If there’s one thing certain about the past 18 months, it’s that there has been a renewed focus on employee well-being and what can be done to support it. The pandemic has been tough on everyone, and this combined with a huge change in working environment and styles has led to more and more employees reporting burnout.
Burnout, which was classified as an occupational phenomenon by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2019, refers to a state of emotional and physical exhaustion that’s brought on by chronic workplace stress. Those suffering from burnout can appear depleted, mentally distant from their work, negative or cynical towards their job, and may show reduced professional efficacy.
According to recent research:
- 52% of US employees were suffering from burnout in 2021, compared to 43% from the same pre-covid study.
- 75% of UK employees were suffering from burnout in 2020.
How burnout affects employees and the company
Employees who are engaged have been proven to positively impact business, whereas burnout can impact businesses in the following ways:
- Increased absenteeism costs the business. Employees with burnout are 63% more likely to take a sick day.
- Increased employee churn - 2.6x as likely to be actively seeking a different job – recruitment and training costs to the business.
Ways to tackle employee well-being
It’s all too common for organisations to wait until an employee is already suffering from burnout before taking action. Unfortunately, by this point it’s often difficult to improve the situation just by offering the employee more time off or more financial reward. The best option when it comes to tackling employee well-being is to be proactive and have a strong-wellbeing support system in place for your employees from the get-go.
So, what can employers actually do to help improve employee well-being and avoid burnout?
Understand what motivates your employees
If you ask your employees what motivates them, the chances are you’ll find that most people want to find meaning in what they do. Ensuring that all employees understand how their role contributes to the company mission and goals is a good way to keep them engaged in their role, and people are much less likely to experience burnout when they enjoy what they do.
Consider adopting home-working and flexible-working
The pandemic has shown that millions of employees across the world have been able to work efficiently and productively from home. In fact, many have enjoyed the freedom and flexibility that working from their own home has given them (with some even going as far as to say they would quit their jobs if they weren’t able to work from home).
Allowing employees to work from home, if practical, not only reduces the commute (who doesn’t love a 30 second commute?!) but can also massively improve work-life balance.
It’s also becoming more widely accepted that the standard 9-5 isn’t for everyone. By allowing your employees to work more flexibly at the times that work best for them, you can remove potential stress and improve their wellbeing. Bonus: you may find that by allowing your employees to work at times that suit them, they are actually more productive and therefore it’s a win-win!
Of course, remote working isn’t for everyone so you may find that a hybrid approach of part remote, part in-office is more beneficial for your organisation.
Provide well-being support
One of the quickest ways to help employee well-being is to consider implementing mental health and well-being support. There is a wide range of options here from providing access to Employee Assistance Programmes or counselling services, to purchasing meditation or mindfulness apps for employees as we’ve seen a few major organisations do over the past year.
At Virti, we’ve launched our own custom mindfulness and meditation content that all employees can access for free.
If you do provide these services, it’s important to regularly remind employees that they are available and encourage people to use them when needed. One of the best ways to do this is to foster a culture of well-being…
Make well-being part of your culture
Putting in measures like the above are not enough to tackle well-being alone. You should also put employee well-being at the heart of your company culture.
For example, if you implement remote working as part of a well-being initiative but the company culture promotes working excessively long hours and no separation between work and personal time, your employees may end up lacking a healthy work-life balance and feeling overwhelmed. It’s then likely that their well-being will suffer, and they may end up feeling burnout.
Making well-being a part of your culture may be as simple as encouraging your employees to find their perfect work-life balance and to switch off when they’re not at work – this may mean turning off all notifications or setting out of office hours. Or it could involve encouraging employees to block-out time at the beginning and end of each day for mindfulness or reflection. This can help to provide a separation between work-time and personal-time, and therefore help to improve well-being.
It could involve putting a ban on back-to-back meetings or allowing time for breaks between meetings, or even having a set meeting free day each week. This can help to avoid the dreaded ‘Zoom-fatigue’ if employees work remotely, provides them with undisturbed focus time or even just a nice screen-break and time to grab a cup of tea and relax!
Overall, your company culture should encourage your employees to live healthy and productive. It should foster a working environment where employees feel comfortable and safe talking about how they’re feeling at work.
Lead by example
And last, but by no means least, make sure that you are leading by example! Employees look towards their managers and other senior team members to get a true representation of the company culture. If they see managers never taking breaks, struggling to enjoy a nice work-life balance, and not prioritising well-being, they may assume that’s the real company culture!