Telework Burnout and Zoom Fatigue: Much More Complicated Than They Appear

It's not too late to recognize and mitigate the 12 issues causing work-from-home burnout.

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By Gleb Tsipursky

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Have you or your employees been experiencing work-from-home burnout and Zoom fatigue these past many months? Do you encounter this burnout regardless of the supposed benefit of working remotely and utilizing videoconferences for meetings?

It's unfortunate that the huge bulk of efforts to address WFH burnout is focused on attempting to treat the symptoms without attending to the root causes, which originate from companies merely tweaking their "office culture" to suit remote work.

To defeat WFH burnout, companies need to understand the truth of the issues resulting in WFH burnout in order to adapt and excel in our new world. Otherwise, utilizing office-style culture to perform virtual work is merely forcing a square peg into a round hole, leading many employees straight to burnout.

Related: Should Business Leaders Be Worried About the New Covid Strains?

Recognize the 12 issues causing work-from-home burnout

After integrating my expertise in social and emotional intelligence with research on issues surrounding working from from home during this pandemic, I was able to work out these two tangled concepts into a series of factors:

1. Deprivation of our basic human need for significance and function. Possibly the most significant issue is that the vast majority of people don't realize we aren't just experiencing work-from-home burnout; we're denied the fulfillment of fundamental human needs of meaning and purpose we used to obtain from work. It's important to remember that our sense of self, our narratives of ourselves and our sense of meaning-making are very much connected to our work. These were all disrupted when we shifted to working remotely.

2. Deprivation of our basic human need for connection. The work environment and community that we have also fulfills our need for connection. Work-from-home disconnects us from our capability to connect successfully to our coworkers as humans, rather than little squares on a screen.

3. Being unable to establish and maintain trust. In workplace settings, it's simple to build trust through casual interactions. This structure of trust does not occur effortlessly in virtual settings. There's a particular reason that teams that start virtual, but later on meet face to face in the office, work together significantly better after doing so. On the other hand, groups that transition from in-person settings to virtual ones eventually lose that sense of shared humanity and trust.

4. Deprivation of mentoring and informal training. An important part of on-the-job training and learning comes from informal mentoring from senior coworkers. It also comes from the observational professional advancement you get from seeing how your colleagues do their tasks. Losing this mentoring has been particularly challenging for younger workers.

5. It isn't just "Zoom fatigue." Yes, drain from videoconferences is an actual experience. However, it's not about Zoom itself or any other videoconference software application. The issue originates from our intuitive expectations about virtual meetings giving us energy by connecting to people. In-person events, even if they're purely professional, still get us to connect on a human-to-human way. Yet our emotions simply don't process videoconference meetings as genuinely linking us on a human-to-human gut level.

6. Forcing a square peg into a round hole. A lot of businesses try to make up the workplace culture glue of emotional and social connection with Zoom happy hours and similar events that shift in-person bonding activities into virtual formats. Unfortunately, such activities don't fulfill our needs nearly as well. Just as with other videoconferences, we have intuitively raised expectations. We wind up dissatisfied and annoyed by failing to have our requirements met.

7. Inadequate skills in remote work technology tools. This issue leads to reduced performance and discouraging experiences for those who are required to collaborate.

8. Absence of skills in effective remote communication. It is notoriously hard to communicate efficiently, even face to face. When in-office groups end up being virtual teams, effective interaction becomes much more challenging.

9. Inadequate skills in reliable remote collaboration. There is no natural method to get the required informal interactions that are key to good teamwork and collaboration. Voice tone and body language are crucial to noticing developing issues, and remote communication provides us fewer chances to discover such problems.

10. Lack of accountability. In-office environments allow for natural methods to hold staff accountable. Leaders can quickly walk around the office, looking around and observing what's happening. They can also swiftly check in with their subordinates regarding projects. The same applies to peer-to-peer interactions: It's much easier to disregard an email with a question than someone standing in the doorway to your office or stopping you in the hallway. You will need to replace accountability with another structure for virtual work.

11. Poor work-from-home environments. Some staff members may have access to reliable internet connection, good equipment and appropriate home-office spaces, but others may not. Considering the restrictions caused by the pandemic, revamping home work areas will take considerable time and resources that might not be available to many people.

12. Poor work-life boundaries. The problematic separation of work and personal life originates from the actions of both employers and staff members. In the long run, poor boundaries trigger subpar performance, an increase in errors and, eventually, burnout.

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Address Unconscious Bias

Zoom fatigue and work-from-home burnout are far more complicated than they seem. You should carry out a wholesale strategic shift to restructure your company policies and culture from the emergency mindset of working from home to remote work — full-time or hybrid — being our new normal.

Gleb Tsipursky

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky, CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts, is a behavioral scientist who helps executives make the wisest decisions and manage risks in the future of work. He wrote the best-sellers “Never Go With Your Gut,” “The Blindspots Between Us,” and "Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams."

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