COVID-19 has changed how leaders run their organizations. The new normal for work has been completely redefined. What was once shrugged as a counterproductive strategy, remote work has now become a necessity for organizations to continue functioning effectively. In a recent study conducted by Gallup, 62% of Americans have now shifted to either part-time or full-time work from home. And with the Malaysian Movement Control Order in effect, it’s safe to say that the majority of us are still working from home in 2021.
Although remote work is common in some industries, particularly in the IT sector, a lot of organizations had or are still having challenges in effectively implementing this revolutionary change. As an IT recruitment agency, we understand the challenges that come along with engaging IT professionals remotely.
The New Norm
The pandemic has accelerated the digitalization of the workplace. Organizations need to keep up not only to maintain their operations but also to stay competitive when it comes to competition for talents.
Workers are now seriously considering work from home as a deciding factor whether to join a company or not. There seems to be a strong agreement between worker preferences and company vision when it comes to remote work. A survey conducted by Gartner for 800 global HR practitioners, found out that 88% of organizations have required or encouraged work from home. Interestingly, an article published in The Star revealed that more than 60% of Malaysian employees are claiming to be working from home.
But with this new norm, came new sets of challenges chief of which is burnout. Companies who had just adopted the work from home setup, have found themselves ill-equipped in handling disengagement and burnout.
What Are Common Burnout Symptoms?
The biggest challenge organizations right now are facing is the ability to detect stress and burnout from their employees in the early stages. Not being able to see and check on them regularly compared to when everyone was still in the office, has made addressing this problem a tough one to crack.
Usually, HR Managers are only able to find out from supervisors when performance drastically starts to decline. During this time, it may be too late. Burnout is a health problem. One that has to be given adequate focus before it escalates irreversibly.
Some burnout symptoms are easier to detect than others, but here are a few ones to constantly check on include:
As HR Managers, you don’t necessarily have to observe all the symptoms above to check for burnout. It would be best to keep your eyes open all the time and address this issue right away.
Learn how to avoid the dreaded job burnout when working remotely in Malaysia.
Why Are Remote Employees Getting Burnt Out?
There was zero transition plan from office work to remote work. It was okay one time, and everything got upended the next. There may be some companies that have allowed a few employees to work from home, but generally, a company-wide policy pertaining to remote work has been non-existent. Because of that, a lot of HR practitioners do not have concrete guidelines to follow to prevent burnout from happening.
To be able to equip HR Managers with the right tools, it would be ideal to start with knowing why employees get disengaged and consequently get burnt out.
1. Blurred Boundaries
Back when employees are still working in the office, there is a clear line between workspace and home space. It was easy to shift one’s mindset from working to relaxing.
However, this isn’t the case anymore for those who are working remotely. The moment they get up, they check on their emails. Lunch breaks become a part of work. Even late in the evening, they pop in a small amount of work.
2. Lacking Workplace Vibe
The benefits of working in the office are not just about setting a clear boundary between your work and your personal space. Small and spontaneous casual gatherings in the office deflect work pressure and give you a reset button.
This is lacking while working from home. You don’t have the luxury of standing up to go to your colleague to engage in small talks. When you want a distraction, you just visit another browser tab. But it’s not completely removing yourself quickly from your work when it’s just a change of tab away.
3. Lack of a Formal Work Support System
When working in the office it was convenient to ask your managers or your colleagues for help when you’ve encountered a bottleneck. Remote working has made that option not readily available. You’re sometimes left with solving it on your own. While working remotely, everyone seems unavailable and remote. You are now apprehensive about reaching out for support.
How To Engage Remote Malaysian Employees?
Every HR Manager is grappling with ways to engage their remote employees and ensure that performance standards are consistently maintained. To help you keep your employees engaged and motivated, here are some practical tips that you can do right away while still working remotely.
Handling remote employees might be tough. But handling diversity remotely is even tougher. More information on engaging diversity remotely in Malaysia.
1. Define Goals More Clearly
Employees no longer have the luxury to approach their managers whenever they can when they have questions regarding their targets. They now have to go through a few walls before being able to schedule a 1 on 1 with their managers. Not being able to clarify goals can sometimes result in stress.
While working remotely, you must talk to your managers to make sure that all targets are clear and concrete. Ask them to schedule a meeting with their direct reports and invest time and effort to clarify daily and quarterly goals. By doing so, they not only avoid going back and forth but also minimize the risk of stress and burnout.
2. Organize Quick Health and Wellness Activities
These activities don’t have to require huge budgets. A bi-weekly morning mindfulness exercise will only require some meditation music; you can get those for free on Spotify. What about weekly Yoga sessions? If you have anyone in your company that’s a yoga fanatic, ask them to lead a 30-minute session. Calisthenic exercises can also be done for cheap. Even a quick 10-minute gratitude sharing daily can recharge the mind. Asking “What are you thankful for today?” shifts the mind to focus on the positive.
3. Host Casual Hangouts
Make sure everyone’s on video! Encourage them to show themselves - hold off any judgments. The plan is to recreate the office hangouts remotely. Encourage them to talk about things that are not related to work. Call out anyone who brings up anything work-related. If you’re experiencing hesitations, prepare guided questions ahead of time and have everyone pick one and share.
4. Wear Office Clothing
Encourage everyone to skip their home clothes and jump on their usual office clothes every day. Studies show that your way of thinking changes and your abstract thinking capabilities improve depending on what you wear. Start each day with a quick video call to encourage them to change to work clothes.
5. Schedule Knowledge Sharings
Ask everyone to share their skills and knowledge with everyone. It doesn’t have to be work-related. “How to bake a wicked good cupcake” is a fun session that’s bound to get a few laughs. Knitting for beginners? Learning a new language? Adopting Design Thinking?
There’s a myriad of possibilities. It doesn’t have to be what they already know. You can encourage them to learn something new every month and then share it with the team. Alternatively, you can choose some skills-related courses to elevate your hireability.
Working remotely has removed the social aspect of work. As HR practitioners it would be best if you revolve your engagement programs towards keeping that aspect while doing remote work. You can’t control how long this pandemic is going to be. Further to that, remote work might be here for the long haul. However, you can control how you can get involved and make sure that your employees are still having fun and continue to be engaged.