Just 28% of Americans expect to return to the workplace before 2021

According to a recent study from a Conference Board Survey, only 28 percent of Americans expect that they can return to the workplace before the year 2021. Although that percentage has increased, many are still uneasy about the idea of returning to public spaces. Read this blog post to learn more.


Just 28% of Americans say they already have or expect to return to workplaces before the end of the year, indicating the coronavirus pandemic is making remote work more mainstream, a Conference Board survey showed Thursday.

Nearly one-third of respondents said they would be uncomfortable getting back to offices, shops and factories, while half said their greatest concern was contracting the disease at work, according to the Sept. 16-25 online survey of more than 1,100 workers. Only 17% of employees said they were very comfortable or even wanted to return.

The coronavirus continues to spread across the U.S., with 34 states recording higher seven-day averages of new cases compared with a month ago. While progress is being made on a vaccine, it will be months before it’s available to the general public. Even when it is ready, the Conference Board’s survey showed just 7% expect a return to their workplace.

“For knowledge workers and others where remote working is an option, you’re going to see more of a remote or hybrid working arrangement become the standard way,” said Rebecca Ray, executive vice president of human capital at the Conference Board.

A cultural shift to working from home and the pause or stop in business reopenings have upended the commercial real estate market. Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren warned that a resurgence in the virus could lead to troubles in the financial sector via commerical real estate.

The “commercial real estate sector is going to be impacted in the long term as we now need much less space for offices, retail, and probably higher education,” said Gad Levanon, head of the Conference Board Labor Markets Institute.

The Conference Board’s survey echoed with a recent poll of company executives by Cisco Systems. More than half plan to downsize their offices as remote working will become commonplace after the pandemic subsides, according to the Cisco survey.

The Conference Board survey also showed that lower-ranking employees are more concerned about returning. Some 20% of rank-and-file workers and 21% of front-line managers indicated they feel pressure to return in order to keep their jobs, compared with just 4% of executives. Individual contributors are also the least comfortable coming back to job sites.

Some 29% of respondents said they had little faith that their colleagues would adhere to safety protocols and guidelines upon return. One-third questioned the wisdom of going back to workplaces because they said productivity has remained high when working remotely, the survey showed.

SOURCE: Ren, H. (15 October 2020) "Just 28% of Americans expect to return to the workplace before 2021" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/articles/just-28-of-americans-expect-to-return-to-the-workplace-before-2021


Employees work an extra 26 hours a month when remote

 


Only months ago, a growing number of businesses were experimenting with or adopting a four-day workweek, but remote work policies imposed by the coronavirus pandemic have pivoted this trend in the opposite direction.

Full-time employees are working an extra 26 hours a month when remote, adding nearly an extra day of work to the week, according to a new report from Owl Labs, a video conferencing technology company.

The increase in work hours may be due to employees needing more time to adapt to new changes businesses have made in response to the pandemic, says Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs. Having the workplace always available — as employees work right in their house — is also blurring the lines between work and home, possibly adding to their hours worked.

Employees may also be filling in the time they spent commuting with more time at work. The report found employees were spending an average of 40 minutes daily on their commute.

“Everybody's situation is different, but I was commuting roughly two to three hours per day, which is 10-15 extra hours per week,” Weishaupt says. “Now I have a lot more flexibility in terms of when my workday starts and ends, and I don't have to give that time to the commute — but can actually give it to work.”

But along with increased work hours are increased levels of stress. Almost 1 in 2 employees are worried that staying remote could negatively affect their career, according to the findings. During the coronavirus pandemic, 91% percent of employees say they’ve experienced moderate to extreme stress while working from home, according to a survey by Ginger, a mental health benefits platform.

Despite these challenges, the flexibility of working remotely has helped many employees achieve better work-life balance. Overall, the report found that workers were benefiting from the perks of remote work, and named avoiding their commutes and having more time with their families as top reasons to continue working remotely.

“When you look at the overwhelming data, it shows that employees are much happier, which is a bigger indication of what this change has meant for people,” Weishaupt says. “Yes, people are working significantly more, but they're not having to sacrifice their personal lives to work. People are happier and feel just as productive, if not more [when working remotely].”

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (21 October 2020) "Employees work an extra 26 hours a month when remote" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/employees-work-an-extra-26-hours-a-month-when-remote


3 Ways to Motivate Your Team Through an Extended Crisis

Another month of working remotely has passed, and many employers are beginning to flag a lack of motivation, performance, and well-being coming from team members. It's important for managers to re-energize their teams and to identify the struggles which are holding them back. Read this blog post to learn more.


As we flip our calendars to yet another month of our large-scale Covid-19 remote-work experiment, it's no wonder that motivation, performance and well-being are flagging for many. Months in, managers need new tools to reenergize their teams, to accurately identify and diagnose recurring struggles and to empathetically help employees address their problems.

A large part of a leader's responsibility is to provide structure, guidance and regulation; yet many workplace studies point to the fact that the most important gauge for a healthy work environment isn't a strong external framework, but whether individuals can foster internal motivation.

Using a well-established theory of motivation called self-determination theory, or SDT, we have identified three main psychological needs that leaders can meet to help their employees stay engaged, confident and motivated.

1. Relatedness

This means that your employees feel cared for and that you've fostered a sense of belonging. Make time to listen to your employees' perspectives and make them know that they are heard and valued. A few simple practices may help:

  • Acknowledge and validate your employees' emotions as well as their reactions. ("I know it can be tough to stay focused right now, but we'll figure it out together!")
  • Don't let people get lost in the crowd: Reduce team size and acknowledge each member's work and achievements to the extent possible.
  • When problems arise, make sure to get full feedback from those involved. This helps you identify the biggest issues and obstacles, while strengthening connection and encouraging communication.
  • Emphasize that people's contributions are unique and necessary; do not let good work go unacknowledged.
  • Communicate that you care about employees' well-being, not just their productivity.

2. Competence

This refers to when a person feels effective and experiences growth. Research shows that holding employees accountable for achievable goals can improve performance, and motivational science also suggests that trust begets trust. Try these approaches to help ignite your team's internal motivation:

  • Involve your employees in decisions where their input could be valuable. Asking for suggestions to optimize an ongoing process, for example, can help maximize a sense of empowerment, progress and ownership.
  • To demonstrate their mastery of a particular task or skill, ask an employee to explain to their colleagues what they're working on or why they chose a particular strategy.
  • Set up check-ins to regularly discuss progress on individual goals and create strategies to meet them.

3. Autonomy

Effective leaders foster internal motivation by empowering employees' sense that they are the authors of their actions and have the power to make choices that are aligned with their own values, goals and interests, as well as their team's. Leaders should encourage autonomy and be genuinely caring while also recognizing that each employee carries responsibilities for achieving team objectives. To help foster a sense of autonomy we recommend that leaders:

  • Encourage self-initiation and participation. Perhaps ask, "What part of this project can you see yourself leading?"
  • Avoid controlling language ("Get this to me by tomorrow!") and minimize coercive controls like unrealistic deadlines and constant monitoring of your employees. Instead, find ways to motivate them through encouragement and positive feedback, such as, "I know it's a tight deadline, but having your skills on this team will be so helpful to our client."
  • Be transparent by providing the rationale behind demands. People are more willing to put in their full effort when they understand why a given task is important.

A person's work environment plays a big role in whether these three channels surge or jam, so it's no surprise that motivation is especially at risk in these pandemic times. No matter what the circumstances are, we are most energized and committed when we are internally motivated by our own values, sense of enjoyment and growth — in short, internal motivation inspires us to be our best selves. By meeting the three psychological needs, leaders help employees be engaged and feel valued at work (relatedness), feel motivated by growth (competence), and feel empowered and confident in their skills (autonomy). Employees who feel unappreciated or coerced will, at best, often half-heartedly comply with a boss's orders without whole-heartedly committing to excellence. At worst, they will lose all sense of motivation and fail to meet goals and deadlines.

SOURCE: Bradford, A.; Ryan, R. (02 October 2020) "3 Ways to Motivate Your Team Through an Extended Crisis" (Web Blog Post). Received from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/3-ways-to-motivate-your-team-through-an-extended-crisis.aspx


Companies to shrink offices as work stays remote after pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has taught companies many things, one of those being that it may be time to allow employees to work remotely full-time when the pandemic ends. Read this blog post to learn more.


More than half of companies plan to shrink their offices as working from home becomes a regular fixture after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, according to a survey by Cisco Systems.

Some 53% of larger organizations plan to reduce the size of their office space and more than three quarters will increase work flexibility. Almost all of the respondents were uncomfortable returning to work because they fear contracting the virus, the poll found.

Cisco, the largest maker of networking equipment, recently surveyed 1,569 executives, knowledge workers and others who are responsible for employee environments in the post-COVID era. The findings suggest many of this year’s radical changes to work life will remain long after the pandemic subsides.

The poll, conducted for Cisco by Dimensional Research, concluded that working from home is the “new normal.” More than 90% of respondents said they won’t return to the office full time. 12% plan to work from home all the time, 24% will work remotely more than 15 days of each month, while 22% will do that eight to 15 days every month.

Cisco’s Webex video conferencing service has benefited from lockdowns that have kept millions of people working and studying from home. It’s also faces rising competition from Zoom Video Communications.

For employees who do return to the office, Webex is adding environmental sensors that plug into its current video-conferencing gear. That will help companies identify over-used and under-utilized spaces, while complying with room capacity limits and checking if workers are wearing masks.

SOURCE: King, I. (06 October 2020) "Companies to shrink offices as work stays remote after pandemic" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/articles/companies-to-shrink-offices-as-work-stays-remote-after-pandemic


Working from home in a pandemic is not shirking it

Juggling work and personal lives was a challenge before the coronavirus pandemic, but now as many are still continuing to work from home, employes are beginning to become worn down from having to manage their home life and work-life all at once. Read this blog post to learn more.


Working from home, once jokingly dismissed as “shirking” from home, is back as a pandemic lifeline for economies amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Europe. Governments in Britain and France, having goaded workers back to the office after lockdown, are now urging them home again. The sound of frustrated bosses gritting their teeth can be heard across the City of London, as big firms from Goldman Sachs Group to Citigroup pause the back-to-work push while keeping the office open.

There’s a sense of whiplash among white-collar workers, who just weeks ago were told that it was time to put the economy first and get back to their cubicles and open-plan desks. There should also be palpable relief. Being able to pull in a salary while safe at home is a privilege hospital staff, care workers and supermarket cashiers can’t have.

Still, we know from the first wave of lockdowns that those stock images of remote workers logging on from bed with a smile and tousled hair, or of barefoot parents deftly bouncing toddlers on their knee while firing off an email, are a fantasy. While surveys suggest working from home is popular among employees crushed by the grind of the daily commute, the grumbling of CEOs that productivity and company culture are vulnerable isn’t entirely wrong.

The mass push to work from home earlier this year was unprecedented. It represented an estimated 42% of the U.S. labor force (or more than two-thirds of economic activity when weighted by contribution to GDP), but it had drawbacks. The apparent productivity gains of being at home instead of on the subway began to look more like the result of a steadily lengthening work day, according to multiple network operators, rather than supercharged efficiency.

Juggling Zoom calls and childcare made matters far worse, one reason governments in Europe put so much emphasis on reopening schools this fall. “We are home working alongside our kids, in unsuitable spaces, with no choice and no in-office days,” Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom said in March as he warned of a looming “productivity disaster.” He’s usually much more positive: His past research has linked working from home to a 13% rise in performance and a 50% drop in employee departure rates.

While corporate bean counters dream of one day dumping costly commercial real estate for digital offices in the cloud, the reality of the cost of living in big cities means home offices aren’t up to scratch.

More than half of Americans working from home do so from shared rooms or bedrooms; more than one-third have poor internet connections or none at all. A June survey of Japanese workers found that even among early adopters of remote work, only a third found it more productive than working in the office, citing poor equipment. Deutsche Bank AG’s monthly survey of financial-market professionals found their assessment of whether they were on balance more productive or less productive at home declined from 20% in June to 11% in September. (It had plunged to -13% in April as everyone was forced home full-time all at once.)

That’s the short-term assessment. We don’t yet have evidence of mass remote work’s impact of longer term on company productivity, but the current outlook is mixed at best. It’s hard to see how the field of research and development — already being thinned out by recession-related cuts — is going to win out in this environment.

Given there’s little freedom right now to create a hybrid model combining office and home — the preferred option for the majority of workers surveyed at French carmaker PSA Group, for example — bosses should do more to make the work-from-home experiment palatable and safe for all involved. Subsidizing utility bills, workspace equipment like ergonomic chairs, and even expenses such as rent (as one Swiss firm was ordered to do in May) would increase satisfaction. Managerial habits should also change, with more trust given to employees, if companies are serious about attachment to “culture.”

The right to disconnect, which had begun to spread worldwide before the pandemic, is critical. The output gains of remote work come from contented and engaged workers, not the cheaper transaction cost of being able to hire, fire and manage via the Internet.

None of this is to idealize the world of physical offices, so easily skewered by the likes of Scott Adams’s Dilbert. And complaining about neck pain, or bosses constantly “checking in” online, might ring hollow to medical staff and delivery drivers who are on the frontlines. But given remote work is now such a critical lifeline for the economy, it would be a shame to let the current experiment fail as others have before. Choosing between your job and your health is a grim trade-off, and one that really shouldn’t exist in a pandemic like this one.

SOURCE: Laurent, L. (25 September 2020) "Working from home in a pandemic is not shirking it" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/articles/working-from-home-in-a-pandemic-is-not-shirking-it


5 open enrollment communication strategies for your remote workforce

As the employee benefits workforce continues to stay remote in a majority of places, it's important for them to strategize their communication especially as open enrollment season is coming around the corner. Read this blog post for helpful tips.


Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced many employers to switch from a mostly onsite workforce to a remote or dispersed workforce, employers were faced with effectively and consistently communicating benefits to employees who were located in different locations, whether that meant offices in different cities or countries; work from home employees; employees working in warehouses, factories, and distribution centers; or employees working at different branches of retail or service businesses.

This communication is important because when employees are unaware of what benefits are available or don’t know how to access their benefits, utilization can drop significantly, so neither employees nor employers are getting value from the benefit offerings. In addition, when employees aren’t using or aware of their benefits, satisfaction with employers decline, which can impact both productivity and retention.

The goal is to both effectively and continuously communicate with employees and build awareness and understanding of available benefits, not just during open enrollment, but all year long. Of course, each communication strategy will be shaped by the organization’s culture, but there are several tools that employers should consider including in their benefits communication toolkit.

Diversify your benefits communication tools
Before developing your benefits communications plan, determine how employees prefer to receive this information by surveying them. In most organizations, there will be several different approaches that appeal to employees because of differences in employee ages, locations (office vs. warehouse or delivery truck), and comfort level with technology.

In the past, standard benefits communications were printed materials that were either distributed at work or mailed home. And while this tool is still effective and gives employees something they can use as a reference throughout the year, there are several other tools that employers should consider using to reach their diverse employee audiences.

Dedicated benefits websites and/or mobile apps broaden access to information
Unlike printed materials, with an online benefits site and mobile app employees can access the content wherever they are, whenever they want, and employers can update the information frequently without incurring printing costs. The site can also serve as a convenient way for employees to ask benefits questions, which can be answered by email from an HR team member, a benefits vendor’s support team or for simple, frequently asked questions, by a chatbot.

Email or text?
Employers will most likely need to include both emails and texts in their plans, but these tools may be used in different ways and with different audiences. For example, texts are a good way to reach employees who are younger or more tech savvy as well as those who are on the road a great deal or don’t work at a desk. These messages will be shorter and will focus on prompting employees to take specific actions, such as enrolling in benefits, updating beneficiaries or submitting receipts for reimbursement under an FSA, HSA, or HRA. They can also be used to remind employees about underutilized benefits to drive participation.

Emails can communicate more detailed information and directly link employees to benefits websites and other resources. However, emails should be kept as succinct as possible to ensure that employees are not overwhelmed with information and skip reading the communication.

Open channels for two-way communication
Providing benefits information to employees is only one part of the communication equation. Employees also need frequent opportunities to ask questions and share their thoughts on what they want and need from their benefits plan. That can be harder to make happen for a dispersed workforce, but video-based webinars, town hall meetings and “ask me anything” sessions with members of the benefits team can be effective approaches.

To ensure everyone has access to information regardless of location or job type there should be multiple sessions for different time zones and schedules, and the sessions should be recorded, posted on the company employee site and include the opportunity to email or text in questions for employees who cannot attend a live event.

Try out-of-the-box communication tools to engage employees
In addition to more traditional communication tools, consider trying different formats that make information more digestible and engaging, such as quizzes, polls, short videos, infographics and storytelling. The goal is to keep employees interested in what their benefits offer and what’s new to help them get the most out of their plans.

SOURCE: Varn, M. (14 September 2020) "Views 5 open enrollment communication strategies for your remote workforce" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/list/5-open-enrollment-communication-strategies-for-your-remote-workforce


Virtual walks and free chocolate? What workplace pros say the new office will look like

Working remotely has become a new workplace normal and may continue to be so. Although it may be difficult for younger generations to acclimate to this working situation, there may be some benefits to it as well. Read this blog post to learn more.


The traditional office’s days are numbered; the office of the future will be a “collaboration center” with a mix of skeleton staff and remote workers meeting through virtual team walks and group meals via home-delivered Zoom lunches.

Millennials and Generation Z will have problems networking in the new remote work world with fewer face-to-face meetings; and mental health and well-being benefits will become more important than ever before.

Those were some of the predictions of compensation and benefits professionals at the first virtual gathering of the WorldatWork 2020 Total Resilience conference — a digital substitute for an annual conference that was supposed to be held in Minneapolis this year, but was postponed in response to the global coronavirus crisis.

"The office environment will change,” said panelist Steve Pennacchio, senior vice president of total rewards at Pfizer, during an online session on resilience on Wednesday. “Remote work is here to stay.”

Pennacchio said a number of companies will shut down their office space, which will have serious ramifications for commercial real estate and new entrants into the workforce, who will be at a particular disadvantage because of the limits of networking and source building through remote technology.

He suggested more virtual engagement tactics, including virtual walks or group activities, including having teams eat together with coordinated deliveries of lunches or chocolate. “Nothing hurts with chocolate,” he said. During the conference, which will continue with weekly panels through Sept. 2, organizers also hosted social events, including virtual trivia games and online networking.

Pfizer is investing $1 billion on development of vaccines and treatments for coronavirus, he noted. “Hopefully ours and others will work. The world needs more than one,” he said.

Likewise, Susan Brown, senior director of compensation at Siemens, said her company has focused on four key areas of building a team, culture, management team and employees who can adjust to the new environment through virtual meet-and-greet sessions and lunches where all team members must be present visually.

“The relationship builds with seeing each other,” she said. “The camera on changes the dynamic more than a phone call.”

Brown also noted tremendous innovation around talent management happening during the coronavirus crisis. She said that progressive companies have made a quick shift to focus first on the mental health and well-being of staff as a priority, rather than having an emphasis on business metrics.

“The whole conversation changed to focus on people’s health and safely, how they were feeling and empathetic messaging rather than a focus on business results,” she said.

WorldatWork CEO Scott Cawood, who served as moderator, noted that employers’ responses are being closely watched by staff, and other companies.

“COVID-19 doesn’t define who you are; it actually reveals who you are,” said Cawood, sitting alone on a stage with a white chair and house plant, as panelists called in from around the country.

Kumar Kymal, global head of compensation and benefits at BNY Mellon, said the global financial services firm has 95 percent of staff working remotely.

"Times of crisis and change give us permission to rethink the way we do things, and it's an opportunity to decide what really matters to your organization," Kymal said, noting that the company announced that there will be no layoffs in 2020 to put staff at ease.

Management response should focus on “speed, speed, speed,” he said about responding to challenges under the coronavirus crisis, with special attention to empathetic corporate messaging.

Kymal said at his company, management focused on a new framework to address healthcare concerns globally, with a broad overview of their healthcare plans. Second, management focused on addressing stress and anxiety, particularly with attention to messaging and staff feedback. They also put an increased focus on well-being and resilience strategies, and accelerated a mental health program to allow employees to assess their ability to deal with stress. Finally, BNY Mellon improved social connections for managers to lead better on connecting with various teams.

Looking ahead to the return-to-work phase of the crisis, Kymal said the stakes are high. Challenges include dealing with temperature scans, wearing masks, closed cafeterias and social distancing.

“As we're starting to plan what the return to office looks like, it's clear to us it has the potential to become an awful, awful employee experience,” he said. “We really need to rethink and redesign. What does an office experience look like? That's front and center in my mind.”

SOURCE: Siew, W. (08 July 2020) "Virtual walks and free chocolate? What workplace pros say the new office will look like" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/what-workplace-pros-say-the-new-office-will-look-like


How employers and the economy win with remote work

Employers have been highly affected by the situations that the coronavirus pandemic has brought upon them, but so has the economy. The coronavirus has seemed to bring in a dark cloud over most situations, but now it can be looked at as helping both employers and the economy with the remote working situations. Read this blog post to learn more.


As high profile employers such as Twitter and Slack announce that they will allow employees to work from home indefinitely, other organizations have also noticed the advantages of a remote work model.

Aside from increased productivity and improved mental health for employees, employers can save $11,000 per employee on office costs and even reduce their carbon emissions, says Moe Vela, chief transparency officer at TransparentBusiness, a company that provides a remote workforce management platform.

When it comes to remote work, ”everyone wins across the board,” he says. “Remote work should be viewed no differently than a healthcare insurance package, dental insurance, paid time off, sick leave, or family leave.”

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Vela shared his thoughts on why remote work is the new normal and how employers can use technology to ensure that the experience for their employees is seamless.

How does remote work benefit employers and employees?

Employers benefit tremendously. On average, an employer saves $11,000 per year per employee in a remote workforce model. They need less commercial office space, so their bottom line actually improves because they can cut down on their office expenses. If you have 500 people in an office setting, that's 500 people you need supplies, equipment and infrastructure for — those costs get dramatically reduced or go away completely.

The other benefit to the employer is that productivity goes up in a remote workforce model. There is less absenteeism, workers are happier and also healthier because you're not confined in an office space spreading germs.

Your work life balance is improved dramatically by a remote workforce model for employees. On average, an employee gets two to three hours of their day back into their life because they don't have to commute. That's two to three hours you can spend with your family, that you can engage in self care, that you can run your errands, whatever it is you choose to do.

What advantages does remote work have outside of work?

One beneficiary in a remote workforce model is the economy. When those employees get those two to three hours back, guess what they're doing: they're spending money that was not being put into the economy before.

Another beneficiary is the environment. During this pandemic, there are around 17% less carbon emissions being emitted into the atmosphere and the environment. Climate change is impacted and our environment is a winner in a remote workforce model.

How can employers ensure a seamless remote work experience?

There are three fundamental technologies on the marketplace that every employer should immediately start using. Number one, video conferencing. We're all using it, it works just fine, you’ve got a lot of options in the marketplace from Skype to Zoom, to Google. Number two, file sharing. You have all kinds of file sharing software and services out there in the marketplace. Number three, remote workforce management and coordination software. All you have to do is implement them, and the risk is mitigated almost to nothing.

How can an employee approach management about working from home permanently?

Don't be afraid to ask your employer. Communicate your request very succinctly and very clearly. Let your boss know that you've thought this through. Prove to them that you have the self-discipline, that you have the loyalty, that you're trustworthy, and that you have the environment at home to be effective at working remotely. Use the fact that you've already been doing it as an affirmation, to attest to the fact that it can be done seamlessly and productively.


Remote Workers Experiencing Burnout

With many employees working remotely, productivity may decrease and the feeling of being burnt out may increase. As working remotely continues to draw out through many months, many employees may continue to feel this way, as well. Read this blog post to learn more.


Recent polling shows a significant share of the U.S. workforce is feeling burned out after more than two months of working from home during the coronavirus outbreak.

About half of 1,251 respondents in a survey conducted in May by job-search and careers website Monster said they were experiencing burnout. Even before COVID-19 upended workers' lives, the World Health Organization had classified burnout as an "occupational phenomenon" and a hazard.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we work, where we work, resulted in clashes between our work and home lives like we've never had before, and really has become a big stressor," said Melissa Jezior, president and CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting, a Washington, D.C.-based management consulting firm.

Binita Amin, a clinical psychologist in Washington, D.C., warned that the dangers of burnout are typically greater than just feeling stressed. "Stress is something that is resolved and has some sort of closure, and with burnout there's no real end in sight, so it's significant and chronic in nature," she said. "What happens over time is you start to see that a person's mental, physical and emotional resources are exhausted and depleted. In the work context, you can see it in terms of decreased productivity, difficulty concentrating, and certainly feelings of disillusionment or cynicism."

In a survey of 1,000 workers polled by Eagle Hill in April, 50 percent said they feel less connected to colleagues, 45 percent feel less productive, and 36 percent feel less positive about their careers.

The particular stressors brought on by COVID-19 include overworking and adapting to new ways of working; caring for children in the absence of school or day care; job insecurity; health concerns; isolation; and the lack of clear boundaries between work and home, said Vicki Salemi, a careers expert for Monster based in New York City. "People have also lost many of the ways they used to manage stress, such as spending time with friends, going to concerts and sporting events, and going to the gym," she said.

The Monster poll did find that almost three-quarters of respondents (71 percent) are making an effort to take time for themselves during the workday, such as taking a break or going for a walk. But over half of respondents (52 percent) said they are not planning to take extended time off or vacation despite facing burnout.

Salemi said that people may be reluctant to book a vacation because of financial reasons, the fear of being perceived as not being productive, or concerns about public safety. "Some people are just not ready to go to the beach, while other destinations, like amusement parks, are not really open for business," she said.

"Even if you're not going anywhere, you earned PTO [paid time off], and you should take it," she encouraged. "Using PTO doesn't necessarily mean you have to get on an airplane and fly away somewhere. It can mean taking a staycation. Perhaps people are thinking, 'Well, I'm already home, and I don't need a staycation,' but the reality is that we all need to log off."

She said there are ways to creatively take PTO, such as taking off every Monday or Friday in the month of July, for example.

Employers' Role

Employers can play a big part in helping address burnout among their employees, experts said. Affinity groups and employee assistance programs should be promoted as helpful resources, but there's even more that managers can do, according to Amin. "There's real opportunity to empower your employees to feel more sense of control over things like schedules, workload and types of work assignments, and even influencing things like meaningful connection," she said.

Lack of control is a prime factor of burnout, Jezior said. "Right now, there is a lot outside of our control. But I think one way we can help ground employees is to give them the autonomy and the ownership over how and when they complete their work."

Salemi recommended getting feedback from employees about their workload and work-from-home processes to make sure expectations are aligned and they feel supported. She stressed that managers and leadership should lead by example and encourage employees to take advantage of flexible work options.

"Make an announcement to the team or the organization that it's OK to take time off, even without having someplace to travel to," she said. "Encourage them to take time off."

SOURCE; Maurer, R. (29 May 2020) "Remote Workers Experiencing Burnout" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/pages/remote-workers-experiencing-burnout.aspx


5 Ways to Demonstrate Your Value — Remotely

When working remotely for an extended amount of time, many employees can feel as if they are not visible to the organization. Read this blog post for helpful tips on how to show value, while working remotely.


With unemployment levels at the highest since the Great Depression, many individuals don’t have the privilege of working, and those who do feel nervous about how long they’ll have that opportunity.

If you fall into the latter category, I can appreciate your very legitimate concern. Many companies are struggling to bring in revenue, let alone turn a profit. And with remote working arrangements, you don’t have the visibility with your colleagues and managers that you normally would. When you were in the office, you might have had informal interactions with these individuals multiple times a day. Now, if you don’t have a meeting on their calendar, you may wonder if they remember your presence — and more importantly, your importance to the organization.

I can’t guarantee that your position is secure, and there will certainly be factors outside your control. But there are ways that you can make yourself and your accomplishments more visible to your organization, even when you’re not in the same building. The following suggestions are five concrete steps that you can focus on right here, right now, to increase your odds of thriving in your job during this tumultuous time and demonstrating your value while working remotely.

Do Your Work

Getting your work done is always a good idea. But especially in times where businesses and organizations are having to make hard decisions about who to keep, doing your work — and doing your work well — is essential.

As a time management coach, I’ve been working with clients throughout this time of uncertainty. (Thankfully, I was already remote!) And the sense I am getting is that there was a grace period in March and part of April as individuals were adjusting to working from home. Managers were more forgiving if there was a dip in productivity or missteps here and there. But now that it’s been multiple months of remote work, higher standards of output are returning. If you haven’t done so already, put a system in place for keeping track of your tasks and ticking them off, even if your schedule is modified because you have other responsibilities at home.

Tell Others

I don’t recommend that you give yourself a shout out at every single meeting, and I definitely don’t advise that you take undue credit for others’ work. But if you have accomplished something significant, share it. That could look like covering a few highlights of your work with your boss each week, either in your one-on-one or through email. Or speaking up in a meeting to share about what your team is doing. Or even giving a presentation on some best practices that could help other colleagues in a similar role. Focus on not only what you did but how it produced positive results for your organization. This is not bragging but simply informing others about how, even though they might not see you working, you’re getting great things accomplished. And this gives you increased visibility across the organization as people understand the role that you fill and the value you add.

Help Your Boss

Although you don’t want to overload yourself with extra work to the extent that you burn out or can’t keep your commitments, look for ways to make your boss’s life easier. For instance, turn in your work early so your manager has extra time to review it before a meeting, or be extra prepared in your one-on-one meetings so they are as concise and effective as possible. These little things help reduce the pressure on your boss, so they are not worried about whether you’ll deliver and if you’re on top of your work. And if you have extra capacity, offer to help with extra assignments or take work completely off of your manager’s plate. This shows that you’re not only someone who gets their work done but also someone who takes initiative. Although your immediate supervisor doesn’t always have a say in layoff decisions, if they do, they’ll put in a good word for you if you’re making things easier for them.

Play Nicely

With my clients, one of their least favorite ways to spend their time is in brokering arguments between people on their team. It drains energy, and they generally consider it a waste of time.

Spread Positivity

One very unfortunate outcome of this season is that it’s brought out some very anti-social behavior in people. Many people’s response to their own fear is controlling others. I’ve seen more vicious online behavior and more people yelling at strangers in public in the last two months than I’ve seen in my entire life. And since the biggest subject on most people’s minds and on all media coverage is Covid-19 — an anxiety-producing topic for most — the air has been tainted with the stench of negativity.

As a bonus, if you can be humorous, do so. Laughter and positive energy draw teams together and make people feel good about being around you. While doing good work and being a positive presence doesn’t guarantee your position will make the cut as you face layoffs, it does increase your odds because you’re demonstrating your value to the organization and the people around you.

Much of what happens with the job market and your particular job will be out of your hands. You can’t control what businesses are considered essential or not, nor can you control organizational changes and headcount. And there are many factors in place that determine the market demand for your work. However, if you follow the five pieces of advice above, you will do what you can to make the most impact and get credit for it within your current role. And you’ll make a positive impression in the process.

SOURCE: Saunders, E. (01 June 2020) "5 Ways to Demonstrate Your Value — Remotely" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2020/06/5-ways-to-demonstrate-your-value-remotely