When the World Health Organization (WHO) first declared employee burnout as an occupational phenomenon in May 2019, little did we know that chronic workplace stress would become standard for many professionals worldwide due to COVID-19?
The Coronavirus outbreak created an abrupt global shift to remote work and countless workers that never telecommuted before, must do so now. Working from home is supposed to be fun and relaxing, but it has become a significant source of stress for many.
The concept of work and personal lives have blurred from clocking in longer hours to having meetings over the weekends. What’s more, irritability, insomnia, backaches, and restlessness are just some of the side effects that many professionals are enduring.
Naturally, being productive and creative day-in and day-out has posed a challenge for not just them but also their employers. And just because remote employees are out of sight doesn’t mean they should be out of mind.
To keep every team member engaged, productive, and motivated, you must make sure they don’t feel overburdened.
That is, as a business owner, it is your responsibility to ensure remote readiness and recognise signs of burnout. Please take the necessary steps to address it so that your employees can continue adding value to their work. To help you out, let’s take a look at seven ways of stopping employee burnout in these trying times:
Be alert for burnout signs
Employee burnout has physical signs that you can easily point out. For example, if your team members take longer than usual for simpler tasks (e.g., reporting), respond to office emails at odd hours, or look exhausted on video calls, those are signs of worry.
Other warning signs include frequent arguments with peers, heightened irritability, and a general lack of enthusiasm at work. While these could be passing phases, you need to talk to such employees and take action immediately.
Many companies often grant a few days off and have office counsellors on board to help disgruntled employees get back on track. If you can organise help for them, they would be more inclined to spring into action quickly.
Educate on avoiding a burnout
The current state of the world we are in is making all of us question our future – from personal growth and job security to finances, and in doing so, we may be neglecting our mental health. A WHO-led study estimates that 264 million people suffer from depression globally, with one of the main causes being work-related anxiety.
More often than not, both the employee and the employer are unable to do anything about burnouts unless it is too late. Therefore, to avoid total burnout, you should continuously impart information about workplace stress management in the form of brochures, webinars, and presentations so that your employees know the benefits the company is providing.
This way, they may also be compelled to come to you directly for any help. Pro-action in this scenario will help considerably.
Allocate job responsibilities in advance
Imagine you are nearing the end of your workday, with all the tasks neatly checked off your to-do list, and suddenly a senior colleague unloads a pile of work on you and expects you to finish it by the end of the day as it’s all “urgent”. This can be a seriously frustrating and enraging experience for anyone, especially someone nearing burnout.
As a manager, you should encourage your team members to work in collaboration with each other so that deadlines can be met without anyone feeling overwhelmed. Use project management tools such as Asana or Basecamp to delegate the roles and responsibilities of every employee so that everyone knows what is required of them.
That will ensure that work gets completed on time, and more importantly, your employees are clear about their daily schedule and can plan their whole day accordingly. Nobody appreciates work being dumped on them at the last moment, and so it’s crucial to have teammates assign work in advance.
Address every employee’s concerns separately
The millennials as a generation are already too stressed out, and the pandemic has only made matters worse, which is why managers must empathise.
Any person self-quarantining will not only work but also look after the family, do household chores, and take out some time for self-care. As discussed in the above point, because the scenario is different for every employee, you must have video calls with your team once every week for a general catch up or encourage all members to converse with each other regularly.
If the budget allows, you can ask your employees to furnish their designated workspace on the company’s expenses. Alternatively, you can have daily meditation sessions (on Zoom or using apps like Calm), organise Pictionary or charades online to help create a relaxing environment for everyone on Fridays. This will also develop a sense of normalcy.
Offer flexible working hours
70 per cent of professionals believe offering flexible working makes a job more attractive to them. Therefore, another measure you can take is to allow flexibility in work timings and engage with the team members to understand their limitations.
Besides, because employees are working remotely, workplace challenges are different for each of them. For example, some may have children or elders to look after and household chores to do, and others may live on their own.
So while regularly checking in on your employees is important, every individual will have different ways of handling their workload. Showing confidence in your team members and their ability to hit deadlines means allowing them to work on their own pace without constantly micro-managing them.
Furthermore, it’s a good idea to encourage healthy activities, such as taking regular breaks away from the desk, exercise, and getting plenty of sleep. It shows that you care about your employees’ wellbeing, not just the business’s bottom line.
Hence, allow flexible working hours so that all your employees work within a timeframe that suits them the most. This will reduce their workplace anxiety and help them focus better.
Encourage off-days and recognise hard work
Often employees work across functions and juggle multiple projects simultaneously, which is why managers may not have a direct overview of their employees’ workloads. Moreover, the challenges of working from home, coupled with the constant pressure to adapt to new technologies and the uncertainty of the future, can exhaust anyone!
Therefore, you should have a system in place to understand who is doing what and daily check-in with them to see if they need support from you in any form (such as offloading work to other team members, software license, change in work timings).
Encourage off-days and have rules in place wherein employees on a break must disconnect themselves entirely from office emails and calls. Besides, acknowledging employee contributions on email or office communication channels can help improve overall morale and boost productivity.
Offer a suitable employee health insurance plan
A majority of the workforce counts on their employee health insurance plan to take care of their medical bills. By devising a comprehensive medical plan with substantial benefits and easy-to-understand terms, you can remove a considerable amount of pressure from your team members.
Of course, this entirely depends on many external factors as well. Still, if you can plan insurance plans for everyone, your employees are less likely to stress over medical expenses and can thus be more productive at work.
Although work can have a positive effect on mental health, an overly stressful work environment can harm an individual’s psychological and physical health. Prioritising employee wellbeing is the only effective way to avoid burnout.
Beyond salaries and other benefits, you should look at ways to support and understand their employees. Cultivate a remote working environment that’s based on trust, and encourage flexible working hours with more work-life balance.
Build a sense of camaraderie and connection by organising fun team-building activities (such as online charades or virtual happy hours) on a regular basis.
Of course, each business setup is unique, and the steps we have discussed in this article won’t suit every company. However, taking the time to understand the challenges of your employees and informing them how the company is supportive of them can make a lot of difference.
Remember. Everyone works differently. For some, working from home is a huge adjustment. Empathise with the people you work with and help them get through each workday calmly.
About the Author
Gaurav Belani is a senior SEO and content marketing analyst at Growfusely, a content marketing agency that specialises in content and data-driven SEO. His articles have been featured on popular online publications related to EdTech, Business, Startups and many more.