Burnout, Loneliness, and Stress: Overcoming the Problems of the Remote Workplace

Remote work, though it has many advantages, also has its own unique challenges. We look at practical tips and best practices on how to establish a remote culture that keeps your employees engaged and energized.

Closeup of green plant with a blurred image of a laptop on video call in the background

Plane Team

Published on June 2, 2023

Employees love working remotely, so offering remote work should be a perk, right? Think again. Remote work isn’t a novelty or a differentiator anymore; it’s a standard for many employees. In fact, out of over 2,300 remote workers surveyed across the globe, an overwhelming majority  — 96% of those who started working remotely because of the pandemic, and 99% of those who were remote before COVID-19 — want to stay remote, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers. But that doesn’t mean that they’ll enjoy working for just any company with a remote workplace.The key to improving employee satisfaction and retention in the era of remote work is making sure that your remote workplace really is a perk. To do so, you have to provide your remote workers with the support, flexibility, and understanding that they need to flourish both during and outside of work. When you create a remote work environment that makes your workers feel excited and energized to log in every day, you’re investing in more engaged employees who are more likely to stay with the company for the long term.

Establish a remote culture that supports and uplifts your employees

Culture fit really is that important. When your employees are able to develop relationships with their co-workers and feel like they really belong, they feel more engaged with the company — and businesses with more engaged employees achieve 59% less turnover and are 22% more profitable. Employee satisfaction and engagement pay off when it comes to productivity, too.  According to a study by Bain & Company, employees who are satisfied with their work are 40% more productive than unsatisfied ones, but engaged employees who care about their work are 44% more productive than satisfied ones. Meanwhile, inspired employees — those who, because of their work and the company’s values, are vocal advocates for the company and highly committed to it — are almost 125% more productive than satisfied employees. Take steps to build a remote culture that actually nurtures and inspires your employees to do their best.

Provide opportunities to socialize and bond

When company culture brings employees together, they are less likely to feel the loneliness that’s often one of the top obstacles for fully remote workers. The two biggest struggles faced by remote workers, according to a 2020 Buffer study, are “loneliness” and difficulty in “collaboration and communication.” Combat the isolation and loneliness of remote work by creating opportunities for your employees to connect.Even though your remote team members can’t physically bump into each other for a quick chat during the workday, that doesn’t mean that they can’t socialize in other ways. Here are a few examples of how you can facilitate bonding between employees:
  • Create virtual forums, e.g., Slack channels, that allow your employees to showcase who they are outside of work. These forums should focus on non-work topics like memes, kids, pets, hobbies, etc., so that employees can let loose and connect with each other outside of work obligations.
  • Connect employees who don’t usually work together. You can do this via water cooler tools or bots like Donut or Snack that can automatically schedule meetings between randomized pairs of co-workers.
  • Offer remote teambuilding opportunities, like a virtual book club, yoga session, team lunch, or happy hour, that encourage employees to socialize and mingle naturally face-to-face.
  • Create conversations that allow employees to get to know each other better. Some ideas include sending out a “getting to know you” survey and sharing the results openly or regularly asking a conversation starter during meetings or in a public Slack channel to invite responses. Slack bots like BanterBot, Donut, and ChatFox can also ask these icebreakers for you.
  • Facilitate a company off-site to have everyone meet face to face at least once or a few times per year. We do this at Plane and find that these regular off-site meetings definitely help strengthen workplace relationships and give us a chance to socialize and strategize in person.

Recognize employee achievements

Praising employees for their successes is a significant part of keeping your employees engaged with the company and their work. An Achievers survey of over 1,700 employees in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Australia found that of those who were leaving their jobs, the leading reason cited by 44% of respondents was a lack of recognition and engagement at their current employer. A follow-up question asking what would motivate them to stay found that increased recognition and rewards ranked second at 69%, just behind interesting work at 74%. While remote work allows for more freedom, it also runs the risk of remote employees feeling like their contributions are overlooked. That’s not the case, though, if your remote culture emphasizes employee recognition. Here’s how to encourage employee recognition with a remote workforce:
  • Call out wins on a regular basis. Whether that’s through a meeting or email update, be sure to recognize your employees’ hard work regularly. This can boost morale across the board by showing employees that everyone’s day-to-day efforts aren’t going unnoticed.
  • Offer tangible rewards for exceptional work. Sometimes a “good job” email just isn’t enough; when employees go the extra mile, their employers can too. For remote employees, this might involve a gift card, food delivery to their house, or even just a spot bonus.
  • Create a virtual “appreciation wall,” the equivalent of writing praise on Post-its for a staff room whiteboard, where employees can celebrate their co-workers. You can simulate this with a document tool like Google Docs, a whiteboard tool like Kudoboard, or a more specialized employee recognition solution like Lattice.
  • Recognize achievements outside of work. Did anyone buy their first home, have a baby, or get married? Did someone perform at a concert with their band, publish a poem or novel, or run a marathon? Calling out these personal wins can help build trust and show your employees that you care about them outside of the value they can provide to the company.

Prioritize your remote workers’ well-being outside of work

When you have a remote team, it can be challenging to remember that your employees don’t just exist inside your computer screen. Everyone has their own families, hobbies, and interests that they want to dedicate their time to outside of work. Still, in a 2020 survey of 2,800 remote workers across 28 major U.S. cities, nearly 70% of respondents said they work on weekends, and 45% say they work more hours than they did before transitioning to remote work.It’s important to make sure that remote work doesn’t creep into your employees’ personal time. As an employer, support your remote employees by providing a healthy work-life balance and benefits that make sense for their needs. By getting the rest and care that they need outside of work, your employees can bring their best selves, fully recharged, to the remote workplace.

Embrace flexibility

Part of the reason remote work appeals to employees is that they can do their work without feeling like their bosses are breathing down their necks. You can take that trust and extend it even further by embracing asynchronous work and communication wherever possible.Instead of requiring workers to log in and log off at certain times, async work lets everyone get their work done on their own time. Async means less artificial urgency due to arbitrary deadlines and work hours — and consequently, less stress — for everyone. It accommodates employees who are spread out across time zones, as many remote workforces are nowadays. As Wrike notes, async communication is their answer to an “always-on” remote culture, which often leads to employee burnout.Flexibility as a perk costs companies virtually nothing, while the absence of it can lead to high employee turnover. A Gallup study found that 54% of office workers would leave their job for one that offers flexible work time. Unless remote employees are working in departments or on projects that strictly require simultaneous collaboration, there’s really no reason that employers shouldn’t consider moving to async, with the exception of absolutely necessary meetings. Flexible scheduling shows that you trust your employees to complete their tasks and that you want them to take care of themselves and their families first.

Help your employees unplug from work

When working remotely, it can be difficult for employees to know when to log off, both physically and mentally. As an employer, here’s how you can help them unplug from work and set clear boundaries for themselves so that work doesn’t bleed into their personal lives.
  • Issue company equipment like laptops, tablets, and phones wherever possible. Having a physical separation between where work should happen — and remain — can help your employees set those boundaries between work and personal time. It's easier for employees to set those boundaries if they're not using their own computers and phones for work.
  • Create company etiquette and expectations that everyone should respect each other’s hours and out-of-office statuses. No one should bother each other when they’re off the clock. This might be asking employees to snooze their notifications during their off-hours and to schedule messages to send when their co-workers are online again.
  • Help your employees take their paid time off and holidays without disruptions. A LinkedIn survey found that nearly 60% of employees check in on their time off. That shouldn’t be the case — a vacation that’s interrupted isn’t really a vacation. Make sure that your policies outline how employees should delegate their responsibilities to others and redirect communications to the appropriate parties while they’re out of office.
  • Holidays can be tricky for distributed workforces when it comes to creating a holiday policy and determining what holidays to give to employees who may not all live in the same country. Check out our article on how to handle holidays for your remote team for more tips.

Provide robust benefits that take care of your employees

Under the Affordable Care Act, employer-provided health insurance is a must-have for companies with over 50 full-time remote employees in the U.S. unless you’re hiring contractors, but consider benefits that go beyond what the government says you have to offer. Your benefits package doesn’t have to be flashy, but it should aim to make sure sure that your employees don’t have to worry about their basic needs outside of work.One example is fitness and wellness. While on-site companies may offer gym memberships to local facilities as a perk, remote companies get the added benefit of being able to offer a wellness perk that’s not bound to a certain location. The possibilities are numerous: subscriptions to online fitness apps or services, a stipend that can cover employees’ gym memberships anywhere or the purchase of at-home equipment, or access to online therapy programs.You might also consider a stipend for furnishing or upgrading your employees’ home offices or even just covering a portion of their monthly internet bill. When employees have the right equipment and tools, they can be even more productive. Some employees might prefer working outside of their homes — what about providing a monthly allowance for them to spend on a co-working space or a coffee shop?If stipends are outside your budget, additional time-off benefits are an option that doesn’t have to cost you anything. You can let employees decide when they need to take care of themselves with paid self-care days and sick days. You might also try a collective reset to fight burnout by declaring a company-wide paid week off like HubSpot and LinkedIn do.

Foster inclusivity and diversity on your remote team

Remote work helps increase diversity in hiring, breaking down biases based on location, race, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and more. However, by thinking of inclusivity beyond the hiring stage and accommodating the different circumstances of your employees as a default, you can show your employees that diversity really matters to the company. This can strengthen your relationship with employees and increase their sense of belonging.We’ve talked about the value of flexibility as an employee benefit, but it’s also essential for inclusion. Parents, especially working moms and people of color, value flexibility in remote work because it helps provide equity in the workplace. For example, Black knowledge workers reported higher job satisfaction, saying that the remote workplace helped increase their sense of belonging, improved their ability to manage stress, and improved their work-life balance. Experts say that this is because Black employees don’t have to code-switch while working remotely as often as they would in an office environment. Remote work also opens up doors to workers with special needs and disabilities by removing the barriers of a commute and a potentially inaccessible work site.You should also show that you value your remote team’s cultural differences. Share in each other’s holidays and celebrations — not everyone may celebrate the same. Lean into those differences as chances to acknowledge the diverse backgrounds of your team and highlight opportunities for learning and cultural appreciation.Last, make sure that all internal communications and knowledge bases feature inclusive language. Ensure that all your resources are accessible to differently-abled folks: this could mean adding captions to videos for your deaf and hard-of-hearing employees and making sure that your training modules don’t include long strings of emojis for anyone who uses screen reader tools. The measures you may need to implement may vary; it all comes down to understanding your remote team’s unique needs and accommodations.

Additional reading

Here at Plane, we’re a fully remote company that caters to other companies with partly or entirely remote workforces. As such, we spend a lot of time thinking about remote workplace culture and have more thoughts than can fit in any single article. Check out our other features for more ideas:

Legal Disclaimer:

The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.

Keep employees engaged with a standout remote workplace experience

Seventy-four percent of professionals and 76% of entrepreneurs surveyed across 35 countries think remote work will become the new normal. As remote work options and hybrid work become more and more prevalent, an exceptional employee experience could be the key differentiator to make your company stand out from the rest. By putting your employees first, you’ll be much better equipped to deliver a gold-standard remote workplace culture that will help you attract and retain top talent for years to come.When it comes to hiring remote workers, especially those who live in other countries, we’re experts in streamlining international hiring and payroll processes. One component in keeping employees happy is paying them well and paying them on time. Try out Plane today and see why we’re the one-stop shop for all your remote compliance and payroll needs.

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