Employee burnout has been an evergreen problem, one that employers have dealt with for decades. Back in 2018, a Gallup study found that two-thirds of full-time workers experience some level of burnout sometimes. However, two years later, in a pandemic world where work forces have been forced to go remote for longer than anybody expected, dealing with employee burnout is becoming more of a crisis for many employers. At a time when many companies need the best from their employees so they can handle unprecedented challenges, they’re facing the real cost of burnout. In a study by the American Psychological Association, burned-out employees are over 60% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times more likely to look for a new job. They also struggle with productivity and could be sharing a negative attitude with coworkers, creating a cancerous effect on your company culture.
What are the causes of employee burnout?
Too frequently, employee burnout is perceived of as the worker’s issue. This approach pretty much guarantees failure, though. The real culprit of burnout is the employer. Those who’ve studied burnout have found these to be the main causes for low staff engagement:
- Too many meetings, especially meetings that feel unproductive
- Too little time and space for creativity (and a general lack of autonomy)
- A stressful emotional atmosphere in the office
- The digital ‘always on and reachable’ mode that many companies operate by
The good news here is that all these items are also easily fixed with better people strategy. Below are some tips that your company can start implementing today to make your staff feel happier and more motivated, whether working remotely or amidst the stress of a new COVID-19 workplace.
5 Ways to address employee burnout
There’s no better day than today to start working on creating a better workplace for your employees. Even if they’re fully remote, you can still do a lot to help them feel more engaged with their work, their managers, and their colleagues. Start with these tips and simultaneously open up a dialogue with your staff about what they need. You might get some helpful, concrete feedback.
- Reduce unnecessary meetings. This might also mean reducing the participants in the meetings you do keep. HR and payroll companies suggest that you think about who needs to be in this meeting and who does not. You can always send a quick catch-up email or have a phone call with people who did not attend. Remember that most employees might not feel like they have the right to speak up when they’re being asked to sit through a meeting that isn’t productive for them. Managers may need to step in and help facilitate this process.
- Find ways to give employees back some autonomy and creativity. This can be as simple as allowing them to decide how to do a task, rather than dictating the process. Autonomy is consistently one of the highest factors in job happiness. So why not trust your employees to structure their days and come up with their own processes? If deadlines are being clearly communicated and met, and work is being done to the level you need, it doesn’t matter what an employee’s day looks like. Especially when your staff has gone remote, this can be a big help for everyone. Managers are not trying to check in too often on employees they can’t see. And workers can feel more in control of how their day goes, even if they’ve lost some control of what they can do in a COVID-19 world.
- Create a more supportive, friendly atmosphere. In the middle of the pandemic, many of your staff might be struggling with their mental health. Open up the lines of communication on this topic. Show your employees that you care. You can also encourage them to take a mental health day if it seems like they need it. One day can go a long way. The last part of this is tactic for talent management strategy is to encourage camaraderie and connection between your staff. Even if they’re remote, they can still reach out to chat during the day or have zoom coffee breaks together. If they’re in the office, allow for connection between your employees (although keep social distancing and COVID safety in mind). If it can be done safely, set up team building activities. Allowing your employees to relate to each other eventually leads to an environment that feels supportive. This can be a powerful way to get a burnt-out employee to re-engage with their job.
- Show that you respect your staff’s commitments outside of work. Again, this has always been important, but it’s become critical with coronavirus. Your employees may have family to take care of (especially children with no school or daycare to go to). They maybe holding down a second job to stay afloat financially. They may just need time to unwind with a hobby, so they can return to work refreshed every morning. Make the effort to show an interest in people’s lives and let them know you respect the line between work and everything outside of it. Avoid contacting employees after hours or on weekends as much as possible. You’ll be surprised how much this will matter to your workforce.
- Do something to let employees know you value them (and their hard work) through this tough time. You might send them a gift card, buy them lunch, or offer them a little time off. Some companies are sending their employees masks and hand sanitizer. Whatever you do, explicitly say that the reward is not about merit, but simply that you value them for what they’ve done already. employee burnout.
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