How Team Leaders Can Combat Remote Work Fatigue

Posted by Kristin Arnold on September 15, 2020

After an exceedingly long day of online meetings, I said to my husband, “I think I am Zoomed out.”  No kidding!  Zoom fatigue is a growing phenomenon.  Regardless of whether you are on Zoom, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, or any of these amazing tools that allow us to connect with people all over the planet, the COVID-19 reality is sinking in.

Many of us continue to work from home.  Rather than meet in the face-to-face world, we spend hours upon hours in front of a screen.

At the onset of the pandemic, corporate titans were hailing the success of the work-from-home (WFH) model.  Productivity was up and operations continued, albeit a bit differently.  But now that the adrenaline surge has subsided, I am concerned about the health of our workplace teams – and it’s more than just dealing with Zoom fatigue.

What about workplace burnout – even when you are not “at” the company workplace?  A recent survey by FlexJobs showed that employees were three times as likely to report burnout now than before the pandemic!

As you check-in with your remote employees, recognize the symptoms of workplace fatigue:

The Usual Suspects.  It can show up in poor work performance, a drop in productivity, increased use of sick leave/paid-time-off (PTO), or increased difficulty in completing tasks on time. These are the obvious measurables that you should be watching out for.

Specific Behaviors.  A one-time snippy retort, an irritable remark, uncharacteristic frustration, or cynical comment alone isn’t cause for concern.  We all have bad days.  But when it becomes a series of remarks amidst a series of bad days, weeks, or even months, it’s time to get concerned.

Work-Life Balance.  The separation between work and life continues to blur as we are always just a few feet away from “the office.”  Watch for team members who are “always on” and quick to reply to each and every email, text, or Slack message.

Hoarding Time Off.  During COVID-19, travel is limited and staycations have never been that enticing.  Some of your team members are compounding their own stress by hoarding PTO, saving it for a time when a vacation can feel like a true break or feeling guilty about using it.

What team leaders can do to combat workplace fatigue:

  1. Pay attention to the symptoms of workplace fatigue.  A one-time event doesn’t make it so, but if you see three or more instances, probe a bit further during your weekly check-in calls.  (You ARE doing one-on-one weekly check-in calls, right?)
  2. Encourage communications.  Whether you are using Slack, facilitating a “check-in” at the beginning of your weekly team meetings, or encouraging small group conversations among peers,  make sure your team members are conversing with each other and not so isolated.
  3. Limit communications.  Don’t send emails after 6 pm or on the weekend (or whatever time zones you set in place).  And no READING email during the “no-email” time zones!
  4. Offer a mental health day.  As team leaders, you can offer a mental health day whenever you want to whomever you want.  For one person who just had to put their dog down or for the entire team to take the day off.
  5. More flexibility.  56% of respondents of the FlexJobs survey said, “having flexibility in their workday was overwhelmingly listed as the top way their workplace could better support them.”
  6. Change it up.  Change responsibilities or readjust workloads to keep it more interesting and dynamic.
  7. Recognize good work and extra effort.  An email gift certificate, a hand-written thank you card or a gift package go a long way – for the employee and the family as well!

Working from home isn’t going to change anytime soon, but we can make sure that people stay productive, happy, and healthy through this pandemic!

For more information about how to lead your team in the virtual environment, use these resources.

KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CPF | Master, CSP is a high-stakes meeting facilitator and professional panel moderator.  She’s been facilitating teams of executives and managers in making better decisions and achieving greater results for over 20 years.  She is the author of the award-winning book, Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Audiences to Action.

Recent Articles:

How to Facilitate a Virtual Meeting: Roles, Tips, & Responsibilities

What to Look For When Hiring a Meeting Facilitator

Stretch your Leadership Team’s Ability to Think Strategically

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