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How to Counter Employee Burnout

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When it comes to employee burnout, the numbers speak for themselves, with 86 percent of U.S. employers saying that mental health, stress, and burnout are a priority in 2022.

“As the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt peoples’ lives, employees’ mental health remains a top HR priority,” wrote Stephen Miller for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in January. “As in the past two years, employers identify stress and burnout as a major threat for their workforces, according to survey results released in January by consultancy WTW.”

1 in 4 Employers Have a “Burnout Strategy” in Place

That survey, which asked 322 U.S. employers with 100 or more employees about their expectations for this year also found that only 26 percent of the employers had adopted a well-being strategy.

"The organizations that most effectively move the needle are those that develop a comprehensive strategy that supports all aspects of their employees' well-being. It's also important to articulate that strategy to employees, conduct manager training and measure effectiveness," WTW senior director, health and benefits, Regina Ihrke, told SHRM.

Acknowledging that employee burnout is a pressing issue in 2022 is a first step, but employers need to deploy counter measures to fight the problem.

Action List to Combat Employee Burnout

Miller’s SHRM article says that those employers with a plan to combat employee burnout were putting resources into four different categories:

  • Physical Well-Being: Some are promoting the use of apps targeting the physical well-being of employees. Others are focusing programs that target specific conditions including depression and diabetes.
  • Emotional Well-Being: Employers are improving employee assistance plans to include expanded services and increasing the number of visits. Some are implementing company-wide behavioral health strategies and action plans.
  • Social Well-Being: Benefit programs are being redone to incorporate diversity and inclusion concerns. Onsite perks are being reimagined to support new work arrangements such as remote and hybrid work.
  • Financial Well-Being: Financial insecurity can contribute to burnout, so some employers are incorporating financial well-being programs that track and set objectives for key life decisions such as new family or first-time home buying.

"As we move into 2022, employers struggling with recruitment and retention will look to make their well-being programs a differentiator to attract and engage top talent," Ihrke told SHRM. "Employers are seeking new avenues to engage and incent employees to take charge of their own well-being."

Employee Self-Checklist to Identify Job Burnout

Bennett Conlin, writing for Business News Daily in February, makes a point that employees should take on some of the responsibilities of identifying and rectifying workplace burnout.

“Burnout is a serious condition that can have health and work consequences. Learn if you have burnout, what to do about it, and how to prevent it,” wrote Conlin. “The term "burnout" has become part of the everyday lexicon, putting a name to the symptoms of fatigue, lack of motivation and declining productivity that are linked to overwork.”

The Mayo Clinic has a self-checklist for employees to answer the question, “am I experiencing job burnout?”:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers, or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs, or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

A yes to any of these questions, according to the Mayo Clinic, signifies you might be experiencing job burnout.

Strategies for Employees to Overcome Burnout

“Once you become burned out, that feeling doesn’t go away overnight,” writes Conlin. “You won’t overcome burnout with a single walk in the park, so be ready for a few weeks or months of altering your routine and creating healthier workplace habits.”

Conlin suggests that employees follow these five rules to overcome burnout:

  1. The first step is to admit that you are burned out. If you do not make this step, then you will not be receptive to changing your habits.
  2. Take time to reevaluate your priorities and reset them. Some recommend list-making – identifying everything that means something to you and then picking these items at regular intervals and giving them the attention they deserve.
  3. Take steps to make your work life better. Conlin says actions that can be considered include:
    • Clarifying job expectations with your employer
    • Reducing your hours and/or gaining more control over your schedule
    • Taking a leave of absence or sabbatical
    • Applying for a promotion or different job at your company
    • Looking for employment with another company or in a different line of work
  1. Ask for support from your employer, co-workers, family, friends, church and other social support groups. Often, just talking about your burnout with others can help alleviate pressure.
  2. Practice self-care to restore your mind and body. Conlin says self-care can include such things as:
    • Exercise, especially with others or in group settings
    • Make time to do activities that bring you joy and happiness
    • Practice relaxing activities such as yoga or nature walks
    • Restore your health and well-being with good sleep patterns

Whatever you do, ignoring job burnout is not an option. Scheduling a checkup with our physician could be in order.

“If you're experiencing physical symptoms that could be indicative of burnout, consider seeing your primary care doctor or a mental health professional to determine whether they are driven by stress or rooted in other physical conditions,” Dr. Lotte Dyrbye, a physician scientist who studies burnout at the Mayo Clinic told the New York Times. “Don’t just ignore the symptoms and assume they don’t matter.”

Employee wellness is important...for so many reasons. As employers, you need to help prevent burnout as much as you can. If this is a problem for your team, let us help you put together a plan to combat employee burnout.