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Gleb Tsipursky

Health Care

14 Steps to to Defeat Work-From-Home Burnout and Zoom Fatigue

To survive and thrive, organizations must shift strategically to the best practices of working from home

Published: Thursday, June 3, 2021 - 12:02

When the Covid pandemic swept through the country last year, companies rapidly transitioned employees to working from home (WFH). However, this shift led to growing challenges of WFH burnout and Zoom fatigue.

Unfortunately, organizations treat these issues as day-to-day challenges, instead of recognizing their strategic nature and addressing them strategically. At heart, these problems stem from organizations transposing their “office culture” norms of interaction to WFH models. That just doesn’t work well because virtual communication, collaboration, and relationships function very differently than in-person ones.

To survive and thrive in the remaining months of the pandemic and the post-Covid recovery, organizations need to make a strategic shift to best practices of working from home.

A strategic approach to defeating work-from-home burnout

Take these steps to establish WFH best practices:

1. Gather information from your employees about their virtual work challenges. Run surveys and do focus groups and one-on-one interviews to get quantitative and qualitative data on the virtual work issues in your organization.
2. Develop metrics and determine a baseline. When creating the surveys, make sure to structure them so that you can use the quantitative results to establish clear metrics on all relevant aspects of WFH challenges. Use these data to develop a baseline prior to doing the interventions below.
3. Educate your employees about the deprivations of needs. We don’t recognize that a large component of what we perceive as WFH burnout is the deprivation of our basic human needs of connection to each other and a sense of meaning and purpose that we get from work. A critical early intervention involves educating employees about this topic.
4. Cultivate a sense of meaning in your employees. Help your employees intentionally develop a sense of meaning in the virtual workplace. That includes using an evaluative tool to establish a baseline of purpose, self-reflective activities on identity as tied to one’s work, and other practices such as connecting work to something bigger than yourself.
5. Cultivate mutual connections using native virtual formats. We want to connect with each other, but our emotions just don’t process little squares on a screen in a video conference as truly connecting, compared to in-person meetings. The mismatch between expectations and reality leads to drain and dissatisfaction from video conferences, what we call “Zoom fatigue.” To cultivate human connection and a sense of trust, you must replace bonding activities from office culture with innovative virtual bonding activities.
6. Provide professional development in effective virtual communication. There are numerous tips and tricks for effective virtual communication, but the vast majority of organizations fail to provide professional development in this area.
7. Provide professional development in effective virtual collaboration and relationship-building. The same tips and tricks, and lack of professional development, apply to virtual collaboration and relationship-building.
8. Initiate formal virtual mentorship programs. Get your senior staff to mentor junior ones. This will be good not just for the guidance that senior mentors can give, but also will help address the lack of social connection in a virtual workplace for both senior and junior employees. Moreover, it will help senior employees learn how to handle technology better because younger employees tend to be more savvy with digital tools.
9. Establish digital co-working. The members of each of your work teams should spend an hour or more per day co-working digitally with their teammates. Get on a video conference call (with video optional), with your speakers on but microphones off unless you want to ask a question, make a comment, or simply chat. Next, simply work on your own tasks. Digital co-working replicates the positive aspects of working in shared cubicle spaces with your team members while doing your own work. That includes mutual bonding through chatting and collaboration, asking and answering quick clarifying questions, and providing guidance and informal mentorship.
10. Funding for remote work. Provide a budget for your employees to address any technology and connection issues related to virtual work, as well as to help set up a comfortable home office.
11. Reduce unnecessary meetings. Don’t schedule meetings unless you need to make a decision or get clarification on something that requires synchronous discussion. Use text or recorded video or audio to send reports and updates for others to review and respond to later.
12. Establish weekly check-in and progress report evaluation. At the same time, leaders need to check individually on their team members’ progress and well-being in a 15- to 30-minute video conference weekly.
13. Support work/life boundaries. Too many leaders expect employees to work after hours and refuse requests for flexibility. Some employees, scared about job security, voluntarily take on too much work. Leaders need to reinforce boundaries to reduce burnout and encourage flexible working schedules whenever possible.
14. Take things step by step. Start with education about basic needs. Next, use the data from your internal surveys to pursue what seems to make the most sense.

Conclusion

To address WFH burnout, reframe your company culture and policies from remote work as an emergency mindset to remote work being the new normal. Consistently support your employees in this strategic shift.

Discuss

About The Author

Gleb Tsipursky’s picture

Gleb Tsipursky

Gleb Tsipursky is on a mission to protect quality leaders from dangerous judgment errors known as cognitive biases by developing the most effective decision-making strategies. A best-selling author, he wrote Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (2019). His expertise comes from 20+ years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training as the CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts, and over 15 years in academia as a behavioral economist and cognitive neuroscientist. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, Twitter@gleb_tsipursky, Instagram@dr_gleb_tsipursky, LinkedIn, and register for his Wise Decision Maker Course.