Team Communication

Subtle and Less Obvious Signs of Remote Work Burnout On Your Team

It’s the start of a new year and after a long-deserved break after the holidays, you and your team are probably straight back into projects, tasks, and 2022 planning.

Your team may be slipping into old habits, habits that don’t truly serve them like; overworking in the evenings, struggling to switch off from work while working remotely, not taking regular breaks, and feeling less and less engaged in their work. 

Like many teams over the pandemic years, your team might have also struggled with burnout. After all, over 70% of the workforce experienced burnout since this all began. You could say it’s a risk to all organizations and their team members. 

So how do we as leaders prepare ourselves for another year of remote team working by ensuring that our team doesn’t burnout again as they did previously? 

It all starts with leaders being able to identify the red flags that indicate that their team member is experiencing heightened levels of stress. 

If leaders identify this early on in the stress cycle, they’re much more likely to help their team reduce stress earlier and ensure they break the stress cycle that eventually leads to burnout.

Here are some of the major red flags that I’ve helped leaders identify within their remote team over the years. 

Overworking

Overworking is what it says on the tin, our inability to switch off and finish work when we can or even when we should. New studies show that workers around the world are putting in an average of 9.2 hours of unpaid overtime per week – up from 7.3 hours just a year ago.

Overworking in remote team environments is even higher. It can be difficult to separate work from home and that can lead to Slack messages at midnight and emails on a Sunday if leaders don’t promote healthy boundaries. 

When leaders see that a team member is overworking and putting in extra hours or even working off a different schedule, it’s a red flag for burnout. 

Overworking usually indicates that your team member could:

  • Have too many projects/tasks
  • Be finding managing their time and tasks overwhelming
  • Not be able to get work done in a timely manner
  • Be struggling to separate work from home
  • Be feeling unconfident in themselves at work

How You Can Help: To deal with overworking, leaders first need to have an open-ended conversation with their team members. Leaders need to put their assumptions aside and focus on asking the powerful questions that will help their team members see that something needs to change. 

I’ve noticed you’ve been overworking this week, tell me, what’s going on for you right now?

Asking open-ended questions will support you in identifying the root causes. When you as a leader identify the root cause early on, you can then brainstorm together ways that you can solve the problem. 

Their Body Language is Different on Video Calls

55% of how we communicate is done through our body language, this is why it’s even more important in distributed teams to turn on our video camera. 

If we’re not seeing our team, we’re putting our team’s performance at risk by not being able to identify blockers that might be getting in the way of their success. 

As a leader, you might notice that a team member is looking very different from their usual. 

Leaders should engage in non-verbal listening to help identify red flags during video meetings like:

  • How is the employee sitting? 
  • What is their posture? 
  • When they are sitting up straighter, we know we are feeling better. 
  • If they are slouched, you can see that. 
  • When they speak about something, how is their body language? What are their facial expressions? 
  • Are they fidgeting? 
  • What is their expression? 
  • Do they have bags under their eyes? 

How You Can Help: Leaders have a powerful intuition when it comes to their team’s wellbeing, and it’s important that managers act on that and address any concerns straight away. Start off the conversation by stating what you’ve noticed and ask a question as to what’s going on. This will help your team members talk through their concerns and help you identify what’s really going on. 

Heightened Emotional Reactions

Remote working in a pandemic is not normal remote working. The media and government are portraying greater volumes of fear and concern in the public each and every day, which will absolutely impact our work and our ability to remain calm in our jobs. 

Heightened emotional reactions are common for everyone these days, but greater levels of these reactions can indicate that there is more at play.

Emotional reactions can be a result of being ‘triggered’ at work but can be a result of built-up emotions from a vast amount of situations outside of work. A trigger is when we misunderstand a communication and take it personally by misinterpreting a verbal or written message, or even a facial expression.

It’s more common remotely and I’ve often experienced, witnessed and coached remote workers on this. If the trigger happened in person, in an office, it wouldn’t have been internalized to this extent, because we’ve access to data that we don’t remotely.

We’re currently going through a mental health crisis- isolation, stress, anxiety are at an all-time high.

How You Can Help: You need to help your team and yourself navigate the psychological complexities that can happen when working remotely. You can do that by creating the space either in a team meeting and/or group setting to acknowledge the emotions everyone can be feeling right now. It can be helpful to share your own experiences as a leader as this build trust amongst your team and will result in your team feeling more comfortable to come to you if they are not okay. 

Underperformance that’s not common

When your team is working out of sight, one red flag” can be that their work performance has drastically reduced.

It can show up as errors, poor communication and even missed deadlines. As a leader, you might wonder what is going on but instead of being confused and frustrated at poor performance, leaders should ensure that they address this with their team members immediately.

How to deal with it: Start by identifying the root cause of underperformance. Leaders should create psychological safety for their team members to share honestly about their struggles instead of trying to blame external forces.

It can be helpful for leaders and their team members to focus on quality over quantity. Figure out what’s realistic to work on right now. Reprioritize a lesser amount of quantity of work so he could focus on quality by clarifying the most important tasks and creating regular 1-1 conversations to support your team member in getting back on track. 

P.S If you’re eager to hear more about how 1-1 coaching can help your remote leadership team, book an initial discovery call HERE. We have a team of qualified accredited coaches that specialize in remote teams and various departments from operations to engineering. We have a coach to suit all your leadership needs. 

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I help remote organisations sustain their engagement, productivity and wellbeing

HEY, I'M SHAUNA I'M AN ACCREDITED EXECUTIVE COACH AND CONSULTANT

I'm an accredited and award-winning transformational coach to founders, leaders and teams of fast-growing remote companies, a speaker, emotional intelligence practitioner and remote team researcher.

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