Updated: October 24, 2022

How to Spot Burnout in Remote Employees & Fix It

You found our article on how to spot burnout in remote employees and ways to fix it.

Burnout in remote employees is a situation where workers feel mentally and emotionally tired and unable to fulfill the expectations of their jobs. Signs include low productivity, poor work attitude, and slow communication response. When spotting the warning signs of burnout, it is essential to resolve the underlying issues, prevent the loss of productive work hours, and tend to employee wellness.

This concept correlates with warning signs an employee is about to quit, benefits of happy employees, and employee engagement best practices. Burnout is one of the main causes of employee turnover.

This article covers:

  • How to spot burnout in remote employees
  • Tips to avoid WFH burnout
  • Ways to fix virtual burnout in employees

Here we go!

How to spot burnout in remote employees

Identifying signs of burnout early and putting measures in place to prevent future occurrences are crucial to resolving the challenges associated with working remotely. The following are warning signals that your remote employees may be encountering this widespread problem.

1. They Reduce the Use of Video During Virtual Meetings

If you have a once-reliable worker who often fails to turn on their cameras or cancels at the last minute on video conferences, remote work burnout might be the cause. Due to exhaustion, the employee is likely emotionally detached from the situation. Feeling helpless and powerless in one’s work environment is a major contributor to burnout, and minor gestures like turning off a camera during a call may provide the impression of regaining some control.

This situation is a strategy to avoid dealing with the issue head-on. When workers turn off their cameras, they are under no obligation to establish “eye contact” or elaborate on their thoughts and feelings.

2. They Do Not Log Out During Breaks

It is undeniable that the advent of remote work has eroded the barriers between the office and the home, with many workers now using the same room for both tasks and recreation. In addition, working from home has eliminated many of our daily rituals, such as grabbing a cup of coffee in the break room or sneaking away for lunch with a coworker. If your employees never appear to log off to take breaks, this might indicate that they are working too much or under some form of pressure. However, it is important to remind employees that they are entitled to breaks and to urge them to use these pauses whenever possible, even while working from home.

3. They Never Stop Working

As an employer, you could think it is terrific when an employee works nonstop, but digging into the why can reveal a bigger problem. When employees are stressed, some tend to overwork to distract themselves from their issues. These problems may stem from family life, a lack of human interaction, or a recent bereavement.

In a similar vein, many work-from-home parents also take the role of primary childcare provider. Employee burnout may result from connected stress, missed deadlines, and the persistent sense that they need to work outside regular business hours.

4. They Take More or Fewer Sick Days

A Gallup poll found that burnt-out workers are more than twice as likely to be on the job hunt and 63 percent likely to take a sick day. On the other hand, employees may worry about losing their jobs and refuse to take vacations for fear of being seen as replaceable. If an employee has not taken any leave in a long time, it is necessary to investigate why. Vacation time is essential since it allows workers to rest their weary bodies and brains and devote their attention to matters outside the office. When workers return from vacation, their improved mental health may profoundly impact their productivity at work.

More than two-thirds of employees have expressed fatigue from working remotely, yet over 60 percent have said they had taken fewer vacation days than usual in recent years. As a result, these workers will miss the rejuvenating effects of a break, and consequently, their well-being and productivity on the job will suffer.

Workplace burnout due to prolonged stress also affects the immune system, making the individual more vulnerable to sickness. Employees experiencing work burnout are 23 percent more likely to end up in the emergency room. When workers require time off or call in sick often, it is a sign that something more serious is happening and that burnout might be just around the corner.

5. They Seem Disinterested in Work

Since nonverbal cues account for more than half of all messages sent and received, it is crucial to read workers’ body language as carefully as you do their words. You should watch for anxiety, boredom, or annoyance, even in distant phone conversations or video conferences. If workers are becoming more agitated than usual, it is a sign that they are getting close to their tolerance threshold.

6. Their Productivity at Work Decreases

Deterioration in performance is a telltale symptom of burnout. As they lose stamina, employees become less productive, stop coming up with new ideas, and perhaps even get physical problems such as headaches. The emotional and physical toll of burnout may be significant enough to impair deliverables.  However, managers should not assume that a drop in quality is always the result of a disinterested worker.

When workers are uninspired or exhausted, they are more likely to provide subpar results or skip out entirely on their responsibilities. In addition, deteriorating mental health means such workers are more likely to take more sick days and, in practice, show little willingness to take on any further work or commit to their ideas. Therefore, if you have noticed that any of your staff members have been less productive as of late, it may be a warning sign of burnout.

7. They Delay Response to Phone Calls, Texts, and Emails

Workers may experience anxiety due to the ‘always on’ attitude of remote work. As the volume of information presented to the employee increases, the speed and clarity of their response may decrease. If a high-performing employee suddenly starts responding slowly, then stop sending emails, Slack messages, and texts, and identify a better means of contact. Such employees may feel suffocated by information and attacked from all angles. A pause in incoming messages can be a reset and a chance for the team member to gather their thoughts and breathe.

8. They Interact Less During Meetings and Hardly Talk About Their Personal Lives

A reserved employee might share less of their stories during virtual meetings. If this is a new behavior, then be wary. Employees experiencing burnout may begin to feel cynical and disconnected from their jobs. Workers become less forthcoming with details about their private life when they get disgruntled with their occupations. Such employees may consider their job a distraction from their “true life.”

If you notice that every interaction you have with an employee is about work, it may indicate that they no longer regard you as someone who cares about them beyond the job. Burnout symptoms worsen from a lack of interactions at work. Thus this isolation may become a self-perpetuating problem.

Top factors that lead to burnout in the workplace

After recognizing the symptoms of burnout in your staff, you must take corrective measures. It is crucial to find the source of the issue quickly and fix it. The first step toward a solution is gaining insight into the situation. To get started, think about these top five reasons for burnout on the job.

1. Lack of Managerial Support

Your influence as a manager extends far into the lives of your subordinates. According to a Gallup poll, 67 percent of workers say they are more invested in their work when their boss is supportive. In addition, frequent burnout reduces by 70 percent when workers know their boss has their back. Having a trusted colleague to talk to about work-related issues reduces stress and helps workers avoid burnout.

Here are the signs of a good leader.

2. Unrealistic or Unclear Work Objectives

Workers can become discouraged and unmotivated when faced with unreasonable targets. In addition, the risk of burnout increases if workers are unclear on their responsibilities or if their tasks change too often with no sense of ownership. Being goal-oriented is admirable, but as a manager, you should recognize the adverse effects of multitasking on the productivity and morale of your staff.

According to a report in Time Magazine, only 2.5% of the population is capable of multitasking. Therefore, your objectives should be specific and quantifiable, so there is no room for misinterpretation. If you lay out the actions your team should take to reach each goal you set, along with the three to five top outcomes, you will inspire them to go to work.

Here is a list of goal-setting ideas.

3. Remote Work Seclusion

It might be difficult for remote workers to prevent burnout when their home and work lives are so entwined. When you are just steps away from your desk, it is hard to resist returning to work. Such workers may end up spending excess time working, which may add to the already stressful situation. Furthermore, remote workers are more likely to feel alienated from their supervisors and coworkers. This situation may cause individuals to put undue stress on themselves to succeed, leading to burnout.

4. Lack of Acknowledgment

Acknowledging and rewarding employees’ efforts is a great way to boost morale and productivity. According to SurveyMonkey, up to 43 percent of workers report a boost in self-confidence when they get recognition for their contributions at work. A lack of appreciation can make workers feel demoralized and less likely to put forth their best effort at work.

Check out this list of employee recognition ideas.

5. Undue Job Demand

An employee’s workload might be excessive. Your workers’ energy swiftly depletes if you are constantly pushing to their limits. After a while, working on a demanding project might seem like running a marathon with no end in sight. To avoid burnout, workers need time to refocus and recharge between tasks.

Tips to Avoid WFH Burnout

When combating employee burnout, companies should put their workers’ happiness first. However, employee burnout is inevitable unless managers take active measures to prevent the situation. The following are ways to avoid burnout in your remote employees.

1. Allow Some Degree of Workplace Flexibility

While it may seem more appealing to work remotely due to its convenience, this option no longer provides the same degree of flexibility. Even though their whole staff is now accessible online, some managers insist that workers continue working on the same schedule as offline workers. However, this outdated system is no longer practical for working parents who must balance their professional and caretaking commitments.

It is necessary to schedule certain meetings and make some critical decisions on time. However, many employees may do better with a less rigid schedule. Companies that support remote work might benefit from flex-scheduling by relaxing the traditional 9-to-5, 40-hour work week to enable remote employees to do their tasks at times that are most suitable to their schedules. As a result, employees will feel less pressure and be able to focus more on their work.

Instead of forcing workers to stick to strict routines and rigid ways of thinking that may not lead to efficient workflows, flexible scheduling encourages them to concentrate on outcomes and performance. Flex-scheduling policies would allow remote workers to not only optimize production but also flourish in a setting that reduces the likelihood of burnout.

2. Give Regular, In-Depth Feedback on Their Progress

Managers that care about avoiding burnout for their staff should do frequent check-ins. Most essential, it is advisable to provide direction and encouragement to workers who may believe their efforts are fruitless. As the manager, help your staff evaluate their efforts and appreciate those who may feel inadequate. You can help workers relate their successes to the company’s overall objectives. You can also adopt software to manage employee performance to keep the dialogue open and prevent worker burnout.

Check out this guide to giving employee feedback.

3. Set Time for Rest and Mental Breaks

As employees work hard to achieve deadlines, employers may help by ensuring they are not overworked. Using a time clock and punctual clocking off by workers is essential. It would be best if you insisted that employees take regular rest breaks. Taking mental breaks boosts the productivity and creativity of workers. When managers take time off and encourage their staff to do the same, it sends a message of support and acknowledges the importance of workers using their paid time off.

Management may reassure staff that time off is valued by including rejuvenation breaks in the workplace. However, reacting negatively to their desire to do so is counterproductive and might cost your company money since, according to CNBC, 60% of workers say they would accept a salary reduction to work for an empathic boss who understands the effects of job burnout.

4. Encourage Empathy at Work

Bringing empathy and compassion to the workplace is one of the ways to fix virtual burnout in employees. Employers should work to develop emotional intelligence via open communication, attentive listening, and the promotion of a trust-filled work environment. Creating an emotionally intelligent work environment is an effective way to reduce staff turnover and boost morale.

Here are ways to show empathy at work.

5. Schedule Routine Meetups with Virtual Teams

Instant messaging apps are fantastic for helping teams stay in contact, but there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings. As much as 45 percent of remote workers report missing physical meetings. Having scheduled one-on-ones with your staff is a terrific method to foster communication and collaboration. This step also gives your employees a chance to vent their stress and issues and get advice from peers.

This meetup may take the form of a weekly phone conversation or a video conference once every two weeks. It helps to understand how your team members are holding up under pressure by checking in.

Here are some virtual team meeting ideas.

6. Provide Helpful Resources

Employees are often hesitant to seek assistance even when they need it. If your staff works remotely, providing helpful online resources is a good idea. This step will allow the worker to ask for help when they are ready, on their terms, and without feeling pressured to talk to someone.

You should take some time to gather any relevant materials you can find on the internet. In case you or a coworker are having difficulty working remotely, several resources available online may assist. You may even have employees write their case studies and testimonials anonymously. Your remote employees will feel comfortable knowing they are not alone after reading about others’ similar experiences.

7. Set Achievable Goals

Impossible objectives are a sure way to destroy morale and productivity on the job. An employee’s confidence takes a hit, and burnout may quickly arise if they feel like they are racing after a goal constantly shifting. Therefore, progressive and adaptable plans are essential. However, you cannot expect a new hire to perform at the same level as an employee who has been there for three years.

Furthermore, you may encounter roadblocks that call for a whole strategy rethink. In such circumstances, workers should not have to conform to unrealistic or outmoded targets. Adjusting goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) is essential, particularly as employees develop within a job.

8. Organize and Automate Work Processes

The mere act of automating a procedure may often free up a worker’s time and attention. If a UX designer, for instance, spends the first few hours of every project re-creating the same framework, they should make a template they can reuse and adapt as required. You should determine where your team is experiencing slowdowns and work to eliminate those slowdowns, whether they are from individual contributors or the constraints of the process. Reducing the number of steps in a process or combining tasks via delegation may increase efficiency, reduce employee discontent, and minimize burnout.

9. Promote Personal Creative Work

Employees who are enthusiastic about their job are more likely to put in long hours. Giving your team members some leeway in deciding how they want to spend their time, both at work and outside of it is vital. If a programmer strongly prefers one programming language over another, they should be given more opportunities to focus on projects that use that language.

Certainly, every worker has duties they do not love but must do. Your position as team leader does not require you to assign responsibilities based on each member’s preferences. Employee development may still take the form of reorganizing an employee’s workload to serve their professional interests and aspirations better. You can prevent workplace burnout by putting workers in positions where they can develop professionally and perform work that interests them.


Workplace burnout in remote employees is a significant problem in today’s working world. Businesses must take responsibility for their workers’ well-being and adjust their operations. Helping remote employees who are often at risk of fatigue and burnout allows leaders to create stronger organizations that will endure for a long time.

To learn more about employee management, check out our articles on ways to improve employee satisfaction and office work-life balance tips.

FAQ: How to spot burnout in remote employees

Here are frequently asked questions about burnout in remote employees.

How do you spot burnout in remote employees?

You can spot burnout in remote employees by paying attention to signs like low productivity, slow response to communication, failure to take time off, and lower interactions. Causes of burnout at work include unclear or unattainable objectives, working in isolation or long hours, and a culture that discourages taking breaks. In addition, staff morale may plummet, and job fatigue can ensue when managers fail to provide enough encouragement and acknowledgment.

What are ways to fix WFH burnout in virtual employees?

If you see any remote workers exhibiting burnout symptoms, it is crucial to take a compassionate tack and ensure they have access to tools to help them recover. You should also set flexible work hours and allow workers to take breaks.

How can you prevent remote burnout in WFH employees?

Your team will be better prepared to face whatever the future holds if you take the necessary steps to get them out of the burnout and into the recovery phase. Some ways to prevent burnout in WFH employees include establishing limits, setting realistic expectations, and offering support.

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People & Culture Director at teambuilding.com.
Grace is the Director of People & Culture at TeamBuilding. She studied Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, Information Science at East China Normal University and earned an MBA at Washington State University.

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