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The Time to Slow Employee Burnout Is Now

HR engagement technology expert Justin Black offers some encouragement to HR leaders on getting ready for 'the new normal'

July 9 2020 - The global coronavirus pandemic has plunged the world into uncertainty. Many businesses have slowed or halted, and those employees still working were presented with multiple challenges to their routines, juggling personal responsibilities and remote working.

All of this is taking its toll on stress levels. The biggest emerging threat organisations are identifying as a result is burnout - defined by the World Health Organisation as feelings of exhaustion, disengagement and reduced productivity. As we cautiously start to emerge from restrictions placed on us locally, we should recognise that burnout is not something which will quickly disappear, and indeed may be even more of an issue as we try to quickly adjust to a new pattern of working.

Glint has just released some significant data on the impact that months of furlough or remote working has had on employee well-being. The data from more than 1.4m employee surveys worldwide shows that the proportion of employees expressing fears of personal burnout has doubled from March to April (from 2.7% to 5.4%) - suggesting it's a growing threat to our locked-down workforce. Tellingly, the data also showed that employees who said they struggle with balancing their personal and work lives were 4.4 times more likely to exhibit signs of burnout - and the effect was 2.3 greater for employees who feel overwhelmed by their workloads.

Clearly, burnout is a growing threat,not just to the engagement of a workforce which has had to adjust to new work patterns, but also their productivity, and it's something HR leaders need to address. In fact, it can be expected to grow in the immediate future, as the burden of work changes as we move to recovery.

Promoting team health and well-being

On a positive note, employees and employers are making well-being a personal and organisational focus. In April, over 10 times as many people watched mindfulness and stress management courses on LinkedIn Learning compared to February, for example.

Leaders can provide clarity, build confidence, and steady the organisation in times of uncertainty. They need to create well-coordinated internal and external communication plans; sharing timely facts, actions to take, and information on changing work requirements (e.g. updated company policies, new schedules, adjustments to travel, social distancing measures, health and safety measures, etc).

Help the business prepare for recovery

Gathering feedback on how employees feel about the lockdown situation is critical. One of the most significant insights from Glint's global research has been how grateful employees are for being asked how they're doing and what support they need at the moment. Our customers report that a quick 'pulse' survey is very useful, in particular as providing valuable data to feed into essential feedback and communication conversations.

Conversations are even more important in times of great uncertainty and change, in order to offer encouragement, resources, guidance, and other support. They are also important to adjust priorities as we start to gear up for a new economy, and it'll be a great way to help teams work better, be healthier, as well as help the business prepare for recovery.

As we adjust to a new work situation, it's important for organisational leaders and managers to focus on having frequent and meaningful interactions with their teams.

These conversations are critical as we solve today's challenges, but to be better prepared for whatever follows.

About the Author

Justin Black

Justin Black is is Head of People Science at employee engagement leader Glint, part of LinkedIn




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