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The digital noise of 2022 can, for many, feel overwhelming. That’s true in both our personal and professional lives, and the circumstances of the past two and a half years have amplified this feeling. The pandemic created a pressure cooker-like atmosphere for employees. Suddenly, people became digitally tethered to work in a way they hadn’t been before. From installing Slack and Teams onto their phones, to dialling into Zoom calls from anywhere, the ‘always on’ culture began. For many, these habits have been hard to break; these changes are now so embedded in working life that for many employees, they feel like it’s become an expectation.
The effects of blurring the boundaries between the personal and the professional are only now beginning to be fully understood. A recent LumApps study found that 89% of employees have experienced some form of burnout in the past two years. It’s clear that employees need effective support to manage the shift to remote or hybrid working, in order to prevent burnout - and ultimately encourage them to remain engaged in their work and retained by their employer.
So how can the pressures of hybrid working be alleviated?
Fighting back against the tech
On the surface, the tools that have enabled remote work should, in theory, enable a healthier work/life balance. If you can Zoom from the top of a mountain or Slack while on the school run, this might seem liberating for some. But the data would suggest that for the majority this sense of blurring is having a negative impact on their mental health. 41% of employees are reporting a lack of work/life balance and overworking as a significant contributor to feelings of burnout. Nearly one third (32%) say meeting overload and Zoom fatigue are the culprits. In short, employees are struggling to fight back against the tech.
Yet while technology could be said to be contributing to burnout, it can also be used to combat it. When companies take a deliberate, purposeful approach to their tech stacks, they can improve both the employee experience and overall work/life balance. As we emerge from the pandemic, now is the time to evaluate existing technology stacks to
ensure the right tools are being used that can make people’s lives easier, not more difficult.
The power of integration
Many businesses were quick to adopt myriad tools in the early days of the pandemic, a knee-jerk reaction to an unprecedented situation. This has resulted in businesses working with tools that don’t integrate with each other, which can cause choke points and productivity pitfalls. For example, a company may have implemented a communications tool and a project management system, but employees have to log in to both when they’re assigned a new task or complete work to let their team know when the next step needs to be taken. Additionally, different departments may be using different tools and different forms of communication. This only adds to departmental siloes and brings workflows to a halt.
Ideally, employees should only have to log in to one workspace in order to get their jobs done, whether they’re in the office or working remotely. Barring that, digital workspaces need to seamlessly integrate as many functions as possible: video calls, text chats, notifications and reminders, and file sharing, for instance.
Analyse employee sentiment
When employees were physically in the office, it was easier to spot signs of burnout. With a remote workforce, employers can’t detect body language and facial expressions in the same way. However, the tools do exist that can analyse employee communications for signs of burnout and conduct a sentiment analysis. It looks for keywords and phrases, or even sentence structure, that could indicate that employees are working towards their breaking point, and lets employers intervene when necessary.
Of course, sometimes the easiest way to take the pulse of employees is just to ask – and anonymised surveys provide valuable feedback and can help companies make changes. However, companies need to go a step further and put the data to good use. Just asking employees isn’t enough - and could lead to greater frustration if employees confide their frustrations but then nothing is done. Companies should use feedback to inform new policies and benefits, to help improve the workplace environment and avoid attrition.
Ultimately, the purpose of technology is to make employees’ lives easier, not harder. By streamlining it, and using tools to improve communications and gather feedback, employers can support their employees and spot burnout before it happens, leading to better employee retention and mental wellbeing.