Absenteeism, low performance and high employee turnover are often linked to factors like lack of motivation, engagement, challenge, or even appreciation. However, more often than we think, there is a more intricate cause behind all of those “symptoms”. Today, after months of working from home, some employees may notice having trouble focusing on their tasks, waking up on time, and engaging in meetings with their team members. These signs are typical to the on-set of what is known as burn-out. Undeniably, burnout, defined as “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity”, is becoming more prevalent due to the pressures of quarantine. Consequently, many organizations risk losing their top talent because of burn-out. More often than we expect, leaders tend to overlook the well-being aspect of team members, especially their top performing employees, leading to counterproductive performance results in addition to negative health impacts.
Among the many tough challenges that come with leadership, is the complex task of navigating emotional dynamics in the workplace. With the Covid-19 outbreak, the shift to remote work, and struggles of maintaining work-life balance, the scale of those complex emotional dynamics are at a whole new level. Leaders are inherently required to remain determined to move forward, even through destabilizing uncertainty such as the one we are facing today. This includes staying alert and aware of employees’ well-being and assisting them in navigating through certain emotional struggles at work, such as burn-out. Pandemic fatigue can lead to low productivity, increased anxiety, and stress for employees. Experts project that a significant share of employees are estimated to remain remote workers post-Covid. As the remote work trend is here to stay, organization leaders have to start taking into consideration how and why their employees are affected by remote work burn-out and to foster an inclusive work-from-home culture that can benefit the whole organization.
Here are six ways leaders can help prevent employee work-from-home burnout:
Talk to your employees
A simple conversation can go a long way. Beyond the small talk and the scheduled team meetings, leaders should stop and ask employees individually: “how are you doing, really?” When team members feel that they are listened to, they will be encouraged to share their challenges, and shed the light on certain aspects that leaders may have been overlooking. Individual input can play a huge role in bridging challenges with solutions and avoiding the pitfall of burnout.
Quiet cues can be loud
Not every employee shares their struggles out loud, so leaders should keep an eye for quiet cues that signal burnout. These can include:
- Frequent vacations in hope or re-setting,
- Cancelling their time off,
- Frequent late night work,
- Physical signs like distracted eyes or tense body language.
To proactively address this issue, leaders can emphasize the importance of self-care. Creating an inclusive culture that encourages employees to take care of their well-being without the feeling of guilt can help prevent burn-out. This is due to the fact that daily rejuvenating activities can eliminate the long-term build-up of stress.
Launch well-being initiatives
During such difficult times, the priority of keeping employees mentally and physically healthy is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Corporate wellness has become a make-or-break factor for companies; and successful companies are keenly aware that an effective employee wellness program is not only good for the bottom line but also leads to intangible benefits like increased productivity, an agile mindset, lower turnover, and better alignment with the company’s mission. For instance, we at ig are offering organizations a wellness program that helps ease the stress and anxiety of working during a global pandemic and aims to drive and reinforce healthy behaviors, bringing benefits to the employer, the employee, and to the community.
As a leader, you should often assess whether tasks are fairly distributed among your team members. Workforce planning helps ensure that you have the right people in place, with respect to the number of employees and the skills that they have. Initiating conversations with team members about capacity can provide you with insights on allocation of time and resources. If needed, you may resort to the support of gig workers during certain projects
Offer flexibility and encourage boundaries
Remote work does not inherently mean having a flexible work schedule. While there are certain tasks that require collaboration and adherence to strict schedules, leaders should assess whether all tasks should be done this way. Flexibly allowing employees to manage their own responsibilities, when applicable, can bring a sense of comfort and become an added value for any organization. Additionally, employees should be encouraged to set boundaries, especially when they are fully engaged in an assignment. Shared calendars for example are a useful tool to support this and to help them find balance.
Consistency is key
Leaders who believe in the importance of well-being do not regard it as a mere temporary initiative or program, but rather as a core element of the organization’s culture. Creating a habit out of the above-mentioned steps is the key to sustaining employee wellness and potentially avoiding burnout. With the right kind of leadership and support, organizations can not only survive, but also even thrive despite the challenges that surround us.
What are you doing to support the well-being of your employees?