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How to Stamp Out Employee Burnout

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There’s been much made of an impending “turnover tsunami” lately, with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) being one of the first to sound the warning bell for organizations working hard to fill open positions and, especially, to recruit talent for hard-to-fill roles during a pandemic that continues to create challenges for employers and employees alike.

Before the pandemic, employees had been suffering from a range of mental issues business owners were attempting to address. Since the pandemic, these issues have only gotten worse.

Employee stressors taking a toll

Employees feel out of control because, to a large degree, they are. They have no control over the virus, or over government and employer mandates that threaten to impact both their lives and livelihoods. And they don’t know what to expect next because, in truth, no one knows what to expect next.   
It can be easy to be drawn down into a rabbit hole of despair.

It is in this environment that employers and their HR leaders need to step up to help stamp out employee burnout.

What does work/life balance mean during the pandemic?

Work/life balance has long been important for employees. But work/life balance since Covid emerged is decidedly different. Many employees still working in a remote environment no longer have a clear distinction between work and home. They work in their homes where their personal lives — spouses, partners, children even parents needing attention — are integrally tied into their workdays.

In this environment, it can be hard for workers to “turn work off.” Employers can play an important role here. Even something as simple as establishing a “no emails outside of scheduled work hours” can help.

Organizations need to take steps to seek and listen to feedback from employees, recognizing that each person’s situation can be markedly different.

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Prevent Burnout Among Their Teams

How proactive should employees be about sounding the alarm?

One step organizations can take to help employees battle burnout is to establish a climate and culture of open communication and transparency that invites employees to “sound the alarm” when they’re experiencing signs of burnout.

Leaders can set the example themselves by sharing their own stressors and feelings of anxiety — after all, nobody is immune to pandemic-caused stress and its impacts. Make it clear to employees that stress is experienced by everyone and can naturally be overwhelming. Share information about how you’re dealing with your stress. Resources available to employees can go a long way toward bringing issues to the forefront where they can be addressed before becoming significant.

Through personal feedback or surveys, employers can identify other opportunities for helping to alleviate stress. One key stressor during the pandemic is “Zoom fatigue”. Minimizing the number and length of such meetings can help, as can lightening up on requirements for cameras to be turned on.

Related: How to make 2022 the year that Finally! Let’s leave behind burnout

Time off: More is less

Some organizations are proactive in giving employees time off — offering mental health days or extending (PTO) during the pandemic. For those who cannot travel, people may consider “stay-cations” as a pleasant alternative for relaxing at home or doing homebound projects.

It may be counterintuitive, but companies that have unlimited PTO policies have actually found that employees take less time off under these liberal policies compared to installing a cap on PTO and subjecting people to “use it or lose it” restrictions.

Other companies have even taken steps to reward employees for taking time off. Earlier this year The Wall Street Journal reported that some companies are offering employees cash bonuses for taking vacations. LinkedIn gave all employees an extra week off in April. There are many other examples.

Companies are also recognizing — and taking steps to alleviate — the financial impacts that taking time off can result in, especially when time off is mandatory. When the virus first emerged, Microsoft was one of the first major companies to announce steps it would take to protect employees — recognizing, and paying for, additional time off.

Related: Motivating Remote Employees Using OKRs

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