When Remote Work Leaves You Burned Out

By: Keith Wagstaff · July 02, 2024 · Reading Time: 2 minutes

These days, thanks to email and instant messaging, the office can be everywhere. That gives workers flexibility about where they might do their work, but it can also make them feel like they can never fully escape the workplace.

A recent survey from Morning Consult, via Tech Brew , found that more than half of respondents had worked from their phone at the beach. But what if this convenience masks a uniquely modern lose-lose situation? Employers have to deal with distracted workers giving the thumbs-up emoji from the sand, while employees, instead of relaxing and recharging, feel like they need to always keep an eye on their screens.

Hybrid Work is Popular

Let’s be clear: Most people prefer hybrid work. In a Gallup survey from earlier this year, more than half of workers with jobs that could be done remotely said they preferred (and even expected) a hybrid schedule. Compare that with the 33% of workers who prefer fully remote work and only a slim 7% who want to be in the office five days a week.

More than three-quarters (76%) of survey respondents cited an improved work-life balance as the top benefit of hybrid work. It’s easy to see why. Instead of commuting, for example, workers can spend time with their kids or exercising.

But hybrid and remote work can have a downside…

The Problem With Always Working

Last year, a survey from online learning platform Elvtr found that 68% of respondents had worked while on vacation. While ostensibly taking paid time off, more than half (57%) reported feeling anxious if they didn’t check work emails, and more than a third (35%) felt an implicit expectation to work.

And, according to a report from Slack , two in five desk workers said they regularly put in time outside of their standard eight-hour work day, either in the morning or night. More than half of those people said they did it because they felt pressure to do so, not because they wanted to.

But working at all hours can lead to burnout . It can also make you enjoy your work less, according to professors from Cornell University and the London School of Economics, writing in the Harvard Business Review .

The easier-said-than-done solution is to not work during leisure time. If that’s not possible, the researchers suggest mentally relabeling it “work time” so you’re less likely to feel like you’re missing out on something. For employers, the takeaway is to make their workers happier and more productive if they don’t put pressure on them to work during their time off.

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