The existence of remote work brought a bunch of advantages. Employees get to work in the comfort of their homes, avoid stressful traffic, and enjoy flexibility in their work environment.
Business owners also have lower operating costs, improved employee performance, and increased productivity. However, one of the greatest challenges in remote working situations is the lack of personal contact and the looming isolation and detachment it can bring.
Working at home can be fun. You don’t have to worry about dressing up or the tiring commute to and from work. All you have to do is get up, turn on your computer, and immediately start working. It’s efficient and convenient.
But, remote working conditions also have their own set of problems and issues, particularly on the topic of too much convenience leading to employee burnout.
Employee burnout is not something that has to be taken lightly. If not managed properly, it can negatively impact an individual’s physical and mental health – thus damaging their personal and professional lives.
Therefore, your responsibility as a business owner or leader is to prevent this from happening. Here is an overview and guide on keeping your virtual assistant from burning out to give you a better idea.
What is Burnout?
According to recent reports, 63% of remote-working employees experience burnout. But what is it exactly?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines burnout as chronic workplace stress. It is considered an occupational phenomenon that significantly affects an individual’s physical and mental well-being. Burnout symptoms commonly show as feelings of exhaustion, detachment, negativism, cynicism, and reduced productivity, efficacy, and motivation.
However, many confuse burnout with everyday stress and fatigue. Because of this, employees tend to disregard their symptoms. Thus, ultimately failing to manage their stress symptoms before it gets worse.
There are distinct differences between the symptoms of burnout and common stress. Here is a quick comparison.
- Leads to over-engagement in tasks
- Builds a sense of urgency and hyperactivity, often leads to anxiety
- Characterized overreactive emotions
- Experience loss of energy or fatigue
- Primarily affects physical well-being
- Leads to disengagement in tasks
- Creates a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, often leading to detachment and depression.
- Characterized by blunted emotions
- Experience loss of motivation, hope, and ideals
- Primarily affects mental and emotional well-being
5 Stages Of Employee Burnout
Learning how the condition progresses is essential in understanding the burnout phenomenon in remote working environments. There are five stages of burnout, starting from mild to severe.
Stage 1: Honeymoon Phase
The honeymoon phase is characterized by excitement, energy, and optimism. When newly hiring a virtual assistant, they would be engaged and motivated to work on their job. They happily take on tasks and at their most productive and efficient behavior.
Stage 2: Onset of Stress
Somewhere down the road, the honeymoon phase passes, and remote employees start to feel the demands of their work. They begin to experience stress when tasks pile up, and some days become more demanding of their time, energy, and effort. At this point, remote employees may notice signs of stress and fatigue, such as a lack of energy and focus to complete the task.
Stage 3: Chronic Stress
As the onset of stress is not managed, it would come to a point where it turns into something chronic or persistent. At this stage, the pressure continues for long periods of time and negatively affects their performance at work.
They can start to feel apathetic and lose motivation to complete tasks on time or at all. Chronic stress can also begin to manifest itself in feelings of isolation, detachment, and aggressiveness, which can lead to withdrawal from social interactions.
Stage 4: Burnout
The burnout phase marks the individual’s personal limit in handling stress. It is characterized by the paramount pressure employees feel in and out of work. The employee would start to obsess over the stress, making them unable to focus and sometimes disoriented. Physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach issues also begin manifest.
Stage 5: Habitual Burnout
At the habitual burnout stress, symptoms become an everyday occurrence and a part of their life. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness start to arise, which can lead to mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
Physical symptoms such as fatigue, headache, and stomach problems also persist. Altogether, habitual burnout renders them incapable of functioning normally and risks their careers.
Tips To Prevent Burnout in VAs
Encourage regular breaks
Overworking is one of the leading causes of burnout. Since remote work provides easy access to work, employees tend to work feverishly with little to no breaks. To keep this from happening, encourage your virtual assistants to take regular breaks during their work hours.
Even short 5 to 10-minute breaks in between answering phone calls and writing emails can significantly affect their physical and mental well-being.
Practice work-life balance
One of the distinct characteristics of remote work is the diminishing line between work and life. Since employees can work whenever and wherever they want, it can sometimes be difficult to find when work ends, and life begins.
To deal with this, have your employees practice proper work-life balance. Discourage work-related messages after work hours to allow your employees to completely focus on their lives outside of work, even if their computers are within arm’s reach.
Manage workload properly
Virtual assistants often handle a bunch of tasks. At one moment, they can be handling administrative tasks, and then they would be providing customer service, creating graphic design, or even managing your emails. At some point, your VA may be dealing with responsibilities too much to handle. And unlikely for them to say anything about it.
Once you notice that your VA has too many responsibilities, don’t hesitate to take some off their hands. You can handle it or hire another virtual assistant to deal with the surplus. Either way, you must keep your VA’s workload manageable to keep them from overworking themselves.
Remote work can be isolating. Your virtual assistant won’t have officemates to talk to and chit-chat with. To keep your employees from feeling alone and detached, be the one to communicate with them.
Start casual conversations that will allow them to feel comfortable and recognized. Regularly ask for updates on whatever it is they are doing outside of work. This will allow them to see you more as an acquaintance or a colleague than a person of authority to whom they cannot relate with.
Advocate for a healthy and balanced lifestyle
Working from home can become monotonous and uneventful. Most employees spend hours sitting in front of their computers and find little to no time to enjoy any other activities in and out of their homes. Having nothing to do aside from work can be harmful in the long run.
To deal with this, encourage your employees to practice a healthier and balanced lifestyle. Talk about the benefits of exercising, eating healthy, and finding hobbies that can stimulate their minds. Whether it’s gardening or playing computer games, push them to activities that will keep them relaxed and entertained.
While burnout may present as common stress, it is important to acknowledge and manage it before it worsens. Virtual assistant jobs can take on a wide array of responsibilities. Sometimes, it can be too much that they cannot juggle everything all at once.
When hiring and managing remote employees, you must build a positive and conducive work environment for them. Consider individual situations when delegating tasks effectively. Don’t be too strict and stingy regarding necessary work breaks and vacations. Be empathetic in handling and leading your remote employees; this will make them loyal and committed to working for you.
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