Tips for Employers to Help Workers Reduce Work from Home (WFH) Burnout

Paulette Stout

While segments of the workforce have worked remotely for decades, it requires intentional measures to avoid work from home (WFH) burnout. Those newer to a work-from-home lifestyle, perhaps since the pandemic, have less experience setting boundaries, minding mental health, and adopting sustainable ways of working. This can lead to premature employee turnover and stress. In this article, we’ll share tips for how to help your workers avoid WFH burnout.

Establish WFH boundaries

One of the early struggles people working from home face is separating themselves from the keyboard. With laptops and smartphones ever-present in our lives, it helps to establish end-of-work rituals that create mental or physical separation from our jobs. Endless work without sufficient breaks can lead to burnout and premature turnover. For this, parting rituals can be a help. Similar to a daily commute, many WFH employees leave their desks and transition to an “after-work” mindset by taking a walk to clear their minds. Walks can create physical and emotional distance from the stress of the workday. When workers return, they consider themselves “home” and put their laptops aside until the following day. 

Defining the workday

If you don’t already, encourage your team to learn and respect the WFH boundaries of their colleagues. Programming work hours into tools like Microsoft Teams, Outlook, and Slack, can minimize disruptive communication during out-of-work hours. Fostering healthy conversation in advance can clarify what emergencies justify off-hours contact and which can wait until the next workday. 

WFH setup and closing the door

Where workers set up home workspaces can play a huge role in avoiding WFH burnout. Gusto offers tips to optimize home workspaces in this blog post. Highlights include selecting a quiet location away from distractions, seeking out natural light, and ensuring employees have the equipment they need for long-term health and well-being. A space with a door is a plus. If employees have one, suggest they physically close the door when they finish work. The symbolic gesture can ensure they take the time they need with family and friends to remain healthy and productive over time.  

For those who have difficulty stepping away, scheduling appointments, dinners, or classes during after-work hours can force people away from their desks when they’re reluctant to do so on their own.

Minding workers’ mental health

Loneliness and feelings of isolation can set in when working from home for prolonged periods. This is especially true if employees live alone or rarely leave their homes. It’s important that your team attends to their mental health. Advise them to reach out for human contact as needed. Even a video call or quick face-to-face meetup can greatly improve wellbeing. 

Another technique for avoiding WFH malaise is to get dressed every day. Shifting from sleepwear to daywear can lift spirits and create a greater sense of purpose. Forging connections with colleagues via employee resource groups is another way to find common ground outside of a work context. Taking vacation is critical to mental health, so ensure you people use their allotment of vacation days. Dedicated employees delay taking time off, fearing their work is too essential to miss or that being away will harm chances for advancement. But studies show that those who take vacations are more productive, positive, creative, and have better moods than those who go long periods without work breaks. Whatever the method, promote a culture that values worker’s needs to honor a holistic approach to mental health.

Go hybrid

Some employees are hardwired to prefer working at an on-site office. A hybrid work arrangement—where employees come to the office some days each week or month—can be a good compromise for those craving a change of scenery. If the demand is low or if no physical location is available, consider renting desks at a coworking space. These facilities can accommodate one-off requests or be a regular gathering place for remote employees to connect on a regular basis. 

Planning regular group get-togethers can provide the connection many WFH employees seek. Co-locating, while working independently, can be a refreshing change of pace. It also enables teams to slot in collaboration time for brainstorming, project management syncs, lunch, or corporate social responsibility projects like volunteering. 

Evaluate career choices and development plans

An underappreciated way to fight WFH burnout is to ensure workers are excited about what they do each day. Engaged workers are less likely to turnover, are more productive—and happier. Putting numbers behind this, Gallup found engaged workers:

  • Had 43% lower turnover for low-turnover organizations, 18% lower turnover for high-turnover organizations
  • 18% more productive
  • 64% fewer safety incidences (accidents)
  • 81% lower absenteeism

So how do organizations boost worker engagement? First, they keep lines of communication open between managers and employees. They also develop individualized plans to help workers identify and advance toward career goals. Better communication means workers are more likely to take on projects that excite them and keep them motivated. Mentors can be helpful in that regard as well. Sometimes the best advice comes from someone outside a person’s day-to-day orbit who can suggest opportunities not readily apparent. Mentoring others is also a great way for employees to share their skills and experience with someone looking to learn. All these development activities can help ensure that the work employees do each day keeps them energized, focused, and motivated to reach their goals. 

The takeaway

In today’s workforce, employers must support their work-from-home teams and help them avoid WFH burnout. It starts with encouraging people to set work boundaries, both time based and physical, to foster healthy separation at the end of their work day. Having a good desk setup for WFH is a must. Beyond that, symbolic routines like taking a walk or closing an office door can be helpful to close out a work day. Fostering a culture where colleagues understand and honor work hours goes a long way toward protecting mental health. 

While many employees struggle to separate from work while at home, data show that taking breaks–including vacation time–leads to happier, more satisfied, and more productive workers overall. 

Hybrid workspaces give those who wish to return to the office on a semi-regular or full-time basis a place to go when they want a change of pace. Coworking spaces are a good alternative for organizations lacking on-site locations for employees to gather. A smart way to avoid WFH burnout is to ensure employees are engaged in their careers. Managers should schedule regular meetings, form development plans, and funnel exciting projects to their people. If workers can balance home and life, take breaks, and keep a positive mindset, they can avoid WFH burnout and have long and productive remote careers. 

Paulette Stout Author of her debut novel, Love, Only Better, Paulette Stout is the gold-star wordsmith and owner of her content marketing agency, Media Goddess Inc., where she crafts content for her list of global clients. Prior to MGI, Paulette led content and design teams at several tech companies, and one educational publisher where her elimination of the Oxford comma caused a near riot. You can usually find Paulette rearranging words into pleasing patterns while wearing grammar t-shirts. Connect with Paulette on Facebook and Instagram at @paulettestoutauthor and on Twitter at @StoutContent.
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