27 Ways to Support Mental Health for Individuals Who Face Employee Burnout
When employee burnout occurs, it can be difficult to know how to help. It is an emotional experience that leaves individuals feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. They may also lack the energy or motivation they once had for their work. There are many ways that managers and leaders can support employee mental health when faced with employee burnout in order to give them a chance to recover from this condition before it becomes too serious.
Employee burnout: understanding and tackling it
At the heart of burnout are a common epidemic spreading throughout industry.
Being unproductive, lacking composure, and lacking focus are a few symptoms.
In the article, we will discuss the reasons and solutions to solve burnout for the greater good. We also discuss how you can help your employees to avoid burnout from the burnout crisis that is becoming more common in your industry. For example, here is the solution for employee burnout: "Burnout is not new, but as a leader, acknowledging its existence is essential. It is essential for a company to avoid it from further burnout," the author says.
What is employee burnout and why is it prevalent in the workplace?
If you’ve been feeling wiped out for an extended period of time and don't know why it might be employee burnout. Burnout is a state in which emotional, mental, or physical fatigue drains your energy to the point that even basic tasks become impossible. This exhaustion can happen not just at work but also when parenting/caretaking/partnering with someone else as well.
Imagine a person who is working so hard, they are no longer able to enjoy anything. They have lost their enthusiasm for life and the joy that comes with it.
Working long hours and being on the go can lead to burnout, but it isn't something you should ignore.
We know that as a society we live busy lives with many responsibilities, which is why work-life balance is so important. A recent Gallup poll found 23% of employees felt burned out often or always while 44% felt burnt out sometimes - when added up this comes close to 70%.
How does employee burnout happen?
It starts off small--the little things become difficult or annoying after a while because of exhaustion from too much work at once. Then these irritations lead to larger issues such as anger and depression which can be deadly if left untreated!
Prior to COVID-19, the workplace was a source of stress for many workers. Companies were asking employees to do more, with less, while they experienced an increased expectation to respond to text messages, emails, and phone calls at all times of the day -- even on days off.
COVID-19 exacerbated the situation as new stresses emerged -- working from home, juggling family commitments, uncertain financial situations, concern for the health of self and loved ones combined with the general uncertainty about what was next -- all contributed to employees feeling burned out.
Will I get laid off, furloughed, or have my hours reduced? Will I have to take a wage cut? Will I lose benefits? Will my partner experience any of these?
Will this pandemic be the death toll for my business? Will my loved ones catch the virus? Will I? Will we be okay?
The uncertainty proved to be the tipping point for many people. Yet, they couldn't risk making a bold move like quitting their job -- jumping from the pot to the frying pan isn't the best strategy during truly uncertain times and therefore people hang on just a little while longer.
What causes burnout?
Burnout is not simply a result of working long hours or juggling too many tasks, though those both play a role.
The cynicism, depression, and lethargy that are characteristic of burnout most often occur when someone doesn’t feel in control over their job at work or home; they may be asked to complete tasks that conflict with what they believe in for themselves.
Equally pressing is the inability to pursue goals that resonate with them personally.
If individuals can't tailor responsibilities to best suit their interests then it's likely just another day will pass by without achieving anything worthwhile whatsoever, which is unfulfilling and demoralizing.
The employee's mental health is at risk because it can't handle all these questions and uncertainties on its own.
This kind of pressure leads to burnout which manifests itself in different ways: physical (fatigue), emotional (feelings of hopelessness), or cognitive (confusion).
Employers have an important role to play when supporting employee mental health during times like this one.
A recent Gallup survey found the top five causes of burnout are:
- Unfair treatment at work
- Lack of role clarity
- Unmanageable workload
- Lack of communication and support from their manager
- Unreasonable time pressure
7 signs of worker burnout:
Each individual handles stress, challenges, and burnout in a unique way. However, some of the signs of worker burnout include:
- An employee's productivity or motivation goes down.
- The employee has reduced focus, is experiencing a sense of confusion and not being able to find solutions for their problems – at this moment, they feel like giving up.
- A person may also experience feelings of hopelessness at work. They can't see any way out from the situation that caused them burnout.
- A worker starts calling in sick more often
- An individual starts showing cynicism or irritability
- The individual starts to show signs of depression, like withdrawal from others, loss of interest in their usual activities, insomnia.
- A person might start using alcohol or drugs more frequently and heavily than before. They may start using them on the job.
Prevention: prioritize people over productivity and profit
It's important to understand that overloading people with work, playing favorites, mismatched values, or not providing adequate resources will result in employee burnout. In a new work world, without usual coping mechanisms (going to the gym, getting together with friends, etc.) why not set them up for success?
As a manager or executive, be an example of an individual who creates time for work, time for rest, and time for play. Share the long game with your employees -- life and business are marathons, with the occasional sprint.
No one can sprint the length of a marathon, so taking time to prioritize work, health, relationships, and recreation is important.
Get your team to honor all three and to understand that by doing so they’ll be far more productive and happy in all three facets of life.
Employees, especially those working from home for the first time, may not have a role model for this new experience, so you'll have to support them with training and education, along with additional support services.
15 ways that employers can help their employees maintain good mental health through periods of uncertainty.
- Encourage problem-solving with your team members instead of assigning tasks to individuals, where possible, by making teamwork more valued than individual contribution.
- Allow for collaboration and brainstorming sessions to generate new ideas instead of telling your employees what to do.
- Practice self-compassion and have empathy for others, even if it's difficult at the moment.
- Encourage employee engagement by providing opportunities for meaning. Help them find ways their work matters in the bigger picture.
- Regularly review employee performance with feedback that is specific, constructive, and timely as well as praise when deserved.
- Support employee vulnerability by showing you're listening without judgment or criticism when they share something personal about themselves or their job experience.
- Try to accommodate changes such as requests for flexible hours where possible - people are more likely to take care of themselves properly if they can create an environment conducive to good mental health habits (e.g., sleep, healthy eating, exercise etc.)
- Provide an environment that supports mental health. Managers can help employee mental health by creating a positive environment. This includes clear expectations, open communication, and opportunities for growth.
- Offer adequate time off for recovery or change of scenery. When an employee is experiencing burnout, they may need some time to recover from their emotional state before continuing with their workday.
- Make sure employee mental health is a priority. Promote employee well-being and monitor their progress on this journey regularly with them. Employees are more likely to take care of themselves if they know they have someone in their corner rooting for them along the way.
- Offer flexible workloads, such as job sharing or reduced hours when possible. Some people struggling with burnout might need help adjusting expectations about how much time it takes them to complete tasks at work due to emotional factors - an employer can help by accommodating those changes (e.g., providing part-time jobs).
- Burned-out employees will be less able than other colleagues to manage heavy workloads without taking breaks or requesting assistance from others; many employers find that employee productivity diminishes which can lead to unhappiness and employee turnover.
- Provide more opportunities for employees to make decisions about their work environment, such as where they sit or how much noise is in the office area. It's important that we allow people who are struggling with burnout an opportunity to regain a sense of control over aspects of their work-life which may be contributing factors.
- Offer resources like counseling sessions or employee assistance programs onsite - these can provide insight into what might contribute to employee burnout (e.g., conflict at home) and help them develop strategies to manage it better going forward (e.g., family time).
- Re-evaluate the need for meetings, especially video meetings, like Zoom, which are causing exhaustion and lowering available time to be productive (which results in more overwhelm as employees try to squeeze their work into a workday similar to one they had in the office.)
It's important that managers know when employees are feeling overwhelmed in order to offer them the appropriate amount of time off or have them take advantage of any paid vacation benefits like sabbaticals if available at their company as well as provide other options such as using parental leave or requesting disability accommodations under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
These support systems will give employers peace of mind knowing there is someone helping their employees during a difficult time.
12 more ways you can support your employees:
- Create a mental health policy that is clear and concise
- Promote a culture of wellness in the workplace
- Encourage employees to take time off for self-care and relaxation breaks
- Offer opportunities for socializing with coworkers outside of work
- Create policies that support flexible work hours and remote working arrangements
- Support career development by providing training, mentorship, and coaching programs
- Improve communication between managers and staff by listening to what they have to say about how things are going at work
- Give them the resources, like free counseling or therapy sessions, that they need when it comes to mental health
- Check-in with your employees on a regular basis about how their day went and if anything was stressful or challenging for them
- Be sure that you are rewarding and recognizing people for behaviours that do not contribute to burnout. Mental health and employee wellness are extremely important and it is up to the employer to create a culture of employee wellness.
- Make sure that you are listening to employee feedback about what can be improved in the workplace. It is not enough for employers to just hear from employees, it's important to also listen and act on their suggestions.
- Compensate them fairly with competitive salaries so they don't feel like they have to work themselves to a point of burnout just to survive.
Those days when employees are treated as expendable cost centers are finally beginning to end.
Leaders and managers in organizations must not just focus on employee productivity, bottom line profit, and meeting investor expectations, but also employee engagement, which is impacted by well-being.
It is important to show employees that you care about them and their well-being, even when they are not present at the workplace.
Engage in a dialogue with your staff members as much as possible - both offline or online through email or social media.
It doesn't have to be formal -- a simple check-in to discuss workload, challenges, and other ways the management team could address issues that are contributing to employee burnout, lower productivity, and lower employee engagement, along with positive actions that can be taken by employees -- individually and as a team -- to increase their personal performance while they also reduce burnout is all extremely valuable.
Remember that there is a fine balance between communicating as a form of control and communicating to provide support so that the employee can perform their responsibilities to the best of their abilities.
Showcase mental health champions who have successfully overcome challenges related to burnout such as depression, anxiety, chronic stress, etc., so other people can be inspired by those stories of resilience and hope.
Take time off for yourself and exhibit great leadership by example. Even if there isn't an option available within your organization for paid sabbatical leave, make sure you're taking some time every year to recharge mentally by taking your vacation and enjoying recreation on your days off.
Above all, recognize that people are powering your profit. These people have hopes and dreams, families and responsibilities, desires and interests, and life beyond the workplace.
The employer/employee contract is shifting. It's up to the employer to encourage empathy as well as accountability and meeting goals. However, it's not a license to work people into burnout.
Let's all rethink how we create a mutually supportive company.
It's not just the employee who suffers from employee burnout. Organizations can also suffer as well from employee turnover and decreased productivity when an experienced team member leaves due to feeling burned out.
Collectively and individually everyone can take steps to avoid it.
The million-dollar question is:
Do you have the desire and commitment to the long-term health of your company, its culture, and its most valuable assets -- its employees - to take concrete steps to create a healthy, competitive, resilient, and desirable organization?
If the answer is yes, you'll enjoy these blog posts:
Foster a Culture of Appreciation: 12 Steps to Dramatically Improve Engagement, Productivity, and Satisfaction
Employee Engagement Connection to Drive Business Performance: 18 Key Drivers to Inspire Employees
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