Remote Burnout: Employee Disengagement Is Costly

I’ve been referring to the pandemic as a Black Swan event, a moment in history that we could have never predicted, and one whose impact we are still trying to understand. We were pushed to our limits trying to make sense of this new landscape and figuring out how to survive in these conditions. While it feels like we’re regaining some semblance of normalcy again, leaders must now be embracing for the pandemic’s second wave: the epidemic of employees languishing.

Business owners understand the immense pressure the pandemic put on their workers, but many don’t realize just how bad it is. We’re more than past the one-year mark now, and the statistics are more ominous than ever. 89% of employees are saying that their workplace wellbeing is in steep decline. What’s contributing to this downturn? The most obvious are health concerns and increased job demands, but the biggest contributor is actually working conditions that remain in flux, specifically remote work.

Remote work, the very thing that was critical to surviving the COVID-19 pandemic, is now one of the biggest culprits triggering chronic burnout and growing disengagement. Leaders who were concerned about business performance during the first wave of the pandemic should be even more troubled by the growing number of disengaged employees, as the mental health crisis will be even more costly to their bottom lines.

Even before the pandemic started, the World Economic Forum found that the global cost of mental health problems, including costs associated with lost productivity, was around $2.5 trillion. This was back in 2010. That number is expected to reach nearly $6 trillion by 2030. In the U.S., employee disengagement costs the economy up to $350 billion per year. When you break that down to individual businesses, that’s around $2,246 for every disengaged employee.

How? Chronic stress and burnout lead to higher healthcare costs for employees and contribute to absenteeism and presenteeism (when employees are working but not fully present). Employees who are burned out are 63% more likely to take a sick day, feel 13% less confident in their work performance, and are even 23% more likely to end up in the emergency room from mental and/or physical distress.

When your employees are burned out, it impacts everything and everyone. While some companies have fully transitioned their employees back into the office and others are experimenting with hybrid work models, the reality is that remote work is here to stay. If leaders take the necessary steps to protect their team from burnout, remote work can be a perk rather than a burden.

Check-in with your employees. Disengaged employees aren’t going to tell you when they feel disconnected. While signs like increased sick days, a lack of participation, and a decline in work quality will let you know that something’s wrong, it can often be too late. The simple act of encouraging open, honest communication with your team can help alleviate the loneliness and anxiety of remote work.

Give employees time to rest. Having to be “on” all the time can take a lot out of employees, especially if remote work was a new novelty at your company as a result of the pandemic. The average workday is almost an hour longer now than it was pre-COVID. Grant your employees flexibility and time away from the office to rest, whether that’s through re-examining your core hours or adapting your PTO policy.

Build a culture of support. Leaders must destigmatize burnout and make sure their employees feel supported throughout the workday. Data-based assessments can help pinpoint at-risk employees and direct them to critical emotional and behavioral support systems. Employers who support their employees can expect to see a 21% increase in high performers.

Remote work will likely be the new standard in some capacity for the foreseeable future, but don’t let virtual conditions make your employees feel trapped and isolated. When leaders pay attention to the workers who are most susceptible to remote burnout and pandemic fatigue, they can build stronger organizations for everyone.

Follow Jan Bruce on LinkedIn and Twitter.




Jan Bruce is the trailblazing CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, the only human capital management platform based on the science of resilience.

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Jan Bruce

Jan Bruce

Jan Bruce is the trailblazing CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, the only human capital management platform based on the science of resilience.

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