Why It’s Critical to Assess Employee Health and Burnout in a Remote Environment
COVID-19 has clearly been one of the most disruptive forces in our lifetimes. Even if we’ve been lucky enough to avoid infection, the economic and day-to-day effects of a global pandemic can be burdensome.
This is especially true for your employees working from home. While we are lucky enough to minimize infection risk by working in a remote setting, there are separate health risks that must be noted. Most prominently, these health risks are related to burnout and stress. As you know, burnout leads to everything from disengaged employees to higher health care costs for your company.
For this reason, it is worthwhile to review burnout in a COVID-first world and how you can identify employees who are at risk. By being proactive, you can offer valuable help to your employees as they navigate these challenging times.
Gauging Employee Burnout
Managers and HR professionals have many tasks on their plates, ranging from hitting recruiting goals to handling employee training. That being said, it is also important to gauge employee health. This is true both on a personal and human level and a financial level. Healthy employees are happier, more productive, and can deliver more profits for your organization.
Yet while gauging employee health is a critical task, it is arguably easier to do in an in-person work environment. With employees working in a central location, you can obtain vast amounts of subtle information. At a basic level, you can see which employees are arriving early and staying late. Seemingly innocuous conversations at the water cooler can reveal employees that are feeling extremely stressed or even burnt out. Missed workdays and lower quality work can also send signals that burnout is here (or around the corner).
In a remote setting, it is difficult to get these signals. Those off-hand meetings at the water cooler or brief conversations in the office are much rarer. Our communications are primarily focused on the work-product. Especially amidst COVID-19, our habits change, whether we spend more time caring for family members or spend even more hours per day on work.
Overall, we strongly believe that remote work is a net positive. Through the power of disruptive tools like Zoom and Slack, we can keep collaborating with our colleagues—wherever they are. Nonetheless, as an HR professional, you need to do some more work to determine if your colleagues are experiencing burnout.
How You Can Gauge Remote Employees’ Health
Even though it has become harder to gauge employee health, it isn’t impossible. There are several steps that managers, HR, and people ops professionals can take to determine whether employees are healthy or at risk.
One of the more obvious things that you can do is track community and social metrics. While it’s all too natural to focus on things like productivity and output, paying close attention to social connections and metrics can help you detect burnout. Naturally, you’ll want to identify those employees who are scoring low on these social metrics. That may be a signal that they feel isolated or overwhelmed with the work they have to accomplish. Surveys or check-in software can also go a long way in helping you detect your colleagues’ moods.
Similar to time tracking is monitoring whether employees are meeting their goals. No matter how your company tracks internal goals, try to get a granular look at whether your employees are on track. You’ll want to look for extremes here. For instance, if you notice an employee is far behind their goals, that may signal that he or she is burnt out or too overwhelmed with their daily responsibilities. And if you notice an employee consistently exceeding their goals? You will still want to follow-up. Even though they are hitting their marks, you want to ensure that they aren’t setting themselves up for burnout.
Finally, don’t forget about time-off tracking. While it is still difficult for most (if not all) of us to get on a flight and go on vacation, your employees still need time off for their mental well-being. If you notice that certain employees are putting in significant hours and not actively taking time off, it can be a signal that those employees are close to being burnt out.
Get Started Today
The signals above shouldn’t be used in isolation. You’ll want to gather a wide array of data when evaluating employee burnout. While it does require some work, doing this work today can help you identify burnout among your remote colleagues. Doing so, you can not only increase morale within your organization, but increase output and profitability in these challenging times.
For further reading on burnout in a remote work environment and what to watch out for, check out this great article by Toptal: "Things to Watch Out for While Working Remotely"