A year of COVID-19 lockdowns is taking its toll on populations’ mental health. Employee burnout and stress is on the rise, absence rates are proliferating and motivation levels are at an all-time low. As an employer, it is now more important than ever to stay on top of your employees’ mental health.
In this post, we will look at what employee burnout is and some of the reasons behind it. We will discuss how the lockdowns have affected employees and what impact this might have on your business. We will end by sharing a few top tips to help you prevent a burnout crisis in your company.
- Employee Burnout Definition
- Reasons Behind Employee Burnout
- Remote Working
- Increased Pressure
- Work-Related Stress
- How to Prevent Employee Burnout
Employee burnout is a type of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. The World Health Organisation defines it as a serious mental health condition that results from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It can result in a lack of motivation and productivity, disengagement, physical or mental exhaustion, a decreased sense of accomplishment and feelings of depression and anxiety.
Employees might be more likely to experience job burnout if they have a high workload, they feel they have little support or control over their work, or they feel they lack balance between their work life and personal life.
Employee burnout can result from various factors, including:
- Unfair treatment at work
- Dysfunctional workplace dynamics or a hostile working environment
- Unmanageable workload or working excessive overtime hours
- Monotonous or chaotic work schedules
- Poor leadership
- Unreasonable time pressures leading to stress.
- Work-life imbalance.
It can also result from a lack of:
- Control or resources: if an employee has no control over their workload or schedule, or they don’t have access to the necessary tools and resources
- Role clarity and unclear job expectations: employees need to understand what is expected of them so that they can become confident, happy workers.
- Communication and support from management
- Recognition or sufficient compensation
The events of the past year have also resulted in a huge surge in burnout cases and generalised stress in the workplace. This is especially true for healthcare professionals and other key workers. This is due to increased workloads, insufficient resources, fear of transmission, inadequate training and infection control practices, and pandemic fatigue. Unprecedented population restrictions, including personal isolation, have also affected people’s ability to cope.
Other major causes that have affected the general working population include the following:
As a result of the lockdowns, much of the working population in the UK has been forced to adapt to remote work. This has transformed the way we behave and interact and uncovered a number of challenges. Many employees report that working from home has resulted in increased stress levels. For some, it is down to having to adapt to new ways of working with increased demands and decreased control. For others, remote working has led to increased social isolation and a lack of collaboration. And for those employees that are parents, they also have the added stress of juggling homeschooling and work. Home working can also lead to the disruption of circadian rhythms, contributing to psychological stress. This makes it more important than ever to track employee performance and satisfaction levels (more on this shortly).
Another important factor that has escalated the risk of employee burnout is increased pressure. With so much uncertainty around us, as well as an ever-weakening economy, employees are battling a number of increased pressures. Financial worries, anxiety relating to furlough schemes and job insecurity are major concerns for many employees. Because of this, they feel they have to work harder for their jobs and should always be present and available, even when they are sick. Many also report feeling disconnected from their teams. Personal pressures, such as the loss of a loved one or homelife disruptions, can also have an effect on how an employee performs.
Increased work-related stress is the other major factor that could potentially result in an employee burnout crisis. According to the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE), work-related stress is: ‘The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them at work’. People can become stressed when they feel they don’t have the resources they need (physical, financial or emotional) to perform their job. COVID has affected our access to these resources. Stress levels have increased due to worries about income and job loss. Risk of transmission when returning to the workplace is also a major concern.
Stress can affect an employee’s behaviour, performance and relationships with colleagues. It can result in increased absences, lower staff engagement and reduced productivity. In fact, employee burnout statistics show that over 17.9 million working days were lost in the period 2019/2020 due to stress at work.
As an HR professional, it is important for you to be aware of the potential impact of employee burnout on your business. Burnout can result in increased absences, decreased employee satisfaction and motivation, and a negative impact on performance and productivity.
Employee burnout can have a major impact on your business if it goes unchecked. Employees who feel stressed or burnt out are more likely to take sick leave or look for another job. This increased turnover rates and operational costs relating to recruitment and training. And if the fundamental reason for an employee leaving is not addressed then it can lead to ongoing issues with attrition rates. It also has an impact on other employees as they are left to pick up the extra workload. This in turn can lead to an endless burnout cycle in your company.
If many of your employees are experiencing burnout then it could point to a culture problem in your company. Perhaps there is an issue with workloads or leadership that needs to be addressed? Maybe your employees don’t feel they have the resources or support they need? Or there is a hostile work environment that is increasing stress levels amongst your employees? It is important for you to establish methods for monitoring, detecting and addressing any burnout issues before it becomes a major problem in your company.
How to Prevent Employee Burnout
As an employer, it is important for you to adapt to COVID and the challenges it brings. You have a legal duty to protect your employees from stress and employee burnout. This includes conducting regular risk assessments to monitor how your employees are feeling. You should also make sure you promote healthy work schedules to help your employees maintain a good work-life balance. Time tracking software is a good way to identify employees who are regularly working long hours or overtime. Offer support to these employees and find out what help or resources they need to make their jobs easier. Create a framework to detect changes in behaviour and/or performance levels, and train your managers. Build a culture that recognises the importance of teamwork and taking time off.
One effective way to keep your finger on the pulse and check in regularly with your employees is by monitoring performance levels and conducting regular employee surveys. Employee surveys will help you understand how happy your workforce is and if any employees are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
Factorial’s new performance management feature is an excellent tool for managing this. You can use it to manage your surveys and get a 360° view of employee performance. You can then use this data to gain insight into your workforce and improve employee satisfaction and motivation levels. This will help you identify any potential cases of employee burnout. It will also help you address any concerns before it impacts employee performance and productivity.
Written by Cat Symonds; Edited by Carmina Davis