Employee Burnout: How to Prioritize Your People in 2021

Research shows that employees are experiencing burnout. How can employers identify and reduce burnout to promote employee wellness?

Another year is behind us, and it was one for the books. Around the world, we dealt with an unprecedented set of events sparked by the novel coronavirus that upended traditional ways of working and our personal lives. Throughout these hardships, many businesses and the people in them stepped up to pivot, innovate, and lead the charge towards a new year. As 2021 rolls out, many are looking forward with new lessons learned. One such lesson is the pressing need for employee wellness, including ways to avoid burnout.

According to research from behavioral health benefits provider Spring Health, more than three quarters (76%) of U.S. employees are experiencing burnout. In their online survey of 1,136 employed U.S. adults about burnout conducted in December 2020, 36% of those experiencing burnout cited increases in responsibilities at work, and 23% cited insufficient paid time off as reasons for burnout. Additionally, HR Dive cites research indicating that in the United Kingdom, workplace experts are expecting a spike in burnout in January following Western holidays.

What is Burnout, and How Can Employers Help Reduce It?

Burnout is typically considered prolonged stress, characterized by energy depletion, increased mental distance from one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy. People tend to get stressed out when there is too much on their plate at once. It can lead to feelings of hopelessness and frustration that continuously dampers one’s mental and physical health.

So how can employers recognize the traits of burnout and work to reduce them? When you notice your employees are acting distant, exhibit marked changes in behavior, or the quality of their work drastically decreases, it may be time to assess workflows and organizational focus on well-being. As more employees work remotely, having a wellness program that can meet the needs of the employee wherever they are is one crucial step.

Ultimately, it’s about people, and listening to their needs with empathy and understanding is crucial. According to the Spring Health research, employees experiencing burnout identified the following solutions:

  • 51% say self-care practices such as “establishing a healthy sleep routine and following a healthy diet would help them avoid or reduce worker burnout.”
  • 30% say “reducing the number of hours spent working would help them avoid or reduce experiencing worker burnout.”
  • 30% say “receiving more paid time off from their employer would assist them in avoiding or reducing experiencing worker burnout.”
  • 26% say “having a supportive and understanding manager at work would help them to reduce and avoid worker burnout.”
  • 24% say “better mental health-related policies at work would help them combat burnout,” with approaches that include “mental health benefits offered by their employer (20%), using mental health or wellness apps (21%), and receiving access to free therapy sessions through their employer (23%).”

These are just a few suggestions offered from employees, but it can also come down to productivity. Prioritizing work over people can only exacerbate burnout, which will only have negative effects down the road. Prioritize your people with specific, measured expectations, skills training, key performance indicators, one-on-one support, and open dialogues, just to name a few more approaches. With 2021 full speed ahead, establishing an environment of empathy and communication around workloads can help employees avoid burnout while meeting strategic goals.

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