After a challenging and difficult year, many teams are ready for a fresh start in 2021. But with COVID-19 still in full swing, it's likely that we have many months of physical distancing, remote work, and Zoom fatigue ahead of us.
With the continued challenges of remote work still in play, team leaders, HR professionals, and CEOs are now facing two choices for 2021:
Evolve your employee experience, or try to repeat the same tactics from 2020.
Why 2021 demands a new type of employee experience
It’s no secret that most teams are currently feeling some degree of isolation and stress. One study found that 57% of people are experiencing greater anxiety now than before the pandemic, and 53% of us are more emotionally exhausted. Right now, we're all at risk of burnout.
It's clear that the virtual work experience just isn't working for many organizations. But remote work isn't going away anytime soon. These issues need to be addressed now, or never.
It takes creativity to keep people connected and engaged in a remote work environment. But it's well worth the effort. According to Gallup, highly engaged teams are 21% more productive than disengaged teams.
So in order to inspire teams to do their best work, and avoid a steep loss of productivity in 2021, organizations need to rethink their virtual employee experience. And that starts with addressing work-from-home burnout. Here's how.
How to avoid work-from-home burnout
#1 Encourage leaders to model a healthy work-life balance and check in with their teams.
Long hours, zero days off, and constant availability might look like the perfect picture of a committed, hard-working employee. But without time to unwind and connect with friends, families, and hobbies, employees are likely to burn out quickly.
In some ways, remote work provides more opportunities for a healthy work-life balance. With no commute time, we have more time available to exercise, and there's less temptation to dine out. But when home-life and work-life begin to blur, it can become impossible for employees to get the rest and relaxation they need to perform at their best level.
It’s important for team leaders to “walk the walk” when it comes to a healthy work-life balance. That might mean embracing asynchronous communication and encouraging a flexible work schedule. Or, it might mean encouraging employees to take time off (even if it’s just for a “staycation”). The important thing is that teams and individuals feel comfortable taking the time they need away from work in order to recharge.
In addition, leaders should regularly check in with team members to gauge mental wellness and offer support. Instead of annual feedback surveys, send regular pulse surveys to gather employee sentiment and quickly respond to it. When employees feel heard, they’ll also feel more valued, appreciated, and motivated at work.
#2 Encourage consistent recognition from the top-down.
Appreciation and motivation go hand in hand. According to a Deloitte survey on employee burnout, 3 of 10 respondents cited lack of recognition as the major driver of job burnout.
On a remote team, it can be especially difficult to forge the meaningful connections. Frequent, thoughtful recognition brings teams closer together. There are tons of reasons to say thank-you to your team. Completing learning courses, achieving a new milestone, or receiving positive feedback from a client are just a few.
Don't forget to recognize team members for their personal achievements, too. Has one of your employees recently completed their first virtual 5k? Bought their first house? Started their own Etsy shop? In the age of remote work, our personal lives and our professional lives are blending in new and unforeseen ways. Mindfully celebrating your employees for meeting their personal goals, as well as their professional wins, demonstrates that you care about them, and not just their work.
#3 Connect your people to your organization’s purpose.
When employees don’t have a strong connection to the meaning behind their work, they’re more likely to feel disengaged. And a recent survey of 800 US-based employees conducted by McKinsey found that only one-third of respondents believe their organizations strongly connect actions to purpose.
In the COVID era, a sense of belonging and connection to work is especially important. Focusing on the meaning behind the work can help employees feel happier and more fulfilled. It also serves as a powerful connection between employees that may be working across different departments and locations.
Leaders must ensure that their teams understand the value of their contributions, and the impact that their work has on the larger organization. The next time your team completes a big project, or lands a new client, take a moment to remind your team why their work matters. When thanking your team for their achievements, be sure to connect your words back to your company's core values and mission.
Left unchecked, work-from-home burnout can present a serious risk to your people as well as your organization. A new employee experience that prioritizes employee recognition, mental wellness, and value alignment will keep your team connected and engaged through 2021 and beyond.
Interested in learning more strategies to battle work-from-home burnout and create a new employee experience strategy? Let’s chat.
Blog illustrations by Freepik Storyset