How to Avoid Burnout While Working with Remote Teams


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As 2020 has become the year of remote work, teams are facing new challenges when it comes to productivity and work-life balance. Many experts have presumed that remote workers face a higher risk of burnout than onsite workers. Since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced remote work on millions of employees, thus bringing workplace burnout into the spotlight. A recent study by FlexJobs found that employees are 3x more likely to report poor mental health today than they were before the pandemic, illustrating how today’s remote work environment is not business as usual. 

As more companies shift to permanent remote work, so shifts the focus on preventing employee burnout. Google, for example, announced a mandatory day off in May 2020 to address remote work burnout at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and again for an extended labor day weekend. Facebook has also made shifts to support an increasingly stressed workforce, giving all 45,000+ employees an “exceeds expectations” in their performance reviews and one month of paid leave. These efforts from Google, Facebook, and many others speak to a growing concern in today’s workforce to prevent employee burnout.  

The high cost of burnout for remote teams

Burnout can sound like a buzzword, but there’s increasing evidence of the toll it takes on individuals and organizations alike. In fact just last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) added burnout to it’s International Classification of Diseases, defining it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” 

Burnout from chronic stress has also proven to be costing billions of dollars each year in healthcare costs. But it doesn’t stop there. According to Gallup, employee disengagement results in 37% higher absenteeism, an 18% reduction in productivity, and a 15% decrease in overall organizational profitability – and these results were published prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bottom line, employee burnout is an issue no organization can afford to ignore, especially during this uncertain economic climate. 

Managers are key in preventing burnout

The good news is, burnout is preventable. Although there are many factors that influence burnout, for better or worse, recent research from Gallup reveals that managers can make a meaningful impact in reducing burnout risks. In fact, every root cause of burnout included in Gallup’s report were all factors within a manager’s control. Fostering collaboration, communication, setting clear goals, and helping employees play to their strengths are some evidence-backed areas of focus that managers can hone in on to mitigate burnout amongst remote employees.

Eliminating burnout outright, however, requires managers to have visibility into their remote employees’ work activities and processes. Without objective data that illustrates how remote employees are working, managers are left in the dark and forced to make serious decisions regarding workloads and operational efficiency based on guesswork and intuition alone. But this process doesn’t have to be one of trial and error.  

How to avoid burnout with data-driven management

The first step in preventing burnout for remote teams is to empower managers to use real workforce data in their decision making. How can they get this data? Through workforce analytics software. Managers of remote teams can’t rely on context-rich conversations that happen in person, or informal check-ins at an employee’s desk. 

Intentional use of workforce analytics software like ActivTrak provides unbiased data that goes beyond how many hours an employee is working, and illustrates how they are working. Furthermore, the software’s reports via Data Connect will also highlight who is already likely experiencing burnout and who is at high-risk, allowing managers to take swift action and mitigate the damaging effects to both the employee and the organization.

Find inefficient or unbalanced workflows

By understanding how and when remote team members work using workforce analytics software, managers are able to identify remote employees who may be overworked and at risk of burnout, allowing them to provide support before the issue worsens. Many employees, remote or otherwise, aren’t always aware of how their time is being spent. Employees at risk of burnout may not realize that with small changes in their workflow or habits, they could cut down on work hours and stress. Managers can use data to provide objective, unbiased insights and feedback or intervene by giving employees a day off, rebalancing their workloads, or transferring some assignments to other resources with more capacity. 

Don’t want to pull reports and analyze data? No problem. With ActivTrak’s Team Pulse dashboard, managers can keep a daily “pulse” on how their employees are doing, including spotting who’s struggling, with just a glance. In addition to understanding productivity, this dashboard displays the number of hours worked, allowing business leaders to uncover unhealthy schedules in just a few seconds. 

Remote teams are here to stay, but burnout shouldn’t be 

Making the shift to long-term remote work can be challenging, but the right tools and tactics can minimize the risk of burnout and provide the support remote teams need. Managers must find new ways to gain visibility into how work is being done, and optimize workloads and business processes to help employees cope with our new reality. By leveraging data from workforce analytics software like ActivTrak, managers are able to prevent burnout and its costly consequences while also enabling remote team members to balance work and personal time at home in a healthier way.

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We recently released a new Burnout Risk report in our Data Connect add-on for ActivTrak Advanced users that makes it faster and easier for business leaders to see who is at risk of burnout in their organizations, and who’s already there. While our Advanced plan offers a wealth of data that can be used to identify burnout, this report generates and illustrates insights for you, so you don’t have to lift a finger. 

The report leverages employee working hour data to highlight employees who are overworked or experiencing chaotic work schedules. At a glance, managers can see  burnout risk levels of their remote or in-office workforces as a classification level: high risk (red), low risk (yellow), and no risk (green). The Burnout Report, along with advanced business intelligence reports, is available in Data Connect, an add-on for our ActivTrak Advanced plan.


About ActivTrak

ActivTrak is a workforce productivity and analytics software company that helps teams understand how people work, whether in-office or remote. Our cloud-based user activity monitoring platform collects and analyzes data and provides insights to help organizations be more productive and compliant. With more than 8,000 customers and over 250,000 users of its free version, ActivTrak’s award-winning solution can be configured in minutes to identify operational bottlenecks, flag operational compliance risks, and provide valuable insights that help employees and employers improve productivity outcomes.