There really isn’t a single person who has come out of the past two years unscathed. Whether you’re a business owner facing labor shortages, a parent juggling virtual learning, an employee trying to make work-from-home work, it’s safe to say stress and anxiety is at a high point. This can be especially true for professions that have been considerably affected by the pandemic, such as health care workers, teachers, hospitality employees, and more.
Employers need to acknowledge that employees are feeling the weight of the ongoing pandemic and so many factors that are quickly adding up to burnout. What can a small business do to proactively reduce or prevent burnout? Here are some tips.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is defined as psychological and physical distress that results from long, unsustainable periods of overwork and excessive stress.
As an employer, the first thing to do is ask yourself not who is burnt out, but why are your employees burning out? A recent study reported that 35% of workers are feeling the effects of burnout — and surprisingly 48% are more stressed now than back in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic. Start by conducting a survey to identify stressors and weaknesses that the top level of management may not be aware of. How can you appropriately fix an issue if you’re not aware of the depth of it?
The causes of burnout will lead to what improvements can be made. For 2022, some of the leading causes of employee burnout include:
- More work with less staff (The current labor shortage, employees out sick or quarantining)
- Stressors at work (Zoom-overload, not taking time off to recharge, worrying about safety, inventory and supply chain issues)
- Stressors at home (COVID illness and recovery, financial and inflation burdens, taking care of elder parents or young children)
- Changes to schooling and childcare routine for parents (Juggling sudden sick days, daycare quarantines, virtual learning)
- Negative global events (The constant influx of news over the past two years can create a challenging emotional environment that factors into mental health burnout)
Ideas to Help with Burnout
Signs of burnout can include decreased engagement, frequent mistakes, lower quality of work, irritability, and flat-out exhaustion. Help your team recognize these symptoms and know when to take a step back to breathe or ask for help without reprimand.
The below suggestions are not one-size-fits-all. Some companies can thrive with a hybrid, work-from-home model, while others physically have no choice but to be in-person. Some businesses such as agriculture, retail, and tax firms have busy seasons to consider. However your business is run, you’ll want to create an open environment where employees can feel comfortable coming to their managers or HR team about any potential issues so clear and realistic expectations can be understood by both employees and employers.
1) Communicate openly with your employees.
Acknowledge that burnout is a real issue nowadays and provide tips on burnout remedies (such as increased physical activity, more sleep, a mental health day off, adjustments at work, seeing a therapist, etc.). Share with your team if your insurance plan has mental health resources that they can access. Encourage employees to come to you or HR early on if they are experiencing burnout that is affecting their work performance.
2) Automate where possible.
Evaluate your organization for process inefficiencies or opportunities to convert manual, time-consuming tasks to an automated task. Technology can be used in many areas of business that might help take some tasks off of an overly-busy employee’s to-do list.
3) Remove nonessential work duties.
If there’s a nonessential task or function that can’t be automated, perhaps it can be put on hold or reassigned to another employee.
4) Eliminate as many stressors as possible.
Are all of your systems and equipment working at 100%? Slow or nonworking equipment can slow down your team and add on to employees’ stress. You don’t want a broken printer being the last straw for an already frustrated or overworked team members.
5) Flexible scheduling.
If it works for your business model, allowing an employee to have flexible hours or days of the week could aid in alleviating some of their stressors.
6) Close for a day or an extended time.
Some companies have made headlines recently by having a paid “Recharge Day” off or closing for a week in support of mental health. By offering the time off to your entire team, it eliminates an individual employee having to catch up from taking off a day on their own. If companywide time off, some businesses are helping employees recuperate by encouraging them to use their PTO or are offering sabbaticals. This may not be realistic for every business type or industry, but could be something to consider if it’s a fit for your organization.
7) Assign coaches or mentors.
Providing a mentor or coach for your staff to turn to can help with transparency to identify burnout before it gets worse, and accountability for those taking steps to reduce or avoid burnout.
8) Add in some social fun.
If your business is back to in person, consider having a social gathering to encourage employees to relax. If your happy hours are still virtual, consider switching it up to something fun that you haven’t done before (i.e., trivia, wine pairing, murder mystery — there are many ideas online). Team building during this time can help with morale, engagement, and provide a much-needed break for your employees.
Help Keep Burnout Away
Many of the tips in the above article are from Abacus Payroll’s supplemental human resources service, HR Support Center. While we know you care about your employees, you also care about your business’s bottom line. There are more resources in the HR Support Center that can help your team battle burnout.
If you could benefit from a labor law library, policy and memo templates, and HR email alerts, ask your Abacus Payroll specialist about our affordable options. Not something your current payroll provider offers? Request a no-obligation quote today at 856-667-6225.