Burnout and imposter syndrome – the two biggest threats facing remote workers

What can HRDs do to help employees avoid these pitfalls?

Burnout and imposter syndrome – the two biggest threats facing remote workers

2020 was undoubtedly the year of the remote workforce.

Daily commutes came screeching to a halt and instead of walking into the office each morning, we sat down at our makeshift workspace.

While remote working was touted as a win for employees, offering more time to do things outside of the 9-5, new research shows it brought two major issues.

Statistics by Asana reveal that in 2020, workers in ANZ were more likely to suffer from burnout and imposter syndrome than other countries.

Out of the 13,123 employees surveyed across ANZ, nearly 8 in 10 (77%) experienced burnout – higher than the global average.

The occurrence of imposter syndrome was more prevalent in workers who started a new job during the pandemic too.

For ANZ workers who began their role during the pandemic, 85% experienced self-doubt about their abilities do their job, compared to 68% of employees who did not.

Asana’s research also found 89% of ANZ employees were regularly working late – an 8% increase on 2019 – and it’s often down to the discretionary effort that comes as a consequence of working from home.

Read more: Switching off: The toxic rise of 'virtual presenteeism'

HRD spoke to Alex Hattingh, chief people officer at people management platform, Employment Hero, who said acknowledging burnout is the first step to overcoming it.

"Burnout, for many of us, has been more of a reality than ever in 2020. We went that extra mile for work, to support family during working and learning from home, to support our parents in lockdown and during outbreaks, and to work from home with partners or housemates in non-ideal work set-ups,” she said.

“You firstly have to acknowledge the signs of burnout and accept that you are burnt out. The second step is a conversation with your manager and arranging some time off and time out.

“If you can't take a full week off, arrange to take one day a week off to help recharge. Make sure you notify everyone. Place your out-of-office on and update your calendar to be offline.

"From a psychological perspective, give yourself permission to log-off from emails and all communications.”

For HRDs, burnt-out employees are a sign that something has gone wrong.

In a remote world, it’s all too easy to feel alone when the work piles up.

But people leaders have a responsibility to make sure processes are in place for employees to feel supported and safe to report any struggles they might be having.

Whether that’s through regular check-ins, access to EAP or encouraging staff to take mental health days when they need them, it’s going to continue to be a real issue facing workers throughout 2021.

Similarly, feelings of self-doubt and imposter syndrome are also becoming common among remote workers.

Read more: Feeling exhausted? You may have ‘change fatigue’

The amount of time spent alone in a remote working model can open the door to self-doubt.

It’s why it is vitally important to create a thorough and supportive onboarding process, especially if it’s being done virtually.

Frequent opportunities for new recruits to ask questions, along with informal progress check-ups, go a long way to making sure they don’t feel alone.

Normalising the experience of imposter syndrome is a good first step for HRDs to take, alongside strategy for continual reward, recognition and feedback.

"I would encourage employees to allow themselves to be vulnerable and talk to a manager or mentor about it,” Hattingh said.

“They will often be able to bolster up your confidence by talking to your abilities and the fact that you more than deserve to be where you are and that you are more than capable of delivering on the output and achievements required."

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