Following two years from hell (if you’ll allow me 😆), we entered 2022: a whole new chapter in the way we approach work, and even life. During those two years, countless teams became remote; first maybe by necessity, but then, by natural progression - which inevitably shifted the way teams work everywhere.

Now for us at Jexo, it’s always been remote work since day one; with a remote team spread across the world. So that didn’t really change, but this summer, we got to meet each other in person for the first time in 2.5 years… Crazy, right?!

And while remote work may offer lots of flexibility, and other benefits, it doesn’t fail at ushering in a bunch of challenges ; of which, remote burnout!

What's in this article:

  • A look at the state of remote burnout everywhere - based on position, industry, etc.
  • A bunch of interesting data based on 2 main reports:
    - The state of remote burnout report 2022
    - The state of remote manager report 2022
  • A couple of tips on how to go about doing remote work without losing it 😛

What is the biggest challenge of remote working?

Remote teams get a lot of flexibility, there’s no denying it, but what the stats have shown is that remote teams are 14% more likely to experience burnout. Why? Well, we’re often on our own, which makes connecting to people and building relationships much harder. No matter what tech we end up using, whether it’s Zoom, Slack, Trello, Google Docs, etc., it’s hard to build the trust we need for remote teams to excel!

According to The State of Remote Burnout in 2022, by Kona, from where I got some of the stats I’m using in this article, we call this phenomenon "The Remote Paradox."

Managers find it hard to manage remote teams
Difficulties managing remote teams

Remote managers see team building as the biggest challenge; and it’s been the case for a few years. But the second challenge today, in 2022, is burnout; which wasn’t the case back in 2020 - where communication was the hardest thing for managers to deal with, following team building. In 2021, it was team morale.

Now, whether it’s communication, team morale or burnout, the hardest part about managing remote teams is always people!

What is remote burnout?

Burnout is a form of exhaustion, an unfortunate crossroad between fatigue, inefficacy (low confidence in performance) and cynicism towards work. It usually appears following a series of emotional, physical and mental stress (like the two years from hell we just had)!

The 3 symptoms of remote burnout
What is remote burnout

The World Health Organization recognizes burnout as an occupational phenomenon, a factor that influences health status and something to consider given it’s pretty much everywhere! Regardless of what industry you're in, burnout will affect most of your employees, anyway.

The state of remote burnout based on industries
Burnout by industry

According to The State of Remote Manager Report 2022 (where the Kona team interviewed remote leaders from 175 tech companies) the people who experience burnouts the most are managers, directors, CXOs and VPs. CXOs and VPs especially, given that with remote work, they tend to put up with a serious lack of communication and flexibility.

Remote burnout based on work seniority
Burnout by seniority

And…they typically manage multiple remote teams, or bigger teams than others do.

Average team size based on work seniority
Team size by seniority

Fun fact: the average team size has almost doubled in two years, going from 4.87 in 2020 to 7.4 in 2022!

Other fun facts related to remote work and burnouts:

  • Burnout triples when there’s a lack of communication
  • Working moms experience burnouts more often than working dads
  • In 2020, over 16% of companies had planned to return to the office full time; now, it’s 6.6%
Remote burnout fun facts from the Remote Manager Report 2022
Remote burnout facts

How to avoid burnout in remote teams?

There are a few tricks that can help avoid burnout in remote work.

Connection and safety

There’s no way around connection and feeling safe; these aspects have to be developed in the company’s culture, no matter what. Take social connections and how they affect engagement for example; 64% of employees who are highly connected with the rest of the remote team are highly engaged, as opposed to 11% of employees with low social connectivity who feel like they’re highly engaged at work.

And while 63% of managers experienced burnout during the pandemic, 52% of the exiting employees said that their manager could’ve done something to help and 62% of teams said that discussions with the manager regarding mental health would’ve made a difference. I know it did for me! 🙂

63% of remote leaders experienced burnout
Remote burnout in leaders

How to foster trust in remote teams?

There are a few things you can do to create a remote environment that helps teams build trust and connection.

  1. Build trust by making remote team members feel secure enough to be open and honest; it’s quite simple actually.
  2. Build deeper bonds within the team by helping develop a positive environment where everyone knows their contributions matter.
  3. Build autonomy by trusting your remote team and empowering all members to feel confident about taking risks and showing initiative.

What are the causes and effects of remote burnout?

It’s easier to avoid burnout in the first place, than it is to treat. And avoiding it requires a certain initiative on the part of the organization as a whole, which will tackle certain organizational processes and develop a strong culture where people feel like they can express themselves.

  • The solution to an unrealistic workload is better work management, i.e. better solutions for planning and tracking work for example.
  • The solution to disconnection across the team is team building, which can be done through games for example or random, heartfelt conversations online.
  • The solution to feeling small, having little impact, or having limited ownership over the work is by building a culture of learning where people constantly evolve, with the help of certain development programs for example.
  • The solution to misalignment of values across your team or organization is to create a transparent process for all.
  • The solution to a discouraged mind and heart is to open the floor to dialogue while helping remote team members feel safe and in good hands.
  • The solution to getting stuck in a stress loop is to simply manage the work process in such a way that loops become quasi-impossible.
Causes and Effects of Burnout

How to look at the future of remote work?

It’s pretty obvious that the approach of “people-first” is winning; there’s no doubt about it. The idea that you’ll have a remote worker stay at a company forever, even if they find better value elsewhere, is part of the old approach to work. Attracting AND retaining talent comes down to investing in people; in a way that is empathetic and truly caring.

What are the 6 types of remote work strategies?

  • All remote: the world is your oyster
  • Remote-only: as long as you adhere to the timezone, you’re good
  • Remote-first: co-working spaces are good for creativity
  • Hybrid-remote: enjoy the office culture with remote privileges
  • Remote exceptions: mostly in the office with exceptions
  • No-remote: always in the office
6 strategy types for remote work
6 types of remote work strategies

What are tips on working remotely?

If you’re looking to work remotely, here are a couple of simple tips to keep in mind:

  • Document all your processes, culture, goals and so on; everyone should have access to these documents.
  • Work in full transparency; it is key to good remote work; you can even plan in public or include your team daily in quick meetings.
  • Learn how to do team building, play games, have meet-ups, 1-on-1; basically, encourage everyone to meet up and talk.
  • Allow people on your remote team to play to their own tune; employees each have their own style so never micromanage them.

I’ll soon put together a more detailed article on how to go about working remotely without losing it, by maybe using Jexo as a remote work use case; but for now, I shall bid you farewell.