Burnout will always quietly threaten any workplace, but eight months into the pandemic, it’s becoming a widespread problem. At a time when employers need their workforce at the best performance level possible, staff engagement is at an all-time low among workers all over the country. Burnout isn’t just about low morale; it’s a serious problem that can affect a company and spread among your staff. Low employee engagement impacts your company on many different levels including, talent retention, productivity, and ultimately the bottom line. This article outlines how to identify burnout (even when your staff is working remotely), as well as the best HR strategies for improving employee engagement and getting your staff ready to finish 2020 strong.
Employee Engagement Strategies: How to Spot Burnout or Burnout-Prone Employees (Even Remotely)
Workplace burnout can start small, like a pebble in a shoe. A strong talent strategy will include plans to check for this problem before it can become a crisis. The WHO (World Health Organization) classified ‘Burn-out Syndrome’ in 2019 as a problem ‘resulting from workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’ It has three symptoms: exhaustion or fatigue, lower performance and efficacy, and cynicism or increased apathy towards one’s job and workplace. Employees who are feeling burnt out or beginning to burn out can show one, two, or a combination of all three signs. It’s also important to remember that ‘Burn-Out Syndrome’ can be contagious, and one employee could be ‘spreading’ it to their coworkers.
Employers should check in with their staff frequently to see how they’re doing. This is especially important in if the team is or has been working in a remote capacity due to the pandemic. Set up a video or phone call one-on-one with team members periodically. A good approach isn’t to directly ask ‘Are you feeling burnt out?’ Workers might feel overwhelmed by this question. It’s better to ask how staff is doing and if they need anything. Make questions more specific to get more specific answers. Ask if workers have everything they need to work remotely. (Is their Internet connection strong enough, is their laptop working well, do they need a wireless mouse, etc.?) Ask if their workload feels realistic or if they’re struggling with anything. Then, with genuine interest, ask how you could help support them better. These questions will yield the kind of information that will help you identify or prevent poor team engagement.
Another strategy for finding and preventing burnout in staff is to create an emphasis on transparency in your corporate culture. Let workers know they can and should come to their managers if they are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or need something. HR departments can also set up ‘office hours’ when they’re available to discuss burnout or any other needs with employees. ‘Dropping in’ on an office hour, even if it’s a phone or zoom call and not in-person, might feel less overwhelming than making an appointment.
Employee Engagement Strategies: 7 Ways to Prevent and Stop Burnout
Stopping and preventing burnout is about more than just identifying, it. Here are seven ways that HR services experts suggest you can take action.
- Set boundaries and clear expectations for workers: Particularly when workers are remote, it’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page. Communicate clearly about assignments and goals for work. Let staff know what hours you expect them to be working and available. Have managers set good examples by letting their employees know that they’re done for the day, week, etc. Make sure emails and calls from supervisors, clients, and teammates are kept to working hours.
- Host remote team calls weekly, monthly, etc.: Help teammates feel connected and understand the bigger purpose of their work. Let everyone give a brief update of what they’re working on. Spotlight employees who are doing a great job. Be careful not to celebrate overworking, though. Praise those producers who work efficiently and during work hours. When you praise those who are online long after the workday is over, you send a message to everyone that this is what you want.
- Offer employees something extra: A little gift can go a long way. Especially if your employees are remote, send them something extra and unexpected. Mail them a coffee card or gift card, swag with the company logo, or a care package.
- Offer mental health days: Amid the stress of the pandemic, one day off can pay dividends in employee engagement and productivity. Encourage your staff to take a mental health day when they need it. As long as it doesn’t impact their work or their teammates’ workflow, a day off can be extremely beneficial. Employees will come back to their tasks refreshed and motivated.
- Encourage your employees to have good habits. Healthier employees are happier and more productive. Let them know they can take breaks during the day to go out of a walk. Suggest doing ‘walking meetings,’ when you all talk on the phone as you walk. Offer and highlight preventative health benefits in your benefits package, such as discounted access to weight loss programs or discounts for sneakers.
- Do an audit for your employee’s core needs. These are the 7 core needs that make workers happy—whether they’re remote or in-person. Do an audit with your team one-on-one and see if they feel these in their role on a regular basis. If not, what changes can you reasonably make so your employee does have them?
- Positive feelings and emotions
- Psychological safety
- Do an audit of what you offer your workers. These are the 6 things you can offer that make workers happy. Set up a zoom call or talk with your employees on the phone and see if you’re offering all these items. If not, what can you do to change that, remote environment or not?
- Sustainable workload
- Choice and control
- Recognition and reward
- Supportive work community
- Fairness, respect, and social justice
- Clear company values and meaningful work
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