Tips to Overcome Employee Burnout

We’re approaching two years of remote or hybrid work arrangements due to COVID-19. Some employees and companies have adjusted extremely well, using the option of working at home to their advantage, while others have struggled to keep energy and morale high. Employee burnout is just as prevalent as ever, if not more, and is a significant contributing factor to the Great Resignation we’re seeing nationwide. An Indeed report found that around 52% of employees experienced burnout in 2021, with 67% saying the pandemic has worsened the feeling. With numbers that high, how can businesses retain employees and keep them motivated? How can you, as a leader, help your team with burnout?

To understand the solutions, we have to better understand the problem. Starting with what burnout is, what causes it, and what some signs are you’re experiencing it. Burnout shows itself in three ways, according to the World Health Organization. These include exhaustion, distance from or negativity towards one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy. Overall, when your employees are feeling burnt out, workplace productivity and engagement will take a serious dip. Burnout can be caused by any number of things, but lately it seems to have its roots in the pandemic and the shift to remote or hybrid work.

Remember that your employees are humans with lives and worries outside of the office. Everyone has been, and is dealing with, a lot right now. From health concerns to personal relationships – people are feeling burnt out from juggling so many complex issues at once. If you notice your employees struggling to get things done and struggling to connect, be careful not to  pile on more work or deadlines, instead take actions to support them and show them that you care. One of the best tips we can give is to simply lead with empathy and create a culture that celebrates your employees as entire people. Companies must realize that a change has occurred, and employee priorities have started to shift. Businesses that have adjusted and adapted to this change are positioned to do well in the future and will be able to better support their employees.

Here are three additional ways to help boost company engagement and overcome burnout:

  1. Place a Priority on Mental Health

Wellness days and discussions surrounding mental health weren’t as prevalent before the pandemic began, but organizations began to see a necessity to introduce check-ins and an alternative to sick days. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Surveys show a major increase in the number of U.S. adults who report symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia during the pandemic.” As a response, companies and organizations are now prioritizing healthier environments for their employees, including the option to take days off for mental health reasons.

To help decrease the level of burnout your employees might be experiencing, you may want to consider offering wellness days, or something similar to them. Everyone needs a break every once in a while, but often employees are reluctant to use their available sick or vacation days without a pre-planned reason. By offering an alternative that allows for time off to focus on other concerns and reset, your employees will feel supported and more apt to use them.

Aside from wellness days, the most successful businesses take an interest in and address mental health in general. It still carries stigma, and employees struggle to discuss it. Strong leaders are the ones that are creating opportunities to have these uncomfortable conversations and are working to provide a safe space for their employees. These leaders, and businesses as a whole, have a responsibility to check in on their employees and offer them any resources they might need.

  1. Create Employee Sense of Belonging

When your employee morale is low, it’s the perfect time to try to build team relationships and workplace culture. People always say to “work hard, play hard”, but what if you were to take that idea and put a spin on it? Work to create a company, or at the very least, a team culture that supports one another and makes working at your organization fun. You can do this by introducing optional team events, either in person or remotely, where people can better get to know each other, unwind from work, or even have the opportunity to try something new. Anything you can do to help build a community for your employees. This, in turn, will give them a sense of belonging.

Plan events that bring your team together and mitigate the isolation they might be feeling from working remotely or in a hybrid setting. These events can be as simple as Zoom call discussions with one another, or as big as company-wide events that allow teams to spend workdays together doing something outside of the day-to-day – think service days or team bonding days. Sometimes simple is better. Even just having time for a check-in with your team can go a long way. The key is to promote these activities, without making your employees feel like it’s another thing they have to add to their to do lists. This is also a great way to reinforce your company values. The way you work to bring your organization together can also be what you all have in common.

Another way to help employees feel a part of your company, as well as appreciated, is incentives. Who doesn’t enjoy prizes and some praise? Introducing a company incentive program can help bring back some of the motivation your team might be missing. Whether it’s a social media sharing competition, a fundraiser, or simply drawing a name each month, employees always appreciate a little recognition for their hard work. This helps makes your employees feel valued, and that you understand how hard they’re working. Feeling appreciated will give your teams the necessary fuel to keep working and avoid burnout.

  1. Promote Work/Life Harmony

Let’s be honest… Very few people want work to be their entire lives. Most people want to strike some sort of balance. The idea of completely separating work and life is a little outdated though. Now, people are trying to create a harmony between the two. You have to recognize that sometimes work will take the forefront, sometimes your life will, so how can you create happiness in both situations? Work/life harmony is now what people are striving for. It can be defined as “incorporating work into the rest of life in a way that promotes happiness both at home and in the office” (Maryville University). Boundaries blurred during the pandemic, and more than ever, employees are needing to re-evaluate their priorities.

Leaders need to seek to understand the whole person that is coming to work every day. They need to support them and provide the flexibility necessary to have happiness at work and at home. This also build trust with employees in having them handle their own schedule and still provide great work. Similarly to days off, it’s important that your employees feel comfortable with having lives outside of work. They’re going on a trip? Ask them questions about it. They’re volunteering somewhere? See if your company can help support them in any way. There are so many ways to help your team feel proud of their passions outside of work. Make your workplace a community that is supportive and helps each other grow to be better people.

Helping your employees overcome burnout is no easy feat. All of us have, are, or will suffer from it at some point. Make your business a safe place for employees to prioritize self-care and be honest about how they’re feeling. As a leader, if you notice someone experiencing signs of burnout, pull them aside for a one-on-one and ask if they’re okay; ask if you (or the company) can do anything to help them. Having a strong company culture and a supportive workplace will help your business so much more in the long run than if you simply prioritize quotas and goals. Work to catch things before they reach burnout, come up with solutions together, have conversations and know when someone needs to take a break.

Visit our HR consulting services page today to learn more about how A.J. O’Connor can help you build a better workplace.

 

 

Post by Annmarie Fairweather

Annmarie Fairweather is VP, Talent Development for AJO. As an accomplished leader, Annmarie heads AJO's Talent Development Practice, leading a team of executive coaches and senior consultants in support of the team and leadership development needs of our client organizations. She is also a key contributor to AJO's networking forums, including Coaches Forum, HR Leader Exchange, and Advancing Women Leaders.