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 had started before the pandemic.

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

HRD spoke to Nathalie Bernard, people, performance and culture consultant for New Zealand-based digital classroom app Kami about the role HRDs play in helping employees to avoid burnout.

“One really important thing is to lead by example,” she said. “It trickles from the top down so if you get home and decide to answer a few emails in the evening, people will look at the timestamp and question whether that’s the expectation.

“If you really need or want to do work out of hours, a good idea is to save the email in drafts and send it the next morning during normal hours.”

It can be incredibly damaging to set this “always on” mentality for your employees, particularly in a remote world where there is less divide between work and home.

Asana’s research 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.

But Bernard said setting clear boundaries early-on, and urging employees to clock off and go home, is important to avoiding burnout.

As well as longer hours, a fear of talking about our struggles in the workplace can also lead to higher rates of burnout.

Often alone for much of the day at home, it’s easy for remote workers to feel overwhelmed when the work begins to pile up.

“Having an organization where workers are able to be open and honest about saying ‘Hey I'm actually not doing okay today or things are not 100%’ is really valuable,” Bernard said.

It’s also about being mindful of respecting employees who need to take time off for mental health reasons, ensuring they don’t have to justify themselves or be subjected to questioning over what they’re experiencing.

Bernard said while these are important steps for HR leaders to take, employees can also reduce burnout by prioritising rest, sleep and exercise.

When it comes to imposter syndrome, regular reward and recognition goes a long way to helping new employees feel they’re doing a good job.

Read more: The science behind gratitude at work

Again, the amount of time spent alone in a remote working model often opens 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 remotely.

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.

Celebrating individual and team successes is another useful strategy to banish any feelings of imposter syndrome, whether that’s through virtual platforms or company-wide communications.

“There’s nothing worse than having a yearly review where you turn up and you're told you’ve done something incorrectly for the last 12 months,” Bernard said.

“It builds a whole lot more trust if you can be open and transparent about giving feedback in a constructive and timely fashion.”

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