The Impact of Remote Work Burnout: Statistics, Causes, and Effective Solutions

Burnout has become such a common phenomenon in workplaces all around the world that even WHO has classified it as a disease. With the global rise in the number of people working remotely, the symptoms associated with burnout are beginning to show themselves in remote workers.

So, what is remote work burnout, and what are the main causes of its occurrence? How to deal with it from an employee as well as company perspective? Keep reading this article to find the answer to all of those questions and more.

The Impact of Remote Work Burnout: Statistics, Causes, and Effective Solutions
In this guide, you’ll learn:
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What Is Remote Work Burnout?

According to a number of studies, the percentage of remote workers has seen a steady increase ever since the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently, it’s suggested that around 23% of all employed people in the US work remotely. Subsequently, the fact that more people are working remotely these days means that remote work burnout is also more prevalent.

So, what exactly constitutes remote work burnout?

Remote work burnout is best defined as a continuous state of chronic fatigue, both mental and physical in nature, accompanied by decreased levels of productivity and work efficacy. As the name suggests, it affects remote workers and results from spending prolonged periods of time in a remote working environment.

The Most Common Causes of Remote Work Burnout

Recent studies have pointed out how working from home, especially when it happens on an involuntary basis or unexpectedly, as it did for many employees during the Covid-19 pandemic, can lead to workers experiencing increased levels of stress (or perceived stress) and work-related burnout.

This trend continues even after the pandemic, causing both involuntary and voluntary remote workers to experience burnout.

The jury is still out regarding the degree to which burnout affects these two categories of remote workers or why it seems like remote workers are more liable to experience burnout. What we do know for a fact is that remote work burnout does occur.

To better understand this phenomenon, we should take a look at the most common causes of remote work burnout:

Unable to Disconnect From Work

High on the list of causes for remote work burnout is that some remote employees find it difficult to disconnect from work. The main reason, as we currently understand it, is that personal and work life are more intertwined in a remote work environment simply because they both occur in the same place – typically, the remote worker’s home. The absence of boundaries between work and personal space is a big issue when it comes to working in a remote setting.

Working Longer Hours

Research shows that, on average, remote workers tend to work 3 hours more (i.e., about 11 hours per day) than regular office workers. It seems like the main reason for this lies in the remote employees’ inability to disconnect from work, the interconnectedness of work and personal spaces, and the challenge of working with colleagues from different time zones. 

This shows that longer working hours can cause further problems regarding work-life balance, increased stress levels, fatigue, and ultimately burnout for remote workers. 

One solution for these issues is to switch the focus of remote work to measuring deliverables instead of just tracking the number of work hours they put in. This way, remote workers will be held accountable for the quality of their work and the deadlines they adhere to.

Communication Issues

Having limited access to immediate guidance or feedback from a manager can cause stress to remote employees. A 2022 report by the brand-building service provider Buffer shows that 17% of the 2,000 remote workers they interviewed experience difficulties with collaboration and communication in a remote work setting, making this a relatively common issue.

Poor collaboration and communication between teams, remote employees, and their managers can lead to uncertainty and work-related stress, triggering remote work burnout.

The best fix for this issue is to create proper communication channels and have regular communication. This helps clear up any issues that employees might be experiencing, as well as resolve any feelings of uncertainty that they have about their work. 

Feelings of Isolation and Loneliness

Remote work burnout can be exacerbated by feelings of isolation and loneliness. And, as some studies have shown, remote workers harbor these feelings at a slightly higher percentage than those working in a regular office setting. 

The increased feeling of loneliness is strongly associated with the level of support provided by co-workers and supervisors. This is worsened by the lack of communication and human contact, social isolation during work hours, and similar.  

Loneliness can cause stress, and prolonged feelings of stress are considered one of the main causes of burnout.

No Set Routine

While it is true that remote work offers more flexibility when it comes to work schedules, that in itself is not always a good thing. Some remote workers may lack the self-discipline and self-motivation skills to create a work structure and a set routine.

In a regular work setting, employees don’t have to think about creating a routine themselves, as they usually have fixed work times and schedules. For example, they arrive at the office at 9 am and leave at 5 pm. In some cases, remote work doesn't require fixed working hours (in the case of flexible work schedules), which can cause stress, uncertainty, and frustration to some remote workers and, ultimately, burnout.

Most Common Symptoms of Burnout

Work-related burnout can manifest itself in many different ways and cause various types of behaviors in people. 

Physical Symptoms

The most prevalent physical symptoms of burnout include:

  • Frequent headaches; 
  • Indigestion and stomach pain;
  • Heart palpitations; 
  • Feelings of chronic fatigue or exhaustion;
  • Insomnia and/or uneven sleep patterns;
  • Lack or increase in appetite;
  • Decreased libido;
  • Weakened immune system, which can lead to frequent illness;

Emotional Symptoms

The most common emotional symptoms of burnout are:

  • Feeling a lack of energy and motivation;
  • Feeling increasingly irritable and frustrated;
  • Lashing out;
  • Feelings of loneliness and detachment from other people;
  • Feeling helpless;
  • Inability to feel satisfied or decreased feelings of satisfaction;
  • Feelings associated with anxiety, such as restlessness, sadness, or feelings of hopelessness;
  • Cynicism;

Behavioral Signs

The most common behavioral signs of burnout are:

  • Lowered productivity and efficacy when dealing with work-related tasks;
  • Isolating from people in general (including co-workers);
  • Frequent and longer periods of procrastination;
  • Outbursts, such as starting arguments, provoking and/or berating co-workers or other people in general;
  • Substance abuse (most commonly alcohol or drugs);
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and other activities that a person experiencing burnout previously enjoyed (meaning they had feelings of happiness or satisfaction while engaged in those activities prior to burnout);

Adverse Effects of Burnout on Workers and Companies

Burnout can negatively impact both the workers experiencing it and the companies that employ them. It’s a worldwide phenomenon that still requires a lot of studying and monitoring if we are to completely understand it and its effects. 

Based on the current knowledge on this topic, some of the negative effects of burnout are:

Negative Effects of Burnout on Workers

Burnout can affect various aspects of an employee's life (both personal and work-related) and cause:

  • Physical and mental health issues – Not addressing burnout in its early stages (when it first occurs) can lead to numerous health issues, both mental and physical in nature. Chronic fatigue, inability to have a decent night’s sleep, and high blood pressure are just some of the physical manifestations of burnout. When it comes to mental problems, burnout can cause anxiety, depression, mood swings, and emotional exhaustion in general.
  • Lowered productivity – Burnout can also harm the worker’s job performance and overall productivity. It can decrease an employee’s ability to concentrate, perform tasks efficiently, increase the chances of making errors, and more. This can all lead to an overall decrease in the quality of deliverables as well as a higher probability of missing deadlines.
  • Dwindling job satisfaction – Workers experiencing burnout are often less engaged and less passionate about their work. This can lead to them completely detaching from their work obligations, further decreasing their motivation and productivity.
  • Absenteeism – Burnout can lead to absenteeism, defined as habitually not showing up or being late for work. This practice can significantly disrupt team cohesion and spirit, forcing other team members to “pick up the pieces” (i.e., do all the work of the employee experiencing burnout). The increased workload can then lead to those other employees feeling overworked and increasing their chances of falling into the endless pit we call burnout.
  • Problems in personal life – Work-related stress and problems can often spill into an employee's personal life.  Burnout often leads to dissatisfaction, decreased work-life balance, and increased strain on the worker’s personal relationships. 

Negative Effects of Burnout on Companies

Burnout can also affect companies and organizations in different ways, causing:

  • Loss of profit – Not addressing burnout can cause a significant loss to investors and stakeholders inside a particular company. According to a Forbes article, those losses can amount to a staggering 1.8 trillion dollars annually.
  • Increased staff turnover – Burnout can lead to increased turnover, i.e., more money spent on training and onboarding new employees, further impacting the company's ability to generate profit. 
  • Decreased quality of work, products, and services – Workers experiencing burnout will, more likely than not, produce lower quality deliverables (have a lower quality output), which can significantly impede a company's ability to generate income and maintain good relationships with its clients. 
  • Negative effect on the brand – Burnout leads to high turnover, less engaged employees, low quality of work, lessened productivity levels, and so on. All of this can have a negative impact on a particular company’s brand, culture, and client relationships.

Tips for Employees to Prevent Remote Work Burnout

Here are some of the things that employees can do to tackle burnout:

Engage in Physical Activities and Take Breaks

Sometimes, the simplest things in life are the best solutions. Taking a 10-minute-long walk can significantly improve your mood and decrease stress levels, further mitigating the negative effects of burnout or preventing them completely. 

It’s easy to lose yourself in your work, especially in a remote work environment with no colleagues to remind you it’s break time. That’s why it's important to set break reminders and take regular breaks. They can help you reset your mind, improve your ability to concentrate, and increase and maintain productivity levels.

Improve Your Time Management Skills

Poor time management is associated with increased chances of burnout, according to some studies. One of the ways to lower the chances of burnout ever occurring or mitigate its negative effects is to understand and emphasize the importance of time management and how it can positively affect work-life balance, productivity, efficacy, and more.

To improve time management, you can create your own time management strategy by following our guide. You can also invest in a time-tracking app that will help you gather all relevant data and track your progress in this endeavor.

Create a Reward System or Gamify Your Work

Gamification is all the craze right now, and for a good reason – it works. By creating a system that rewards you for successfully completing tasks, you can improve your mood, motivate yourself, and maintain high productivity and concentration levels.

Communicate With Your Team and Ask for Help

Many companies are seeing a huge hit to their bottom line due to not properly addressing burnout and other health-related problems their employees are experiencing.

By communicating early about the symptoms or problems you’re experiencing, you can actually receive proper help at the right time and maintain your productivity levels. What’s more, you can benefit the company in the long run by decreasing its chances of turnover and lowering the costs related to onboarding and training new employees.

How Can Companies Reduce Remote Work Burnout?

In order to reduce turnover, costs incurred for recruiting and training new employees, additional healthcare costs, and a general loss of profit, companies should start addressing the issues and concerns regarding remote work burnout.

Here are just a couple of things that managers, employers, or company decision-makers can do to reduce the negative effects of remote work burnout: 

  • Offer flexible schedules – If the nature of your business allows it, you should offer your remote employees more flexible working schedules, as opposed to a fixed 9-to-5 shift. This will help them focus more on their work-life balance, lowering the chances of burnout ever occurring.
  • Streamline communication – One of the causes of remote work burnout is connected to communication issues and the uncertainty that can arise from it. The best way for companies to combat this particular problem is to streamline their remote communication. There are many remote work software that can help with this. 
  • Get time tracking and other productivity tools – Investing in time tracking and other productivity solutions can help companies and their employees keep a close eye on productivity. With that information, any dips and lows in employee efficiency can immediately be spotted and underlying issues addressed. If the cause of the problem is burnout, companies can tackle that issue by giving the employee a couple of days off, offering consultations with an expert, or similar.

Lead by example – It’s not enough for managers and team leads to encourage remote employees to care for their well-being; they should also do it themselves. By doing so, they can serve as a good example for their workers. Leaders who prioritize self-care are essentially reinforcing the importance of work-life balance, which can help create a more healthy work culture and environment.