How Can Employers Address Employee Burnout?
It’s no secret that 2020 has presented workforces with unique hurdles due to a global pandemic, both in their profession and personal lives. Employers were combatting employee burnout before COVID-19 came along, which unfortunately only amplified the stress and work fatigue that employees face. Read on for how employers can reduce burnout in order to keep employees refreshed and motivated.
What is Employee Burnout and Why is it Trending?
In 2019, the World Health Organization formally included burnout in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) and defined it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
For some employees, burnout is nothing new. With the stress of job loss, anxiety over getting sick with COVID-19, and general uncertainty, employees are more susceptible than ever to experience burnout on the job. And while burnout is caused by what happens at work, the effects of burnout can trickle over into one’s personal life.
According to the World Health Organization, burnout is characterized by three dimensions: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativity or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy.
What are the Signs of Employee Burnout?
Burnout can manifest differently depending on the employee and how they handle stress in the workplace. While burnout can also be caused by underlying mental health concerns, the following are key indicators of signs of burnout according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Changes in Mood at Work: This includes becoming cynical and critical at work and having trouble getting started. Becoming irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients can also indicate burnout.
- Job Dissatisfaction: Employees suffering from burnout might lack satisfaction from their achievements or feel disillusioned about their job.
- Productivity Drop at Work: Lacking energy to be consistently productive and finding it hard to concentrate are also symptoms.
- Habits Outside of Work: Sometimes employees suffering from burnout turn to food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or numb themselves from the stressors at work. Sleep habits can also change as a result.
- Physical Symptoms: Is the employee troubled by unexplained headaches or physical complaints? Are they needing to take more absences than normal due to illness? While not always attributed to burnout, physical symptoms can start to affect employees suffering from burnout.
Ways to Prevent Employee Burnout
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight, but it can ultimately result in high turnover rates and loss of productivity for organizations. Employers will need to not only think about immediate responses to help alleviate their teams, but also long term solutions to prevent future burnout.
- Offering EAPs and Other Resources: Does your company provide resources for parenting or wellness? And if so, do your employees know about it? Remind your employees of mental health resources and other programs they have available to them and educate them on how those resources work.
- Improving Workplace Communication: Creating a supportive, meaningful workplace environment can help prevent employees from feeling overwhelmed and burnt out. One way to accomplish this is enhanced communication. Encourage your managers to skip the annual performance reviews and go with regular check-ins to see what’s working and what isn’t with employees. However, be cognizant of “Zoom fatigue”—the draining effect and exhaustion of too many back-to-back video calls—and switch it up by conducting meetings over the phone when possible. Sometimes, a simple email will do the trick.
- Resetting Norms Around Work-Life Balance: How can your company help employees reset work-life boundaries? Are there policies in place for expectations regarding email response times outside of work hours? Set meeting times so employees can plan out their days—and their breaks.
- Encouraging Paid Time Off: It’s no secret that taking days off to recharge is imperative for employee wellbeing. Encourage employees to take advantage of their PTO or adjust policies if they’re not currently supporting your team’s needs. It’s also important to monitor and limit overtime so that employees don’t feel pressured to overwork themselves—and eventually experience burnout.
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