The Covid-19 pandemic has turned the world of work on its head. Remote working was the only option for many businesses during numerous lockdowns, but 66% of UK firms continued with it after restrictions ended.
And according to a survey by the British Chamber of Commerce, around 72% of businesses expect to have at least one member of staff working remotely over the next year. The average expectation among these firms is that over half of their employees will work from home in the next 12 months.
But remote working comes with many challenges to overcome, for both business owners and their teams. There are understandable concerns about motivation and productivity, team morale and collaboration, and of course technical and connectivity issues.
One of the most pressing worries relates to mental health, especially across sectors such as finance and HR. Many companies are having to deal with burnout among their employees, and some are struggling to provide adequate support remotely. A survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, the UK’s professional body for HR managers, revealed that nearly half of respondents found the most challenging aspect of home working to be managing mental wellbeing.
So, what’s driving this trend, and why is finance in particular so susceptible to remote working burnout?
Blurred boundaries between home and work time
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), burnout happens as a result of “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. Sufferers experience everything from fatigue and exhaustion to cynicism and a lack of motivation. The result is predictable – productivity, performance and efficiency fall off a cliff edge.
Within the workplace, this kind of stress can potentially be managed by the organisation and the individual. The worker can also ‘clock off’ at the end of the day, and go home to enjoy recreational and family time.
But for many people during the pandemic, much of this recreational time was filled with more work. In fact, a study by Stanford University in the US found that workers spent around 35% of the time they’d saved by not having to commute to work, by working longer hours at home.
How can organisations manage remote working stress?
The key to preventing remote working stress and burnout is simple – organisations should lead by example. This is account to global people and organisation leader Peter Brown at consultancy PwC, who told FT.com:
“Leadership needs to provide a role model showing that it’s OK to take a break…saying, ‘Sorry, I can’t do that because I’m taking an hour off, or I’m out with the kids’,”
“Or, having been on Zoom nonstop, for some calls I’ll dial in while walking the dog. It’s about showing that kind of behaviour is acceptable.”
Managers also need to check in regularly with their teams, to recognise the early warning signs of burnout, manage workloads and help employees be more conscious of unhealthy working behaviours.
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