The remote workforce is spared of both mass layoffs and the high risk associated with essential roles. Its flexibility is the envy of many. But the picture isn’t completely rosy, as the Globe and Mail found that white-collar professionals working from home are being burned out by stress and isolation despite their financial success.
Surprisingly, top performers who are familiar with the rigours and tedium of high expectations are the ones suffering the most. Cut off from social interactions, they’re still expected to perform on par with when they were at the office. Their stress is compounded by other factors such as children.
Even fleeting interactions can impact a person’s psyche. The Globe’s article noted that coffee breaks, lunch meetings, and after-work drinks act as small distractions from productivity. Without them, work can quickly become overbearing. Management consultant Bryn Ferris described this feeling as “steady-state numbness.”
Additionally, the remote workforce is also working longer hours. Some partially attributed the lack of commuting as a factor. And without contacting colleagues on a regular basis, it can be hard to obtain the same level of social validation as a bristling office. Workers are also delaying their vacation for when things return to normal, but in Canada where vaccinations won’t be completed by fall, that goalpost seems too far away.
As companies focus on improving mental health for their employees, managers are seen as the initial contact and impromptu counsellor. However, without much prior training, it’s a massive amount of work on top of their daily tasks.
To address remote burnout, companies need to rethink how to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and invest in employee assistance programs. This will be a perpetual uphill struggle, but companies stand to gain from a healthy workforce.
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