Preventing employee burnout: 5 successful remote work practices

While remote work opportunities are on the rise, the downside is that employee burnout is also increasing.

Remote employees are more susceptible to blurred lines between work and personal space, so employers creating best practices and respecting boundaries can go a long way towards increasing employee productivity and focus during work hours. 

Here are a few of my favorite practices and tips on how to approach them for your business:

1. Focus on employee workspace

Encouraging a remote employee to have a designated work space has several benefits. 

By having a set space for work, the employee can create a proper ergonomic setup, which is incredibly important for their health and posture. This means not hunching over the coffee table to type emails, not trying to share the dining table with work and meals, not spending their day with the laptop on their lap in bed, and so on.

As the employer, any assistance you can provide to reduce the burden of acquiring proper office equipment will go a long way. You can purchase it outright, supply a stipend, or even just help secure discounts. Additionally, if you have a physical office with spare equipment, consider letting employees use it in their home while they are under your employment. 

If they have many meetings or calls, requiring the workspace be separated from outside noise and distractions can help to create a quiet space conducive to professional interactions. It’s also easier to focus on a given task when all work items are organized in the same space.

Finally, this designated space also allows the employee to finish their work day more easily by powering down their computer and move out of the space to their personal life (bonus points if the employee turns off the lights, shuts the door and takes a longer walk to emulate ending the day in the office and going home).

2. Create valuable social connections 

Working remotely can seem like a dream come true for introverted employees, but everyone needs to have personal connections and some level of social interaction. Consider your office culture and look for opportunities to encourage employees to have those “water cooler chats” that happen organically in the office or social events after hours. For example, small group virtual coffee chats or stand-ups are one way we promote engaging with co-workers.

Not all of the socializing should be the employer’s responsibility, but talk openly about how working remotely impacts social interactions and may or may not meet the individual’s personal needs during the day. Encourage employees to keep tabs on their own social needs and those of others (especially new joiners), and to consider joining a club or gym, volunteering, or planning coffees with others to ensure they feel fulfilled, connected, and happy. Anonymous surveys are a great way to gauge employee happiness and understand if their needs are met.

3. Physical movement is key to employee happiness

It can be easy for remote employees to sit at their desk all day without realizing and not get much movement in. 

In an office setting it’s typical to walk around the water cooler, bathroom, meeting space, etc., but at home there’s likely to be much less movement. Encouraging employees to take frequent stretch breaks to move their joints, suggesting walking virtual meetings/phone calls or going on a quick walk around the block between projects can make a difference in getting employees to get up and move during the day. 

Employer programs (step challenges, activity points, healthy habits, etc.) can also help to motivate employees to be active and can add some friendly competition if that fits the office culture. Offering a stipend for a gym membership or home workout equipment is a really great benefit as well. Remember that healthier employees also tend to be happier and more productive.

4. Bring visibility to employee contributions

Remote employees often feel pressure to work longer hours, put in additional work, or always be available for contact to justify their working remotely instead of in the office. This can add a layer of personal stress that’s difficult for managers to notice. 

Ensuring there are meaningful and frequent recognition mechanisms in place can help to bring visibility to contributions from all employees and it helps remote employees feel seen and valued. 

There are lots of ways to do this, for example through a platform such as TinyPulse, which allows any employee to send virtual “cheers” to another employee. A dedicated Slack channel for wins and achievements is another way to publicly celebrate each other. Additionally, a monthly celebration of a company-wide nominated employee can go a long way in showing that they are truly valued.

5. Establish intended work hours

Offices typically have set hours where employees are expected to be present, but it’s not always clear for remote employees (especially if your business spans multiple time zones) to know when they should be working and responding to emails, and when they can be unplugged. 

Setting clear working hours can help employees create boundaries and follow regular work hours for themselves. Something as simple as stating work should be conducted between the hours of 7am – 8pm can help employees know when they should be finished with their work and enjoy the evening. 

This also starts with leadership not sending employees emails outside of these hours, and empowering employees to gently note if an email was sent to them outside of set work hours. This builds a workplace culture that promotes balance and sustainable practices. 

There are browser applications/extensions you can use to send emails at a later date or time that can help ensure these hours are respected to prevent employees receiving emails from their boss at 5am and feeling pressure to respond immediately or be working at those times.

Keep best practices for long term benefits

Ensuring remote employees feel connected and valued goes a long way in employee satisfaction. Help them keep clear boundaries so that they can separate their work and personal time, which will reduce burnout and make employees feel they are valued for their work. 

Employees are more focused and productive when they are well-rested and happy, so these practices help the employer as much as the employee!