At the end of 2020, it was reported that three-quarters of UK workers had experienced burnout as a direct result of the workplaces changes brought about by the pandemic – notably being thrown into working from home with no choice. And in 2021, this worrying trend has seemingly continued with 1 in 5 employees reporting to feel unable to manage the pressures and stress levels at work.
Burnout, if not prevented, can be incredibly dangerous to an individual’s wellbeing – both mentally and physically. If allowed to reach the point of burnout, symptoms can include:
- Physical and mental exhaustion
- Feeling helpless or trapped
- Feeling isolated and detached
- A regular or constant negative outlook on life
- Feeling overwhelmed
And while the majority of employees can correctly recognise the signs of burnout, more than two-thirds admitted they wouldn’t tell their employer if they were struggling with their mental health out of embarrassment or worry about jeopardising their career. Additionally, and extremely concerningly, nearly three-quarters of teams believe that employers don’t do enough to prevent burnout in the workplace.
Of course, not only does burnout harm your staff, but by allowing employees to reach a state of such exhaustion, your business is at risk of harm too. Employees that are burnt out are 63 per cent more likely to call in sick and they’re 2.6 times more likely to be looking for a new job.
So, as an employer, what measures should you be putting in place to prevent a burnout culture within your organisation, especially as remote and hybrid working becomes the ‘new normal’?
Help to set boundaries
Unsurprisingly, 46 per cent of employees cited working from home as a key factor which contributes towards burnout. For many different reasons, from job insecurity to having to juggle a chaotic home life with work, the number of hours UK employees are working has risen significantly.
Before the first lockdown, most Brits were working on average, 9 hours a day. Now, it’s anywhere upwards of 11 hours. With workstations only an arm’s reach away and emails accessible on mobile phones, the temptation to work late into the night or during downtime may feel overwhelming.
As an employer, it’s crucial you help teams set boundaries when working from home. From asking teams to turn on ‘out of office’ messages after 5:30pm, to providing dedicated work phones that can be turned off at the end of the day, not allowing clients to contact teams on personal messaging services such as WhatsApp and offering time off in lieu (TOIL) – there’s plenty of options to help workers find a good balance.
Celebrate your staff regularly
When employees aren’t ‘visible’, it can be easy as an employer to forget to take the time to praise team members – especially those little wins. Whether it’s a mention during a virtual team meeting or a card in the post to say well done, a small gesture can go a long way to make your team members feel appreciated.
Set manageable workloads
As we begin to recover from the pandemic, it might feel elating to be winning reams of new business and building the company back up once again but keep your teams in mind when it comes to your growth plans.
According to research, limiting working hours to 40 or less is a good measure for preventing burnout. However, on the other end of the spectrum, more than 40 hours will greatly increase our risk of becoming ill. It becomes even worse if an individual is working more than 60 hours which, unfortunately, has become the norm over the past 18 months.
Adapt and flex
While many businesses (75 per cent) plan to continue a working from home model post-pandemic, that still leaves a quarter of the UK’s workforce who are expecting to be made to return to pre-pandemic models in a matter of weeks.
It appears to be that the future of work is looking more black and white than perhaps many of us were expecting when the workplace shift began 18 months ago. Either you’ll be given a certain degree of flexibility, or you won’t.
While it is understandable that employers won’t be able to adhere to the needs of every worker, ensuring communication has been had with everyone in the team and all points of view are considered is crucial. Additionally, try to make allowances where possible. Employees have proven that flexible working is possible without dampening business efforts, so if someone needs an extra day from home or wants to come into the office more regularly than others, then it shouldn’t be a big problem.
If someone opens up to you and feels comfortable or brave enough to share their struggles, listen to them, show kindness and be empathetic. It can be incredibly difficult to showcase vulnerability, especially to an employer, so be thankful for their honesty and find ways to work with them to create tangible solutions.