As the World Health Organisation officially recognises burnout as a major health risk, Sodexo Engage, the employee benefits specialists, is bringing the issue to the forefront of employers’ minds as COVID-19 continues to drastically impact work life and staff mental health.
Some common burnout symptoms to look out for include staff becoming easily angered or upset, lack of concentration, being overly critical or cynical and tiredness. In their recent report, Gallup reveals that 76% of employees experience burnout on the job, and 28% say they are burned out “very often” or “always”, at work. Another survey reveals that 41% of employees claim their companies don’t address burnout and over a third (36%) don’t even know whether their company has a programme to support this.
The statistics paint an alarming picture. In light of this, Sodexo Engage has pulled together the five main factors that directly correlate with employee burnout to help employers address and tackle the issues before they escalate.
1. Unfair treatment at work
This one is difficult to address as no employer wants to believe their staff are being mistreated. It is so important to create a workplace culture where staff are encouraged to ask for help. Healthy habits must be set in place and regular ‘check-in’ meetings must be diarised. Staff need to understand that employers care for their wellbeing and this presents them with a platform to address any potential mistreatment within the company. It’s not about the number of hours staff are working, it’s how they’re treated in those hours that will impact them mentally.
2. Unmanageable workload
It’s a common misconception that in order to solve burnout employees simply need to be encouraged to work less hours, but this is not the case. During this time, access to software and equipment may hinder their ability to produce work on time. Employers can solve this by ensuring the team has the resources needed to deliver their work without becoming frustrated with processes, lack of training or technology. Employers can proactively prevent burnout whilst at the same time, reduce risks of mistakes as employees find themselves more engaged in work.
3. Unclear communication from managers
In these unprecedented times, the importance of consistent and clear communication from managers cannot be stressed enough. Keeping them in the know about the direction the company is taking and arranging frequent catch up meetings, ideally ‘face-to-face’ over Zoom or Teams for a more personal interaction, is vital. This communication should include how the business is supporting employees during this time as well as how the business is adapting to the latest government advice.
4. Lack of manager support
Managers are responsible for keeping tabs on the wellbeing of staff and ensuring they have regular opportunities to voice concerns, whether they’re specifically work related or not. These interactions are there to guide staff in the direction of support programmes and any benefits or company initiatives that might not have been made clear previously. By having an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in place, employees can reach out for professional support for issues including physical, mental and financial health and any relationship worries. An EAP can offer external support and advice where HR may not be able to assist. Ideally, the manager should be able to identify the signs of an employee on their way to burning out, and help prevent them reaching that point.
5. Unreasonable time pressure
If you notice an employee working around the clock to get work finished this must be addressed. They probably feel as though they’re drowning under a mountain of work but aren’t confident enough to ask for help. When this goes unnoticed, a chain reaction of things happen, inevitably leading to burnout. Make it clear that employees can flag if they feel they have too much on or need extra support, and remove any anxieties they may have by perhaps delegating their workload and revaluating their commitments.
This extends to CEOs and Directors, who are not immune from stress themselves. Award Winning CEO coach and author, Peter Ryding, believes that impostor syndrome can encourage leaders to ‘take on’ more work than they can reasonably handle, skipping holidays and burning the candle at both ends. Peter believes this sets a bad example, encouraging a culture of overwork. Peter explains:
“Stress, anxiety and overwork can affect every employee, including board employees, so it’s important to create a culture of support rather than competition in the boardroom. Getting the culture right from the top down is essential, with the CEO receiving and giving support to their fellow directors, so as a team they can listen to and grow with each other – it’s an ability to co-operate, listen, engage and understand that builds successful business leaders. Good leaders understand that nurturing their health, their lives, their employees and their business will all contribute to good business decisions. Autocracy and the old eighties values where ‘breakfast is for wimps’ are gone and need to stay gone, and the modern C-Suite starts with collaboration, co-operation and creating a culture that enables everyone to perform at their best, physically, mentally and emotionally.”
Jamie Mackenzie, Director at Sodexo Engage, comments:
“During times of change and uncertainty it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and let anxieties takeover completely. Employers have little control on the current crisis, but they do have control over how their business weathers the storm, and that includes how it helps and supports its staff. If staff feel like they are getting the support they need from their employer, they will feel happier and more engaged, especially right now when the working environment is so different and it can be so easy to feel isolated. Happy and engaged employees leads to improved productivity for the business too, so it’s a win-win situation. Taking the above steps will help build a sense of trust, and give staff the information and tools needed to abate any worries.”