Employees in every industry have faced unprecedented work stress during 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions have changed how and where workers complete their daily tasks. Add economic uncertainty, childcare responsibilities, and lack of job security to the mix, and workers are facing more demands than ever. These issues can lead to chronic stress and a condition called employee burnout.
For employers, taking care of the mental health of workers is more than a suggestion, it’s a responsibility. Employees facing excessive stress should be monitored to ensure steps are taken to avoid burnout. Often, employee burnout is signaled by low engagement, decreased productivity, and low levels of concentration. While this leads to decreased performance within the company, it can also have serious, long-term effects for employees suffering from the condition.
How Employee Burnout Differs from Normal Stress
Everyone experiences stress and it’s not always bad for you. Employee burnout is often a response to a combination of external stressors and stressful employment conditions. Understanding the effects of stress and the signs of employee burnout can help you keep your employees engaged, happy, and healthy.
What is Stress?
Stress is the way your brain responds to demands and challenges. Often called the body’s fight or flight response, stress can be a healthy reaction to get you out of a problematic situation. However, long-term stress can be unhealthy.
Everyone is affected by stress at times, but stress triggers and reactions can vary widely. In some situations, employees may respond positively to stress. These are the workers who “work well under pressure.” This type of short-term reaction to stress can help employees meet looming deadlines or complete mammoth projects with success.
Long-term or chronic stress leads to a different reaction from the body. Employees suffering from chronic stress often feel overwhelmed and hopeless. When employees are exposed to stress for a long period of time, the brain never signals the body to slow down. Chronic stress can cause serious physical and mental health issues.
What is Employee Burnout?
Employee burnout is classified by the World Health Organization as an occupational phenomenon resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Symptoms of burnout include:
- Energy depletion or exhaustion
- Mental distance, negativity, or cynicism about one‘s job
- Reduced professional efficacy
Simple solutions for employee burnout like long vacations or shorter hours are rarely effective. Prevention and personal care are the best methods to eliminate burnout in the workplace.
How Remote Work Causes Employee Burnout
One of the major work changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic is the use of remote work across many industries. While this seems like a recipe for relaxation, the real-life results are often the opposite. For many employees, remote work blurs the line between work and downtime, leaving the brain focused on work at all times. Remote work has caused additional stress for many employees due to the following reasons.
- Feeling pressure to be available at all times for work-related tasks
- Distractions of working in a chaotic home instead of a streamlined office
- Lack of communication with co-workers and management leading to disengagement
- Fear of layoffs or termination if performance isn‘t above-par
5 Tips to Prevent and Eliminate Employee Burnout
When your employees are stressed, your company suffers. Furthermore, your valuable employees are no longer engaged and may wish to leave for greener pastures. Paying attention to workplace issues and stressors can help you eliminate chronic stress before burnout occurs. Individual solutions and long-term changes can help employees get past burnout and enjoy their occupation again. Try these strategies to help provide prevention and support measures against employee burnout.
1. Encourage Boundaries
Whether the pressure to be on-call for work tasks at all time is real or imagined, it creates chronic stress for employees. While workers have to implement certain boundaries within their homes, employees or those in management positions have responsibilities here, too. Restrict the bulk of communications to traditional work hours so employees can use evenings and weekends for personal time.
2. Schedule Regular Check-ins
It‘s important to schedule routine one-on-one meetings with employees to determine how they are handling external and workplace stress. Zoom meetings are often chaotic and unproductive. Assessing employees during this time isn‘t practical or effective. Schedule one-on-one conversations or video chats with employees to discuss new challenges and coping mechanisms. It‘s important to offer a variety of solutions to workers facing additional stressors or having difficulty adjusting.
3. Create Workplace Connections
Workplace communication drives camaraderie and engagement. While it‘s impossible to create a normal work atmosphere at the moment, there are ways to provide employees with virtual connections. Try these options to help workers feel connected.
- Create a virtual water cooler with the use of forums or opt-in meetings
- Provide the necessary software for employees to collaborate on important projects remotely
- If possible, allow limited workdays where a small crew of employees can work in-office while observing social distancing restrictions
- Consider hybrid office solutions that could be temporary or long-term
4. Develop Individualized Solutions
Each employee faces different stressors and may respond differently to changes and solutions designed to counteract work stress. For many, home is a busy place filled with necessary distractions. Some employees may thrive with a regular schedule while others will need flexible hours to work around child care responsibilities. It may be necessary to redistribute tasks and change employee roles. Determine how your employees work best under stressful circumstances and go the extra mile to provide the changes they need.
5. Encourage Time Off
Traditionally, vacations are a time to unwind, relax, and get away from it all. When employees are working from home and pandemic restrictions make traditional vacations limited or impossible, many don‘t recognize the need to take vacation time. Encourage employees to take extended vacations from work tasks before they become overwhelmed or exhausted.
Avoiding employee burnout is a group effort that succeeds with effective communication between employees, management, and human resource teams. Recognizing the causes and signs of chronic stress and working to eliminate them is the first step to avoiding the long-term effects of burnout.
About Platinum Group
Platinum Group is a human capital management resource with solutions to help you streamline operations so you‘ll have time to manage your business. No matter which division you work with: Payroll/HR or Accounting, our team is built upon a foundation of support, service, camaraderie, and collaboration that we share both in-house and with our wonderful clients.