COVID-19 Burnout: the blurred lines between work and home

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COVID burnout

You think you know when your employees are working, after all they have a contract which sets out their working hours and maybe their shift patterns but do you really know what they are doing?

Here at Avensure we have heard a lot of our clients’ express concern about drops in productivity amongst their staff working remotely during the pandemic but what about those who are doing too much?

In this article we explore how remote working has impacted on the working patterns and practices of employees and examine what employers should be doing about it.

Understanding the working time regulations

Our essential guide to the Working Time Regulations sets out the restrictions and limits on the hours employees should be working, along with break requirements and so on. (read more)

As you can see the legal position is clear and usually employers have a good sense of what their staff are doing when they are on their premises. However, this becomes difficult when staff work working at home or remotely.

Do I have the same obligations to my staff if they are working from home?

Yes you do and you can still face claims from your staff if you fall foul of the regulations.

How can I reasonably be expected to monitor what my staff are doing if they are in their own homes?

Communication is key here. Its vital that employers have a system of ‘checking in’ with their staff, whether that is regular phone calls or meetings via conferencing apps like Zoom.

You also need to ensure that you are keeping an eye on the hours your staff are working as well. You have a duty to record and monitor extra hours worked and you must ensure that they are still taking their breaks.

One of my senior managers is picking up and sending emails in the early hours of the morning. Should I be concerned about this?

Yes you should. This is time spent ‘working’ and needs to be monitored.

You may not have instructed them to work round the clock, but this kind of situation needs to be nipped in the bud because it can often signal underlying issues which need to be managed and/or be a precursor to problems in the long-term.

For example, they may have an unmanageable workload and being in a senior position, may feel reluctant to speak up. It may be a good idea to discuss how their workload may have changed or increased during the pandemic and see if some of the load can be lifted.

There may be a capability issue whereby they are not able to prioritise and manage their workload. Hence it may be necessary to look at performance managing that employee.

You may also want to point out that whatever their sleep patterns, their colleagues may not appreciate the email alerts disturbing their private time in the wee small hours!

I am concerned about the wellbeing of a member of my staff. He has been working very hard during the pandemic and has taken on additional workloads whilst other employees have been furloughed. He has started to take more days off sick, where he rarely did in the past. I am worried he may be experiencing ‘burnout’, but he insists he is ok. What can I do?

The 2021 Working From Home study by Wildgoose fond that 44% of employees felt their workload had increased since working from home, 31% felt a direct impact on their mental health and 55% found they were struggling to carry out their role within their normal working hours.

Failing to address this will only store up problems for you in the long run. What steps can you take now:

  • Make sure they have the opportunity to take their breaks and that other staff know that when someone is on a break they are not to be disturbed.
  • Have a look at your records, when was the last time they took annual leave? Remind them of their right to take annual leave and give the requisite notice to place them on annual leave if you must but just make sure they don’t spend their annual leave doing work!
  • Also, if you don’t have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in place, now is the time to look into this. These programmes can provide advice for employees on a whole host of issues from providing financial advice to access to counselling support. Contact our experts if you are interested in more details on this very worthwhile service.
  • If you do have an EAP in place, when was the last time you circulated the details to your staff? Now would be a great time to redistribute this.

And finally…. we recognise that these continue to be very uncertain and challenging times. However, we are here to provide bespoke advice to you to help you weather the storm and remember– there is no such thing as a silly question. Get in touch with our experts today.

Please quote your Client Account Number on all correspondence and telephone calls. 24-hour client advice line: 0800 151 2935.