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It’s been almost a year since we started working remotely. Originally, many employees rallied and did what we had to do to support our company and achieve our organizational goals. We quickly moved from face-to-face interaction to seemingly non-stop video calls.
A year in, and I am exhausted! I work approximately 2.5 additional hours per day and most weekends to keep up with the workload. I find myself on at least four video calls per day. My company was very active socially before the pandemic and has maintained that by booking weekly virtual social events. Our leader insists that we attend these social gatherings, stating that they are important for the culture.
Although I am an extrovert and love to socialize, I resent all these social and internal meetings because I need time to recharge. It is at the point that even one video lunch per week is too much. Lunchtime has become sacred for me and by booking meetings into it, I can no longer go on my daily walk and take time away from my computer.
I don’t want to appear as not a team player, but I have given it my all over the last year and am realizing my work has become my life. By the time I finish my day, I only have enough energy to crash on the couch and fall asleep watching TV. My vacation time was used by taking extra days here and there throughout the last year. I am also not resetting after a weekend, as I end up working to keep up with the workload, allowing little time to myself. I am concerned about my well-being, as well as my team’s. I am zoomed out of virtual meetings and feel that I am on the verge of burnout.
In 2019, the World Health Organization finally included burnout in its International Classification of Diseases, describing it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Burnout is real and being on video calls is harder on us both physically and mentally. Our brains find it more challenging to process nonverbal cues like facial expressions and body language, making it difficult to process information, and therefore exhausting us. According to Bloomberg Business, Canadians are working an additional 2.5 hours per day and additional research by Jennifer Moss showed the following:
89% of respondents said their work-life was getting worse.
85% said their well-being had declined.
56% said their job demands had increased.
To combat overworking, many managers recommend taking an extra-long weekend, using personal days, exercising more, and/or attend training workshops on how to be more resilient. While these are all good suggestions, the issue is that this only puts the onus back on the employee to do more.
Organizations have failed over the last year to recognize this is a systemic issue and if we do not make shifts in policies, meeting protocols/expectations, flexibility and work distribution, organizations risk disengagement, performance issues, and cultures of presenteeism, absenteeism, and burnout. There is no simple answer, but there are a few things leaders can start doing now, such as taking an interest in their employees’ emotional well-being.
Before they reach burnout, human beings will go through emotional exhaustion, an emotional state of feeling worn out and drained due to accumulated stress that stems from personal and work life. Some of the early signs are trouble sleeping, irritability, apathy, change in appetite, irrational anger, feeling of dread, and a decrease in motivation.
Employers need to know that in this state they are at risk of burnout, as well as drops in performance such as missing deadlines, increase in sick time, and flight risks, hoping to escape to culture and workloads that are less emotionally draining.
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