Employees overstressed? Burning out? How to know and how to help
At the start of the pandemic, approximately 300 million people switched to working from home. Business leaders who previously refused to let employees to work remotely now realize not only is it possible, but in some cases, preferable. It’s great news for those who thrive working in solitude. However, surveys show that loneliness is one of the biggest struggles remote employees experience. It can lead to pandemic burnout.
The problem is compounded by the increasing number of people who live alone, says a recent SHRM article. Single-person households are now the number two type of U.S. household. Living alone, say mental health studies, is often linked to depression, lower quality of life and health problems.
Millennials, who make up the largest segment of the workforce, are the loneliest generation. Quoting two studies, SHRM said that three in 10 Millennials always or often feel lonely, and 66 percent of Millennials find it hard to make friends at work, compared to less than 23 percent of Baby Boomers.
How to know when an employee is headed toward pandemic burnout
When you can’t see your team and speak with them rarely (instead, relying on emails and IMs), how can you know when they’re overloaded and overburdened with stress? Here are the signs, says HR Morning.
- Struggles to concentrate and focus
- Recurring sickness
- Missed deadlines
- Lack of motivation
- Cynicism toward the job, colleagues, the company and their abilities
- Lower quality of work
- Indifference about not performing up to regular standards
- Conflict with colleagues and/or boss
- Lack of participation and engagement in meetings
- Opting out of anything that’s voluntary or optional
Managers need to be on the lookout for these signals of pandemic burnout and react with patience and understanding when they note them in their employees, using one-on-one conversations.
Why you should help your workers build resilience
- Loneliness can lead to health problems. Social isolation and lack of social support are linked to a number of negative health consequences, such as:
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease
- Compromised immunity
- Increased risk of depression
- Shortened lifespan
- Isolation can cost your company. Lack of social interaction and encouragement can lead to mental fog that hinders productivity, stifles creativity and impairs decision-making. This paralysis directly impacts your company’s revenue and organizational performance. Prolonged social isolation lead to higher costs for sick leave and health insurance claims. On the flip side, notes Workplace Mental Health, positive social relationships strengthen employee retention and productivity—positively impacting the bottom line.
- Working from home can complicate resilience building. As we’ve noted, while telework may offer flexibility and an improved quality of life, it can also increase isolation and decrease a sense of belonging.
How you can help your employees build resilience (an overview)
Although states have reopened the many of their businesses, the onset of winter may force states close many back down as cases of COVID-19 grow. Particularly after the holidays, resilience is crucial to the wellbeing of your employees as well as your company’s success.
Yes, resilience is a personal attribute, but you as a leader can help support and develop it in each of your employees.
A Gallup study shows that onsite, frontline employees who are both younger and blue-collar struggle more with feeling informed, prepared and cared for than do older, white-collar, remote-working employees. If leaders allow COVID-19 efforts to decline, chances are they’ll see performance diminish in this younger group. For this reason, leaders, it’s important to pay special attention to this younger, onsite group.
Gallup’s extensive research revealed five personal values that positively affect performance, particularly important to helping employees resist pandemic burnout:
- I know what’s expected of me at work.
- I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
- At work, I’m empowered to do what I do best every day.
- The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
- My fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
Coaching to these five elements helps on-site employees feel clarity and confidence in their role. But how they are coached, and how often they’re coached, are key.
Begin with your managers
Studies show that managers are extraordinarily stressed. Compared to a Gallup study performed in May 2020, they’re less informed, engaged and prepared. Their work-life balance and physical wellbeing are worse than that of their team members. Because of this, their teams are ill-prepared and facing burnout.
Leaders, commit to having regular one-on-one conversations with your managers. Empathize with their pressures and responsibilities. When necessary, provide effective coaching sessions and offer tools and resources such as training on how to manage dispersed workforces. By being understanding, you can address challenges, inspire managers and strengthen trust.
Managers, start with these four easy steps
We’ll explore more in-depth ways and ideas to help strengthen employees in the next blogpost, but for now, here are a few easy ways to get started.
Talk frequently. Schedule regular video chats like you did in the beginning, whether one-on-one or as a team, so everyone can see each other. At the least, hold a once-a-week team meeting, a coffee break (beverage in-hand) or even a happy hour during the last 30 minutes of the day. Listen carefully for any issues or problems from the team.
Have fun together. Post photos of your pets, your kids, or you as a baby or in third grade; share recipes, music or movies you’d recommend. Use Teams or create a private Facebook group.
Learn and share. Encourage team members to spend an hour each week learning something new: attend a webinar offered by a vendor; listen to a podcast; read a book. Then share what was learned with the team.
Share music. Nothing can improve a mood like listening to your favorite music. Encourage employees to have music in the background and even get up and sing and dance every once in awhile! (They don’t have to video themselves, though.) Ask each one to share their favorite tunes, then create and share a playlist.
View more ways to help employees build resilience in our next blogpost.
Learn what personal and work factors are major stressors for your employees, and the importance of employee wellness checks.