Burnout in the home office is always a danger. But especially in the corona crisis, lockdown, tight spaces and worries about the future can intensify the phenomenon. We explain why this is so and what managers can do to protect their employees.
If you search the social media for the keyword “burnout”, you will of course find at present mainly references to employees in the health care sector and how much the concern about the corona virus is currently also putting us under psychological strain.
But one topic is hardly ever mentioned: the fact that everyone in the home office is now constantly available – and suddenly work much more than before.
Does Corona threaten burnout?
It’s actually an old prejudice: home office employees work less.
For years, advocates of the work model, psychologists and freelancers have been trying to show that the opposite is true. In fact, employees in the home office often work even longer than their colleagues in the office.
A study by Stanford University, for example, has shown that the workload in the home office increases by up to 13 percent.
One reason for this is that it is harder to distinguish between working time and free time when the office is in your own living room. An e-mail that still arrives at 9 pm? You can still answer it quickly. In the office, on the other hand, the customer would probably not have received an answer until the next morning.
On the other hand, employees in the home office naturally also feel the prejudices of many colleagues. Because they want to show that they’re not just watching Netflix series in their pajamas, they often subconsciously work longer hours.
But if they work so much in the long run, they will eventually be exhausted and then burnout is not far away. What is already a problem in normal everyday life is now intensified by the Corona crisis.
Apartment is office, school and home at the same time
It feels as if each of us is now holding video conferences in the living room while “on the side” we do our schoolwork with the children and prepare dinner for the family. Even for people who worked in the home office before Corona, so much mixing of work and leisure is new.
Before that, the children spent at least part of the day at school or at the daycare centre or could be looked after in some other way. Even as a workplace, they had more options than just their own home.
For example, many home office employees deliberately go to a coworking space or rent office space during their working hours.
Psychologists repeatedly emphasize the importance of drawing clear boundaries between job and home office. And not in order to devalue his work, but also to create a clear division of tasks in the brain: Now I’m working and now I’m doing something else.
Because only those who clearly separate work and leisure time can really switch off from office stress at the end of the day.
But with Corona, this is now much more difficult. How can you draw clear boundaries when your own home suddenly becomes your office, school and family home? No wonder that this new home office situation puts even more stress on many.
Vicious circle of worries
In addition, of course, there is the general concern for health, family and the future. Finally, many people ask themselves what will happen to their job after Corona? But this also results in a dangerous vicious circle.
In order to escape these worries and to distract themselves, many people are currently throwing themselves into their work. For many, this is the only area they still have full control over in the current chaos and uncertainty.
This is also the attitude of many customers or superiors at present: If we already have nothing to do anyway, we can work more. But this is exactly the beginning of burnout.
An always-on mentality makes you sick
A “confession series” in the trade publication Digiday shows how this is already having an effect. In it, employees from the media and marketing industry report openly and honestly from their home office about their current situation.
An advertising copywriter confesses: “Somehow it’s as if you have to be available all the time. Now it’s all about how you can draw boundaries. This week I tried to be clearer and say when I’m out and tell others when I don’t want to talk about work anymore. “
After all, the “always on mentality” in the home office, which has been reinforced by the Corona crisis, is not only stressful. Anyone who works so much in the long term and has to deal with such a high level of stress is actually threatened with burnout.
Managers must make breaks possible
Especially now, when we are under particularly heavy physical and mental strain, it is important that we take breaks in the home office and not work endless hours.
Just as you set working hours, you should also have fixed times for breaks. And in these breaks you should consciously not look at your e-mails or answer customer calls.
Of course, an employee cannot decide that alone. Rather, managers should enable and encourage this. This includes, for example, allowing time for lunch breaks or limiting the number of video and telephone conferences per day. There should also be clear rules on working hours.
It may also help the team if they have access to counsellors and psychologists who can assist them during this time.
After all, in the long term it simply does not make sense to overburden your employees. After all, no company wants to have an office full of burnt-out employees after Corona.