Death by telework: Working from home is taking lives

Recent reports show that extreme burnout for teleworkers in China is proving fatal. What steps can be taken to ensure it doesn’t happen to your employees?

Death by telework: Working from home is taking lives

E-commerce workers in China have a higher incidence of burnout – and some are dying as a result, Business Insider reported.

Taobao, an e-commerce platform in China that provides online stores, has had a number of its merchants die recently. A seller by the name of Aijun Aj, 24, died of cardiac failure in July 2012, with a mother who also had a store also passing, as well as a 25-year-old who owned another highly-rated online shop.

This is a disturbing trend, with over 60,000 online workers in China dying a year, The Epoch Times reported.

Taobao does not directly employ any of these merchants, and instead simply provides the platform from which they can sell. The business model is similar to sites such as eBay and Etsy. As such, sellers are responsible for all aspects of running a business – from inventory and shipping to communication with customers and updating the website.

Many online workers have health problems related to how they manage themselves at home. Some teleworkers find themselves unable to achieve a proper work-life balance, and find themselves always working, which leads to poor decisions regarding diet and exercise, resulting in health problems.

Taobao have no control over their seller’s working habits, although the company does encourage them to be more careful in their working and living habits.

Burnout for teleworkers is not restricted to small business operators or sole traders. Burn-out in  workplaces of any size can be combatted through enforcing breaks on employees, and encouraging them to go outside and relax. However, such management is difficult when an employee is teleworking, as they have free reign as to how they construct their day.

Aside from educating employees on the importance of their breaks and maintaining a work-life balance when working from home, employers can also reduce their contact with employees outside of working hours.  Steve Ewin, head of insight at Hay Group, told HRM that little things such as sending emails after work hours should not be a regular occurrence, as it damages an employee’s ability to draw themselves away from work.

Do you provide teleworking, and if so what initiatives do you put into place to ensure your employees don’t burnout? How can Canada stop this death-toll from reaching our shores?


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