Pandemic burnout is a real thing. Perhaps you are feeling it yourself. It is burnout, a form of exhaustion caused by constantly feeling swamped that has been exasperated by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. This Pandemic Burnout is the source of emotional, physical, and mental stress that is manifesting at work.
Burnout Escalated by the Pandemic
Elements contributing to rising burnout levels in 2020 and 2021 include the economic downturn, pay cuts, job losses, and general uncertainty of what the future holds. With a patchwork of conflicting public-health guidelines, remote working-related stress, work-life imbalances and health concerns factored in, it is no surprise workers are worn out.
Recognize the Signs of Burnout
The first step in staving off pandemic burnout is to recognize the signs. The Mayo Clinic lays out nearly a dozen burnout symptoms, including expressions of cynicism or criticism, trouble getting to work, irritability, impatience with co-workers and an absence of energy to remain consistently productive. Others include an inability to concentrate; disillusionment about work; use of food, drugs or alcohol to alter moods; and unexplained physical maladies.
Employers Can Help
How can employers help their employees stave off pandemic burnout? While it may not be a clearcut list of things to do, it’s important to make an effort. Workplaces are seeing a trend in employees quitting their jobs. It’s safe to say that pandemic burnout is a contributing factor. The most important principle to guide action is to understand work-life balance and show employees that it matters. Beyond that, it’s about clear, honest communication and showing trust and respect.
A growing number of companies shut down their business for one week to stave off burnout. While this is an extreme measure, it’s definitely one way employers can help, even if we merely use the example as a guiding light. LinkedIn did so in April, Hootsuite in May, and Nike in August. A passel of organizations gave their staffs a week off in early September, around the U.S. Labor Day holiday. (source).
What we recommend is much less drastic but will accomplish the same thing and definitely show effort, understanding, trust, and respect which will go a long way with employees.
Tips to Stave Off Pandemic Burnout
- Set Clear Workday Boundries
Encourage employees to log off each day and set explicit boundaries if needed. For example, Volkswagen set it up so their servers won’t route emails to individual accounts between 6:15 p.m. and 7 a.m. That way, workers (and leaders) can recharge and return to work fresh. It’s a way to normalize, even celebrate, having a life outside of work. Remote workers are especially susceptible to blurred lines making it even more important to set clear workday boundaries.
2. Increase Thoughtful Communication
Encourage managers to check in with employees and ask them how they are feeling. Let employees know they can speak freely with supervisors about feeling burnout. Having an open-door policy without fear of repercussions can go a long way in proactively preventing burnout and quickly addressing it once it appears.
3. Reduce Mandatory, Unproductive Meetings
We’ve all been a victim of a pointless meeting. The ones that are mandatory but you are never called on for input and you leave feeling mad that your time was wasted. If employers can help mitigate this problem, the results are twofold. One, employees know that you value their time and they will spend the extra time being more productive at their job. Secondly, employees will feel that you trust them which also increases productivity. Sometimes from an employee’s perspective, mandatory meetings that seem pointless are merely control tactics used to check on employees and control their schedules. We saw a huge increase in this when work went remote.
4. Give Employees Something To Do Outside of Work
This tip could be executed in all sorts of ways. It could be as simple as doing lunch outside the office or asking them to run an errand for you during their workday. Basically, you are encouraging employees to take a break and giving them an excuse to do it. Adding exposure to fresh air will multiply the results and help employees recharge. Other ideas would be to do a team-building event or send employees to a conference.
Employee burnout is definitely not a new problem but the worldwide pandemic certainly exasperated it and introduced new levels of stress and uncertainty which are underlying causes of burnout. Addressing burnout needs to be built into a standard operating procedure so that it becomes part of your company culture. In an era where good employees are hard to find and keep, it’s ever more important for employers to be aware of the issue and take steps to mitigate it.
If you liked this post, see How To Whip Our Social Skills Back Into Shape, Free Webinar From the Founder of HRinDemand – The HR Pandemic Pivot, How to Get On the Right Side of the Predicted Post Pandemic Labor Shuffle and Tips For Effective Workforce Planning.
To consult with experts on reducing COVID-19 Burnout, contact HRinDemand, Your Total People Solution.
Are you interested in taking your team to the next level? If so, contact the experts at HRinDemand. We use Predictive Index’s state-of-the-art software to help businesses effectively hire, manage and outgrow their competition.
We are offering a self-awareness evaluation – normally $1,000 for 25% off. The evaluation will give you valuable insight into your employee’s personality, strengths and weaknesses. Leverage it for productivity and team management.
Melissa Marsh, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a human resources consultant and founder of HRinDemand, a human resources company in Reno, NV, offering expert guidance and easy-to-use tools to help small businesses with employment regulations, compliance, employee relations, and company growth.
Timmes, Michael. “Council Post: How to Identify and Prevent Employee Burnout.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 26 Apr. 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2021/04/26/how-to-identify-and-prevent-employee-burnout/?sh=e03751019109.
“LinkedIn Report: What Candidates Want, What Companies Need, and What’s Changing.” LinkedIn, https://www.linkedin.com/business/talent/blog/talent-strategy/talent-market-drivers-since-start-of-covid.
“Why Millennials and Gen Zers Are Rejecting the Current Model of Work.” LinkedIn, https://www.linkedin.com/business/talent/blog/talent-engagement/why-millennials-gen-z-are-rejecting-current-model-of-work.