life balance education. Engage lifestyle professionals to help employees understand why it’s healthier to rest and attend to their personal lives.
Common signs of remote work fatigue include anxiety, shortness of temper, hasty decision-making, and overwhelm. Look out for these signs during your zoom conferences and phone calls. If you notice any of these signs, your employee likely needs a break.
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