8 ways to prevent virtual burnout

Zoom Fatigue is real; Virtual exhaustion is next. With the massive shift from white-collar workers to work-from-home arrangements driven by the recent coronavirus pandemic, virtual work has become a reality for millions of workers around the world. According to a recent study by Stanford Research, 42% of the American working population now works full time from home.

Even before the pandemic, however, there was a dramatic shift towards employees working remotely. Analysis by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics found that over the previous five years, the number of employees working remotely increased by 159%. In a study conducted by Robert Half International, 3 out of 4 employees said that flexible working arrangements/virtual working would make them choose one job over another. And the Huffington Post reports that 36% of employees would forgo a pay raise to be able to work remotely and 40% would take a pay cut for the same option. And International Workplace Group found that 80% of American workers say they would refuse a job that doesn’t offer flexible work options.

While the flexibility of working from home is desirable for most workers, and worker productivity studies show that employees working from home are more productive, staring at a screen for more than 8 hours a day can leave employees feeling feeling more exhausted than ever. With virtual work becoming the new normal and with many companies planning to allow employees to continue working remotely, concerns about virtual burnout will not go away when the threat of the coronavirus passes.

In my latest book, The job made fun is done! Simple Ways to Increase Energy, Morale and Results which I co-authored with Mario Tamayo, we lay out simple and practical ways to implement fun in the workplace and, in doing so, help offset virtual burnout. While wworking from home is becoming the new norm, it doesn’t have to be trivial. Here are some easy and fun ways to lighten virtual work and avoid virtual burnout:

Go to happy hour

Happy Hours are the easiest way to bring your team together, but can sometimes feel awkward, contrived, and even a little boring. This time is meant for your team to have informal face-to-face interactions outside of work meetings, but sometimes there isn’t much to talk about. So, instead of just chatting more about work, try incorporating some fun ideas that let employees get to know each other a little better:

  • Home visits: A fun way to add context to your work environment, it could even be done MTV Cribs style!
  • Pet Presentations: People love their pets, so why not allow them to introduce them to their workgroup?
  • Share baby photos: See who’s changed and who looks exactly like your “Guess who’s the baby” photo! Put on your detective glasses and find out who’s who!
  • Lip Sync Challenge: Spice things up with a little competition! You’d be surprised at the level of creativity this challenge can demonstrate.

Take a break away from the screen

When we go from zoom call to zoom call, we’re likely to start feeling the effects of all that screen time, and unfortunately blue light glasses aren’t a silver bullet. Here are some ideas on how to lighten the virtual work environment that doesn’t involve staring at your computer screen:

  • Dance Party: Schedule a team-wide 5-minute dance break, get people engaged and focus on something other than their computer screen!
  • Recipes and Cooking Classes: Share a team member’s favorite recipe each week and invite your team to share photos of how the dish turned out!
  • Book Clubs: Gather a group, pick a book, and call to discuss the details! This could be a monthly activity that your team looks forward to.
  • Yoga & Meditation: Set up wellness classes or even a group stretch break to give your team a mental and physical break!

To take away

  1. Plan ahead. Announcing activities in advance will give your team a chance to look forward to something. It boosts morale and keeps everyone engaged!
  2. Get off the beaten track. Repeating the same virtual activities is not the way to engage your employees. Mix them up and encourage your team members to contribute ideas as well.
  3. Keep your employees in mind. Make sure everything you do is safe and fun for everyone. How do you make sure people feel comfortable and have fun? Get to know them and learn what they like the most, then encourage them to do more of those things as a group!

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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