Employee burnout is more complex than ever before. In a recent study, 75% of worker respondents globally reported feeling engaged at work, and 86% reported that they are as or more productive than they were pre-pandemic. That indicates that the traditional burnout you think you are seeing in your employee is likely more driven by COVID-19 and quarantine, and that the solutions may be more complex. It is our responsibility as leaders to address the mental health crisis facing our employees as physical offices reopen, hybrid work models roll out, and pandemic anxiety lingers.  

In a recent study, 25% of respondents reported they find themselves working longer hours since they began working remotely full-time during the pandemic and 33% reported not taking a break during the average work from home day. For those who were lucky enough to remain employed, work became both a refuge and a distraction but those longer hours took a toll. These next few months introduce a new stressful chapter for workers, as they decide their comfort level about returning to a physical office and work to find a balance between their personal and professional lives, in whatever hybrid model their company rolls out. 

Through communication, building a hybrid work model that is actually flexible, and a sense of empathy for what workers have just endured, leaders can move toward the future of work with employees who feel supported as they transition to their next chapter. 

Acknowledge that burnout is happening.

It’s important for leaders to know there’s a burnout issue that is unique in its traits to the year of remote work we’ve just lived through. Over the past year, we’ve used video meetings as the blunt instrument to “staying connected” throughout the work day which is mentally exhausting. 59% of the global workforce said they’d like to spend less than two hours a day in video meetings and less than 10% of workers feel that seeing someone’s face is the most critical or effective element of a successful meeting. As we move into the next chapter, we need to first tackle video fatigue as a root cause of burnout. Leaders should set clear expectations with teams about which meetings should be video meetings, such as 1:1 check-ins and team meetings, and establish “no meeting days” to encourage a more balanced schedule and let employees spend less time on video. As long as employees are engaged, moving away from a video-first approach gives workers some breathing room. This will remain true as the world transitions to a hybrid workplace and employees continue to join meetings from beyond the traditional desk.

Be transparent about what’s next.

Even as offices reopen, there will be many unknowns about what the next six months will look like. As business leaders decide whether to keep teams remote or transition back to the office in a hybrid fashion, they’ll want to maintain trust to ensure they don’t create unnecessary anxiety  or increase turnover. It’s imperative to be transparent with your team throughout the decision-making and implementation process. 

As you craft a hybrid work strategy, look to your employees to help co-create your model to ease the anxiety so many feel about what their company may do next. If employees are engaged in designing the next chapter, they will be more engaged and motivated for what’s coming and empowered by the options they have.

In addition, leaders need to find ways to communicate effectively with their employees and provide a clear vision of what the future of work will look like while avoiding phrases that insinuate there is a requirement to return to the office full-time. We’ve seen successful leadership teams take time to talk to employees about their own personal journeys over the course of the pandemic and share where they might each individually decide along the spectrum of spending time back in the office, which has opened up a safe space for employees to explore with their manager and team what they might want to do going forward.  

Make space for employees to continue a healthy work-life balance.

Without a constant commute to the office, full-time remote work should provide employees with more flexibility with their schedules but remote workers often report working longer hours, feeling as though the lines are more blurred between work and personal life. 74% of employees feel that their leadership team needs to be more empathetic to work-life balance and 52% feel their company needs to improve their understanding of mental health and wellbeing. Working from home full-time during the pandemic has been challenging for many workers who couldn’t leave their home office to work from a coffee shop, meet a friend for lunch, or take an afternoon yoga class at the local studio. 

As the pandemic subsides and the economy opens back up, remote workers will now have more freedom and flexibility to create the balance that successful long-time remote workers have evangelized for years, and employers should encourage this. To prevent further burnout, it is essential to develop a reasonable work-from-home schedule with remote employees with blocks of time built in for breaks and a culture that expects employees to silence their communication and collaboration tools when they are off hours. 

Flexible work should be flexible. 

We’ve seen a lot of employees move out of state or further away from company headquarters or office locations during the pandemic, and a lot of people have fallen in love with the remote work lifestyle and are planning on visiting the office less often than before. Companies that embrace a truly flexible model of hybrid work will empower employees to build customized flexible work experiences that can be adapted as people’s circumstances and preferences change throughout their tenure with a company.

I live full-time in Vermont now while our Fuze headquarters is in Boston. After the pandemic subsides and members of my team decide to spend time in the office, the commute into Boston will be doable for me to make regular visits, but I don’t plan on dropping in weekly. I am truly grateful to work for a company where flexibility is truly part of the DNA. Trusting employees to create their own experience, helping them set boundaries between work and personal life, and continuing to communicate and set expectations about what’s next, creates an adaptable work culture that addresses the current burnout as we transition to a post-pandemic reality and companies that get it right will help their employees move from surviving to thriving in the new world of hybrid work.


  • Lisa Walker

    VP of Brand & Corporate Marketing, Workforce Futurist


    VP of Brand and Corporate Marketing at Fuze, overseeing brand strategy, public relations, customer advocacy, content, and creative.