Avoiding Burnout in a Virtual World

March 2021 marks a full year of working virtually for many of us. It has been a year of constant video calls, blurred work and personal lives, children in virtual school and hardly seeing people outside your immediate COVID bubble. All these ingredients together have led to an increasingly burned out employee base for nearly every company.

According to a 2020 Gallup survey (published right before most of us went into lockdown), 76% of employees experience burnout on the job at least sometimes. This is only referring to burnout defined in the workplace, i.e. “a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” as defined by the WHO.

Now maybe you’re thinking, “how can I possibly avoid the burnout I’m experiencing with the stresses of the pandemic PLUS the record-smashing volume the mortgage industry has been experiencing?” Or maybe you’re wondering if you or any of your employees are experiencing burnout. In this post, we’ll cover the impact and signs of burnout, as well as some actions you can take to mitigate burnout in yourself and/or in your employees.

Impact and Signs of Employee Burnout

There are several impacts of employee burnout that everyone – not just employers or managers – should be concerned with.

Being burned out on the job leads to poorer work performance which could, in turn, have a downstream impact on customers. Further, when you’re burned out, you can’t think as creatively and your strategic thinking, memory, and recall are all impaired. That means you could be losing efficiency in the form of not finding creative solutions for problems or in the form of slower work output.

Whether you’re trying to identify burnout in yourself or in employees you manage, you’ll find the signs fall under these types of umbrella statements:

  • Lack of energy
  • Seeming mentally distanced or disengaged
  • Lack of productivity
  • Feelings and/or statements of negativism or cynicism

These umbrella categories feel a bit vague, so see if any of these statements resonate with you:

  • I’m easily irritated by a slight inconvenience
  • I lack motivation to do even the smallest tasks for my job
  • I’ve felt hypercritical of my manager, colleagues, employer, friends, or family
  • I get frequent headaches or have other physical discomforts like a tight neck/shoulders
  • I’ve been sleeping too much or have trouble sleeping
  • I’ve been binge eating/drinking and/or have given up on exercising

If you read through that list and thought “yeah, I can relate to several of those statements,” never fear! We have several suggestions below to help you combat your burnout.

Beat Burnout as an Individual

We’ll go ahead and say by no means is this an exhaustive list of things you can do to help alleviate your burnout. And don’t try to adopt all these measures at once – start with something you know you can work into your life and start adding as you see fit.

  • Take time off, even if it’s a day here, a day there
  • Talk to someone about how you’re feeling whether that’s your spouse/partner, a good friend, a trusted colleague, a therapist
  • Create a burnout-buster toolkit that you use daily:
    • Have a creative outlet – try out a new hobby or turn to an old favorite
    • Move every day whether it’s a walk at lunch or yoga in the evening
    • Define your “me time” (ex. Reading, meditating, no kids around, etc.) and guard it
    • Celebrate your small wins every day
    • Express gratitude every day whether it’s to someone or for what you have
  • Limit video meetings (or at least turn off your camera preview where appropriate – looking at your own face is exhausting)

Remember, these may not suit your needs depending on how your burnout feels. Be patient as you find something that truly helps you disconnect whether that’s setting strict time limits for yourself of having an accountability buddy who makes sure you log off by a certain time each night.

Manager Tips for Combating Employee Burnout

People managers have the unique challenge of not only preventing burnout in themselves as they go through the same circumstances as their employees, but they also have to strike the right balance of employee wellbeing and employee productivity. So, if you’re a people manager, here are some steps you can take to help employees experiencing burnout:

  • Prioritize weekly check-ins with your employees but focus on conversation rather than task lists
  • Actively listen to your employees’ needs and work-related problems and help them prioritize so it doesn’t feel like a tidal wave of tasks all at once
  • Show appreciation for your employees often, even if it’s a simple “thank you” or “nice job”
  • Focus on building trust with your employees by being open with them about your own difficulties with burnout and being transparent about any changes happening at your company

As you might have realized, many of these tips could easily be categorized as leadership tips. Being a leader is a choice, and we need leaders more than ever to help us navigate through ever-changing conditions in our work environments.

Let’s review what we covered. Employee burnout was happening long before the COVID-19 pandemic which has only exacerbated this workplace epidemic. There are many signs of employee burnout, and everyone experiences burnout differently. Lastly, there are several things we as individuals can do to counter burnout and ways managers can help navigate their employees through, too.

We’re curious – do you have any tips for us on how you’ve managed burnout that we haven’t listed above, either from an individual’s or manager’s perspective? Let us know in the comment section below.

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