Even before the pandemic, employee burnout was a top concern for employers. The Mayo Clinic describes burnout as "a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity." It manifests in many ways that are quite literally dangerous for employees. Symptoms of burnout include insomnia, fatigue, heart disease, vulnerability to illness, and death.
So, let's talk about some simple and practical approaches to fighting burnout in your workplace. First things first, employers need to take responsibility for leading the fight. It's not your employees' job to fight burnout on their own. Burnout is often caused by systemic issues in a company's culture, leading to overworked employees who don't have the time or resources to manage their workload.
It's best to approach the fight from all angles and not assume there is a one-size-fits-all solution for your company. Here's where you can start.
1. Benefits designed to sustain wellness
MetLife's recent study found that 86% of employees considered health insurance a "must-have" and ranked comprehensive employee benefits as one of the most critical drivers of employee well-being. The same study also found that comprehensive employee benefits were a driver for increased employee productivity and loyalty.
Ensure you're giving your employees the support they need to take care of themselves mentally and physically. Consider offering them a week's more PTO than you did the previous year and see what it does for employee engagement, productivity, and retention.
If you're not sure this is the right move for your business, make an experiment out of it. Record your numbers for retention, engagement, productivity, and wellness for the previous year, and compare them after one year of offering your new plan.
2. Practical workload management
Providing a reasonable workload is a leading factor in decreasing employee stress and burnout. While this may seem obvious, it can be tricky to work out exactly how much work is too much (or not enough) for your employees. Do your research and develop a strategy for identifying when workloads are too high and when they need to be decreased and spread out.
Involve your employees in this process. They can help you gain insight into the ebb and flow of their workload and inform you how to best respond to the challenges they face. Make sure to keep an open dialog between employees and managers and encourage honesty.
3. Empathetic management
This leads us to understanding the different causes of burnout and how to address them. While burnout is often a direct result of a failure on the company's behalf to manage employees strategically, sometimes it results from external issues.
The year 2020 was an excellent example of how employees may deal with the same workload they always have but struggle to keep up due to added stress from their environment, like:
- Kids at home 24/7
- Increased anxiety
- Struggles with depression and isolation
The minute you ask an employee to put aside their needs, you set your company and your employee up for failure.
Design a culture that recognizes productivity naturally ebbs and flows along with our ability to manage stress, workload, and well-being. Allow your employees to be human and open about their challenges. If an employee feels like they can take a day off or ask for extra help on a project without retaliation, their stress level won't rise, and they'll be better equipped to get back on track and manage their workload like the dedicated employee they are.
MetLife found that employee recognition was the ultimate driver in increasing productivity, engagement, and loyalty, and decreasing stress, burnout, and depression. A simple "thank you" or "great job" can be the difference between an employee feeling burned out and feeling accomplished. There are many creative ways to celebrate and acknowledge your employees, so there isn't a good excuse for not doing it.
This may be an old topic, but it's never been more relevant. As you move into the next decade, you must maintain a sincere effort to help your employees lead healthy lives at work and home. Fighting burnout will save you money, protect employee health and well-being, and give you both stronger legs to stand on.
Is your benefits broker also a compliance consultant? What about a trusted business partner? Are you confident your policies and processes are doing what they need to ensure that your company—and your employees— are healthy and productive? Get in touch with Raffa to see how we can help your organization become a local employer of choice.
Photo by cppzoe