By Morgan Carpenter
After a year of isolation, grief, and adversity, mental health has been at the forefront of national conversations. How do you take care of yourself, your family, and your colleagues during an unprecedented global pandemic? As people cope with new or amplified feelings of anxiety and depression, employers may also notice employees exhibiting symptoms of burnout. It is a common and valid experience that can have drastic impacts on the workplace. Read on how to learn more about burnout and how to be a leader who can take concrete steps to prevent burnout as well as assess and respond to its effects.
What is Burnout?
The World Health Organization defines burnout as an occupational phenomenon. Mayo Clinic expands on this by explaining that burnout is a state of physical or emotional exhaustion. Burnout can encompass feelings of cynicism, frustration, and emptiness in the context of work. According to an estimate by Korn Ferry, a leading executive search firm, 7 in 10 employees experience burnout. It is important to underscore that anyone is susceptible to burnout, even those who feel fulfilled in their career.
Signs of Burnout
Take a moment to read over the possible signs of burnout.
- Unexplained absences
- Dreading going to work
- Irritability or impatience with co-workers or clients
- Critical or cynical about work
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decrease in productivity
- Lacking satisfaction from achievement
- Changing sleep habits
- Unexplained headaches or stomach issues
Do you recognize any of these feelings or actions in your employees? If so, the employee may be experiencing burnout. It is important to note these signs may be related to other health conditions, such as depression.
Causes of Burnout
What exactly evokes feelings of burnout in the workplace?
Lack of Control. During this past year, people had to reckon with the amount of control they do and do not have in their own lives. More often than not, a lack of control can exist in the workplace as well, which can be difficult to face. Having little to no influence over projects, doing monotonous work, and enduring unclear job expectations are examples of an absence of control.
Lack of Support. Burnout occurs when people are over-whelmed and under-supported. Unfortunately, mental health continues to be a taboo subject in the workplace. If employees are feeling frustrated and depleted at work, and there are no existing resources or supportive figures in the organization, those feelings may continue and strengthen over time.
Work-Life Imbalance. As people transitioned to working from home, the lines between one’s professional and personal life blurred. Many people had to figure out how to be an employee, a caretaker, and a partner in the same space, and often at the same time. Wearing numerous hats for an extended period can contribute to feelings of exhaustion and irritability.
Consequences of Burnout
There are valid and significant consequences of burnout in the workplace. People who are exposed to burnout have reported experiences of insomnia, excessive stress, and fatigue. Burnout is also correlated with heart disease, diabetes, and chronic substance use. Employees may feel that a job or career change can alleviate feelings of burnout. In order to effectively support and retain their employees, employers must take steps to tackle the phenomenon of workplace burnout.
Remedies for Burnout
Employee Assistance Programs. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a company-sponsored program whose purpose is to support employees as they navigate challenges that adversely impact their work performance. The common services of an EAP are legal aid, health and wellness counseling, child or elder care resources, marital and family counseling, and substance use counseling. Employees turn to EAPs when experiencing personal issues, such as grief, anger, stress, coworker conflict, and life changes. EAPs are voluntary, free, and typically offered through third-party administrators. Through the confidential and holistic services of an EAP, employees can receive aid and remain focused on their work. Employers who offer EAPs send convey they care about their employees and strive for a safe and understanding environment.
Communication. In addition to an EAP, employers should encourage open and honest conversations throughout the company. It is encouraged that employers hold regular staff meetings, both with the whole team and with individual team members. Meetings allow employers to check-in with the team as well as for employees to discuss projects, obstacles, successes, and career goals. Additionally, employers can utilize meetings to provide sincere praise and recognition regarding the employee’s work. As mentioned previously, unclear job expectations can heighten feelings of burnout. It is imperative that employers clearly define the duties and requirements of each and every employee.
Balance. As employees continue to work from home, balance is key in preventing and mitigating feelings of burnout. Encourage employees to practice boundary-setting. When they sign off for the day, support them in truly disconnecting from work emails and phone calls. Ensure employees are being adequately compensated for their work so they do not have to continually work over-time to make ends meet. Balance applies to those who are under-stimulated at work as well as to those who are over-stimulated. If an employee’s workload is low or monotonous, they may benefit from a new task or project. Explore virtual trainings that will help employees develop new skills.
Self-Care. Activities that promote self-care should consistently be incorporated and valued throughout the organization. Invite employees to take a walk or get fresh air during the workday. Permit employees to listen to music as they work independently. Designate time on the meeting agenda for meditation, mindfulness, or sharing healthy tips. Urge employees to prioritize sleep, healthy eating, and exercise every day.
Another way to ensure your employees are cared for is to provide them with a robust and comprehensive benefits package. Full benefits offering and expert advisors by your side can save your company time, resources, and money so you can focus on supporting your team. Talk to our Principal Ron Bland on what plans are best to offer your employees. You can reach us at Ron@AEISAdvisors.com or 650.348.6234 x12.
Disclaimer: Any information related to compliance or other subject matters in this blog is intended to be informational and does not constitute legal advice regarding any specific situation. The content of this blog is based on the most up-to-date information that was available on the date it was published and could be subject to change. Should you require further assistance or legal advice, please consult a licensed attorney.