Focus on Mental Health to Reduce Employee Burnout

Whether through a comprehensive mental health program or through activities that boost employee morale, tactics that focus on employees’ mental health can reduce burnout.

The COVID-19 pandemic is at the top of everyone’s minds. Working a full-time job during a pandemic, while sometimes playing teacher to young children, is undoubtedly exhausting. Employers are turning to wellness tactics to ensure employees maintain their overall health. A crucial component to wellness for leaders to focus on is employee burnout.

What is Burnout?

Consulting firm Eagle Hill defines burnout as “the result of stress that is more prolonged and intense in nature.” Just last year, the World Health Organization updated its definition of burnout in its handbook of diseases, International Classification of Diseases — ICD-11 effective January 2022. The new definition describes burnout as a “syndrome,” and specifically ties it to chronic workplace stress. It’s characterized by energy depletion, increased mental distance from one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy. Prolonged stress and exhaustion associated with burnout were even found to increase the potential for serious and life-threatening heart conditions.

COVID-19 is Exacerbating Employee Burnout

A recent online survey of a random sample of employees around the U.S. with 1,001 respondents found that nearly half (45%) are feeling burnt out, with one in four attributing the burnout to COVID-19. Respondents to a survey of more than 6,000 working professionals from anonymous networking site Blind revealed that 73% are feeling burnt out, compared to 61% in mid-February. The top reasons for burnout included the lack of work-life separation, unmanageable workloads, and job security concerns, all tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. At 74.8%, marketing and communications respondents were feeling the most burnt out.

Tactics for Improving Employee Mental Health

Thirty-six percent of the Eagle Hill survey respondents also reported that their organization isn’t doing anything to help with employee burnout. Developing an employee health and wellness program can go a long way in enabling employees to tap into wellness resources but is only just the beginning. Workplace Strategies for Mental Health recommends the implementation of a psychological health and safety management system. Such a system doesn’t diagnose the mental health of employees, but rather helps assess policies, processes and interactions in the workplace that might impact psychological safety.

When planning the system, company leaders can start by forming a health and safety committee that can establish a process for employees to bring forward mental health concerns and issues safely and confidentially. Additionally, this system should include training and education on workplace psychological health. Implementation can involve workplace dialogues, with senior leadership leading by example to create a workplace environment conducive to mental health. Senior leaders can also take a self-assessment to ensure they’re well-versed in leadership strategies known to create a psychologically sound workplace.

In addition to these procedures, planned activities can improve the overall mental health of employees that reduce feelings of burnout. Whether hosting a virtual mindfulness workshop, team fitness challenges, or setting aside 20 minutes to laugh at a funny video, team leaders can use this time to think of creative, mind-healthy activities that reduce stress and increase team connection.

Helping employees feel connected, appreciated, and able to openly share their mental health concerns, reduces burnout. As the world continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, incorporating mental health into overall wellness programs is more important than ever.

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