Burnout has always been a serious issue in the workplace and the recent pressures related to the pandemic have made burnout even more pronounced. Working from home blurs the lines between work time and personal time; it also means a juggling act with time and resources for working parents. Some people have chosen to leave the workplace leaving those remaining with untenable workloads. And then there is the very real issue of loneliness and isolation when work contact is primarily virtual.
Combine these pandemic-induced factors with the day-to-day pressures of work in general and you have the perfect conditions for burnout. The symptoms of which are very unhealthy and unproductive and may include:
- Feelings of exhaustion and fatigue
- Dysfunctional relationships at work
- Feeling disillusioned
- Cynicism, anger and an overall negative attitude
- Tension, anxiety, and stress
- Lack of motivation, creativity and engagement
Burnout is unsustainable and it’s affecting all levels of staff, from the front line to the executive suite. So what can you do to mitigate the stresses and strains and help your people deal with burnout? Here are seven practices to incorporate now:
Make Mental Health a Priority
Mental health is key to helping employees with burnout. By building positive habits and supporting people’s mental health you arm them with the fundamental skills they need to deal with all types of setbacks and internal struggles they will encounter at work and in all parts of their lives.
- Establish an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that offers counseling or provide counseling benefits as part of your overall compensation package.
- Encourage stress relief at work with activities like listening to music, meditation, breathing exercises, doodling, and stress balls.
- Practice positivity by refocusing conversations when they turn negative, emphasizing the exciting aspects of work versus the mundane, and framing change as an opportunity to learn and grow.
- Talk! Check in with people. Don’t be afraid of emotion. Notice even the smallest changes in people and ask how they are doing. When you normalize conversations about feelings, people will begin to open up and you can deal with issues proactively.
Encourage General Wellness
When people are living healthy lives they can bring their best selves to work everyday. Supporting the “life” side of work/life balance shows you care about people as much as profits and that goes a long way to helping employees with burnout.
- Encourage breaks and social time at work. Stock the coffee room, provide comfy chairs and make sure people take regular breaks to mentally refocus and chat with colleagues.
- Support team camaraderie with fun events that encourage laughter and excitement and be sure managers get involved and model positive habits.
- Support physical activity with sports clubs, gym memberships, walking meetings and simply encouraging people to get outside in the fresh air daily.
- Consider benefits that support overall wellness like financial skills training, nutrition classes, and childcare or eldercare.
The modern workplace must be flexible. The pandemic showed us the importance of this, and the changes it required are here to stay. Recognizing the realities of flexible work and committing to being responsive to ongoing challenges are necessary tools for dealing with burnout.
- Set clear boundaries like email-free hours or no-meeting days. Talk to employees about the need to separate work time from family time, particularly if they are working from home or working remotely.
- Allow people the flexibility they need to find a healthy balance. When employees request time off to watch a school play or take a parent to an appointment, find a way to say yes.
- Provide work options and empower employees to take responsibility for their time. You may use a combination of core hours and discretionary hours or move to a fully results-based system.
Proactively Manage Workloads
Too much work or feeling that everything is of critical importance are common threads with feeling burnt out. Helping employees establish priorities and understand how their job fits into the bigger picture helps manage feeling overwhelmed.
- Limit overtime and/or pay for overtime hours. Where the workload demands hire more staff or use temporary staff to ensure people have enough time off.
- Ensure your people are taking regular time off. If they don’t want to take a few weeks off at a time, encourage regular long weekends and sufficient downtime to recharge.
- Promote teamwork and encourage people to talk to one another about priorities. Establish systems for people to ask for help and normalize this behaviour.
- Proactively manage workloads and talk with your employees to find the best allocation of tasks so they feel challenged but not overwhelmed.
Encourage Employee Voices
An open door is a powerful tool to ward off burnout. Employees need to know they can come to their managers with issues and to voice their frustrations or concerns. Without an honest exchange, small issues bubble up and can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety and contribute to burnout.
- Optimize your meetings. The goal is to make sure people have the information they need but not to take up so much time that meetings contribute to feeling overwhelmed.
- Practice active listening. Be approachable and recognize that you don’t always need to have the answers; sometimes you just need to hear what someone is telling you.
- Ask for suggestions and make it easy for people to give feedback both in person and anonymously. Follow up to ensure people know their ideas have been received and considered.
- Check in with employees regularly. Talk about what’s going well and what’s causing concerns. Consider regular surveys or even a weekly ‘pulse check’ to stay on top of how people are feeling.
Praise and Reward and Celebrate
Everyone wants to know they are valued, and providing reward and recognition creates positive emotion and is highly motivating. It’s a great remedy for burnout and contributes to an overall positive work experience.
- Celebrate successes as well as people. It’s important to carve out time for fun, non-work activities that tell the team they are appreciated. Bring in donuts, celebrate birthdays, host summer BBQs, get involved in a Pride parade, have an employee talent show… getting employees together to celebrate builds a strong sense of community and together employees can support one another if they are dealing with burnout.
- Personalize your rewards by finding out what people value and what motivates them. This demonstrates that you value their individuality as well as what they bring to the team.
- Praise employees regularly. From a simple thank-you to a formal accolade, timely and sincere thanks go a long way!
Create Paths to Success
Ultimately people want to be successful at work and that means different things to different people. Some people want to move up, some prefer lateral change and others want to keep learning new skills while remaining in the same position. To ward off burnout, clear a path to success for your people by creating a wide range of opportunities.
- Provide ample training options. Lunch and learns, seminars, leadership courses, paid tuition, sabbaticals – find out what people want to learn and help them achieve it.
- Work on goal setting and establish systems that ensure goals are supported, monitored, adjusted, and recognized.
- Empower employees and lead them to success by establishing clear expectations, delegating appropriately and being there to help when necessary.
- Be a mentor and a coach. Talk honestly about performance, provide feedback, and work together to ensure work is interesting and satisfying.
Feeling burnt out at work is nothing new. However the stresses of the modern workplace have brought this issue to the forefront and it’s important you learn to help employees who are struggling because prolonged feelings of burnout can lead to longer-term issues both personally and professionally. The upside is that strategies designed to combat burnout are indicative of a great overall culture and that is something we should all be striving for.
If you want to get clear insight on how employees are experiencing your workplace culture, we are here to help. Reach out to us about how our survey and culture management platform can help you measure your team’s effectiveness.
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