Remote Work — 52 min
Welcome to the Remote Work Mental Health Resource Pack. Here, you can expect information to identify and mitigate burnout in yourself and in the workplace. We’ve compiled a collection of resources from mental health experts to help employers support their remote employees and contractors (and we’ve even added a special guided mental health walk and meditation session from executive wellbeing coach Jayne Morris).
This guide is educational, interactive, and applicable. By the end, we hope you will have gained a better understanding of mental health and burnout in a remote work environment. Dedicated mental health resources in the workplace will help you create a more supportive environment for yourself and those around you. If you have your own tips to share with us, tweet us @remote and we may add them to this guide!
All of the content included has been brought together in collaboration with members of our community and co-written by Jayne Morris, Author of Burnout to Brilliance and ICF PCC executive wellbeing coach and consultant.
Mental health is the combination of our emotional, social, and psychological wellbeing. It is also intrinsically linked to our physical health.
We can think of our mental health as a continuum: when we experience factors that increase the risk of mental ill health — whether these are work related or otherwise — then our level of overall wellbeing changes on the continuum and can start to decline.
In our day-to-day lives, we all need to make choices that look after both our physical and mental wellbeing, so that we spend the majority of our time healthily functioning.
Burnout is a state of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion. It is the collective result of various factors culminating in prolonged stress and health/lifestyle issues, which lead to the severe depletion of the adrenal glands and immune system.
There is currently a workplace burnout epidemic that has been exacerbated by the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey highlighted that 44% of people who left their job in 2021 stated burnout as the primary reason.
The most important part of any organization is its people, yet few organizations successfully manage to ensure that their people feel sufficiently supported and valued. The Deloitte Burnout Survey 2021 found that the leading reason for employee burnout was cited as lack of support or recognition.
Employers globally are experiencing the far-reaching, damaging impact that burnout can have on business sustainability. In our workplaces, burnout is evident in high levels of presenteeism, absenteeism and leavism, and it has the biggest direct effect on unplanned absences and employee turnover.
When our work culture is consciously and collectively co-created to place the wellbeing of people above all else, then people can better align themselves when at work and do what needs to be done in a healthy and sustainable manner.
Truly supporting the mental health of remote employees requires deliberate and thoughtful effort from managers and HR leaders.
Start with building a strong and supportive remote work culture that celebrates different ways of thinking and working. Building a supportive culture so relies on documentation, asynchronous communication, and ownership to create flexibility, balance, and a deep sense of belonging and connection. It allows everyone to work at their peak hours of focus, distraction-free. This will help reduce burnout from the reduction of pings, unnecessary meetings, micro-managing, and overworking. Read our tips on how to build a strong remote culture, create physiological safety within teams, and see our guide on how to support neurodivergence in the remote workplace.
Educate leaders on how to maintain a supportive team culture within their own teams. Building a strong and supportive remote culture isn’t enough — you have to enable all leaders and managers to cultivate this culture within their own teams and provide the necessary training and support to do so. Part of this is ensuring that managers follow people-first processes (like focusing on outcomes over hours spent working) and normalize discussing everyday struggles.Nadia Vatalidis, VP of People at Remote, recommends that leadership teams “provide exceptional learning and development content to all of your managers to ensure you are enabling an optimal environment to lead with values and create a safe space for employees.”
Create space to disconnect and give employees the rest they need. Eliminate “always on” work hours and give employees the rest they need when they need it. You may choose to make this part of your handbook, offer unlimited PTO, announce quarterly self-care days, have your CEO set the expectation that responses in slack do not need to be immediate, etc. See how Remote practices this with self-care days, and read more tips on giving employees the rest they need.Danielle Bansie, one of Remote’s community members, says, “Employers can combat burnout by creating intentional flexibility within the workplace. For example, employers can provide a company-wide day to disconnect: no notifications, emails, or communication of any type is expected.
Offer mental health benefits as part of your regular employee health benefit. Just as employers offer benefits for physical health, they can find ways to support their teams with mental health resources as well. Read more on the evolving standard for employer benefits.
Provide employees with mental health wellness and support. Offering supplementary mental health benefits should be part of your regular employee health benefit. After all, mental health is one (very important) aspect of overall health. You may consider planning mental health awareness activities and providing resources (like company-wide meditations). Check out Remote’s Handbook for an example of how we support employees at Remote.
Make sure leadership sets the example. Employees follow the example that leaders make. For organizations with remote workers, it is especially important for leaders (from the highest level on down) to follow all of the guidelines just as they create them.
If you would like to hear more recommendations, check out our on-demand webinar, Improving Life-Work Balance for Your Remote Workforce, where experts from Remote share practical strategies for managers and people leaders at every level to protect remote team members against burnout.
It is important that both individuals and organizations take responsibility for preventing and addressing burnout, so that more sustainable and enjoyable ways of living and working can be harmoniously found.
Each burnout experience is unique to the individual. Some people completely crash, while others repeat negative patterns, continuously feeling run down yet never actually reaching breaking point.
There are several key signs of burnout that broadly come under the following seven categories. Though not all symptoms apply to everyone, you may experience one or two from each area or none from some areas and several from another:
Cognitive — Frequent brain fog, inability to retain or recall information in the same way that you used to, difficulty accessing creative ideas, mind feeling full, unable to be present, “tired but wired.”
Behavioral — Compulsive phone/email/social media checking, an over-dependence on caffeine and other stimulants to get you through the day, reaching for unhealthy food, binge-watching Netflix, dependency on alcohol and/or medicines/drugs to comfort and numb you out at night. Despite previously caring about other people, customers, clients, etc., you start feeling lack of ability to care.
Emotional - Tearful, feeling like you are on the edge, low tolerance or patience with others, inability to ‘hold’ any more for anyone else, emotionally feeling scattered “all over the place” or wobbly, like “jelly.”
Physical — Headaches, stomach pain, tension around neck and shoulders, lower back ache, shallow breathing, IBS, excessive sweating, feelings of panic that may result in panic attacks or unexplained chest pain.
Environmental — Clutter, living in chaos, physical appliances breaking down due to neglect, car running out of fuel, general accidents, dead plants.
Energetic - Feeling constantly fatigued, zombie or ghost-like as if not fully grounded in your own body.
Intuitive - Unable to access “gut feelings” and make decisions based on internal navigation, lost sense of self/purpose.
A company can only do so much in helping prevent burnout. It is fundamentally up to you to recognize when you are feeling the signs of burnout and to do something about it. Here are some tips for ways to combat burnout:
Don’t be afraid to take a break off when you need it. Set an away message on Slack, take the time to clear your mind, and come back to work refocused and refreshed. Even better, don’t wait until you start feeling burned out; instead, schedule time on your calendar to be intentional about taking short breaks throughout the day.
Find a burnout accountability buddy. If you find that you aren’t the best at making yourself take that daily break, finding a buddy can help. You can both hold each other accountable for taking the breaks you need and checking in with each other.
Structure your day to when you work best. Set your work hours to the hours where you know you work best and are most focused. Try to bundle meetings together so that you stay focused on the tasks at hand and have time to get your work done.
Create physical distinctions between work spaces and living spaces within your home. You’ve probably heard this one before, but separating your work space from your home/relaxing space is vital to shutting off at the end of the day. Try to find a space in your home where you can physically shut a door or put a divider so that you can not visually see the computer when you have finished work. If it’s time for an office redesign, check out these tips on how to create your home office with mental health in mind.
Schedule that vacation you have been putting off. PTO is only useful if you actually use it. Taking regular vacations from work — whether that be across the globe or a staycation with your family — can be one of the most beneficial things you can do to reset.
Prioritize your mental health and take advantage of the resources available. Every employee health plan may be different, but do some research into the mental health benefits your employer offers and proactively take advantage of them.
Meeting overload? Schedule no-meeting Fridays. Sometimes you need that end of week work day to reset, get the work done that was put on the back burner throughout the week, and come into the weekend refreshed and relaxed.
Make time for things that bring you joy outside of work. Finding joy in projects or activities outside of work can be therapeutic in and of itself. Build time in your schedule to bring back some of these activities that induce your endorphins and give you back the life-work balance you deserve.
If you are still feeling the effects of burnout and realize that it may be time for a career change, here are some places to start:
Actively look for companies that provide mental health resources or have a section on mental health in their handbook. This will be a tell-tale sign on the importance leadership places on employee burnout and self-care.
Perhaps you want to switch up the industry you are working in. Here are the industries that offer the best work life balance.
Looking for a change of scenery? Here are the best destinations for remote work, and here are the top 10 countries in Europe for better work-life balance.
Check out the I Choose Remote Toolkit for more resources in your job search.
During Mental Health Awareness Month 2022, Jayne Morris hosted an audio-only, guided mental health walk and meditation for the Remote Community, which we have included for you below. Take a listen on your next mental health break — and if you haven’t taken one yet today, now is a great time!
While most companies recognize the importance of mental health, not all take the necessary steps to create welcoming spaces for their employees to address their mental wellbeing needs. As more employees look for companies with stronger benefits packages around the world, mental health benefits will continue to make a difference for jobseekers. Now is the time for more companies to reassess their benefits packages and find new ways to support employees in their goals to live healthier lives.
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