Jon Maddison on how to ensure employee burnout doesn’t continue in 2021.
The threat of employee burnout has become a reality in recent months more than ever. Recent research has revealed that half of UK managers fear their workforce may be more at risk of physical or mental collapse due to changes in working patterns and behaviours brought in as a result of COVID-19.
In 2019, the World Health Organization officially recognised burnout as an occupational phenomenon, describing it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
As the changes to working practices brought about by the pandemic are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, employers are naturally concerned that the extra pressure placed on their employees will continue throughout 2021 and lead to a wellbeing crisis.
So how can organisations combat burnout and prevent the associated negative impacts on morale, productivity and turnover?
Looking after oneself and developing a clear strategy are the best ways to avoid such an outcome. Things that fundamentally support our wellbeing need to come first. While0 adopting some of the following tips if symptoms of burnout are starting to creep into your own life or that of your team members will help.
Look for support at work and at home
Burnout is very difficult to tackle alone, so it’s vital to establish a network of supportive contacts. These could be colleagues or managers where you work, but you can look beyond professional relationships. Family and friends will always offer support, while taking part in hobbies, sports or other leisure activities will do wonders for your stress levels. The larger your support network, the better.
Three-quarters of employees are more likely to give honest feedback in a survey than in face-to-face discussions with leaders
Talk to your manager
One of the first things you can do when worried about potential burnout is to discuss your concerns with managers at your company. Raising the issue when you become aware of the warning signs and receiving a positive and sympathetic response from your manager could be enough to prevent the situation from getting any worse.
But there’s no guarantee that you’ll get that response. Your manager may be causing your stress or reluctant to take action to address your worries. In that case, you should approach more senior managers or your HR department.
Surveys or continuous feedback channels are an alternative way of offering your feedback anonymously. It’s also in your organisation’s interest to provide such a channel as three-quarters of employees are more likely to give honest feedback in a survey than in face-to-face discussions with leaders.
Watch what you eat
Eating a balanced diet is fundamental to managing stress. At times of heightened stress, it’s all too easy to seek comfort in foods that have a negative impact on your concentration and energy levels. To stay energetic and keep a lid on stress, make sure you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables so that you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need.
And, no matter how busy you are, don’t be tempted to skip meals, as this will definitely affect your metabolism in a negative way.
If you’re passionate about your career, it’s easier to be creative and successful. Sadly, 80% of British and American workers feel pressured into being productive rather than creative. If you’re one of these unfortunate people, find an outlet for your creativity, whether that’s at work or in your personal life, which offers you a way to feel more satisfied and engaged.
Spending time on a project that maintains your interest and gets your creative juices flowing will lower your stress levels and lead to greater contentment in your life generally.
Focus on work-life balance
Keeping a sensible work-life balance is crucial for combatting burnout. Take time off when you can, enquire about working more flexibly and discuss setting achievable deadlines with your colleagues and manager. It’s also important to get internal agreement that no one is expected to answer messages outside of normal working hours and managers need to set an example here.
Get some exercise
Apart from its stress-relieving powers and evident physical benefits, exercise also improves mental capacity in areas such as sharpness, speed of learning, stamina, creativity and concentration. In addition, exercise acts as a mood regulator, increasing your resilience and enabling you to cope more easily with the daily challenges presented by your working and personal lives.
Finally, it may be an obvious point, but it’s worth emphasising that getting enough good-quality sleep is one of the easiest ways to look after both your mental and physical health.
Being continually subject to poor sleep increases the likelihood of developing chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, raises the chances of workplace injuries occurring and negatively impacts productivity. If you’re failing to get all the sleep you need, try rearranging your schedule to create an extra hour for yourself.
And if falling asleep is proving difficult, following the steps highlighted above — particularly regular exercise and a good diet — should help to resolve the problem.
Sensitive employers will be keenly aware of the extraordinary pressures their employees have had to contend with in 2020 and should therefore be mindful of the need for extra vigilance. To ensure their workforce returns refreshed and ready to tackle the new year, organisations need to encourage all of their employees to value their work-life balance more preciously and focus more on their wellbeing.
About the author
Jon Maddison is managing director EMEA at Achievers