After millions of employees shifted to remote work in response to the pandemic, we thought that we had stumbled upon a work-life balance that could be sustainable. People had more time now without having to commute and could focus more on accomplishing projects and being more productive overall.
Although employees were more productive, we eventually hit a wall of emotional and physical exhaustion like never before. Even if you loved your job at one time, suddenly it felt like you were slogging through a pit of never ending tasks, zoom meetings, and push notifications. This seemingly endless feeling of dejectedness and lack of fulfillment is burnout. In a survey conducted by Indeed, they found that over half of the respondents felt more burned out as a result of the pandemic.
Burnout is caused by a variety of factors, contributing to the all-time high number of burned-out remote workers in response to working through the pandemic. Before addressing the importance of burnout, it’s critical to understand the definition. It isn’t about having one bad day in the office, a night of bad sleep, or a rough client meeting. It’s a constant state of stress and exhaustion that leaves you feeling depleted and dejected. Whether it’s caused by the lack of mental barriers between your home and work life, longer hours, a buildup of Zoom fatigue, or a combination of these factors, the consistent stress and exhaustion can push you over the edge into burnout without warning.
Why you should be watching for burnout
Employers, when your workers are feeling burned out, it significantly impacts their performance and motivation at your company. Keep in mind that it may not be your company’s fault that they are feeling this way in their work environment. Burnout skyrocketed in the midst of COVID, leaving many employees feeling confused, unmotivated, and unsure what they could control when the ability of choice for a majority of areas in their lives were taken away in the midst of staying safe throughout the pandemic.
If you’re reflecting on your company's values and new practices over the past year and a half, you may be wondering why your employees would still end up burned out. From your standpoint, the company has tried its best to ensure that your employees remain motivated and healthy, so why is it still happening?
It’s a complex issue that has arisen to become an unfortunate norm among remote workers. Whether or not it could have been prevented in the past doesn’t matter anymore. What matters now is actively discussing burnout with your employees to figure out how to mitigate it and prevent it from happening again.
What are the next steps?
For employers, it’s time to recognize that burnout is a major problem. Understanding the importance of the impacts of mental and physical health on your company’s progress as a whole is essential to combating burnout.
For employees, remember that pushing yourself past your mental and physical limits can lead to adverse side effects. If not treated, the mental and physical toll of burnout can worsen your mental state, causing depression and anxiety, or physical health problems such as headaches, irritability, and chronic fatigue.
It’s time to take charge and recharge
Whether you’ve recognized that your team’s productivity is off the deep end due to burnout or an employee that’s dealing with the aftermath of burnout, it’s time to take charge.
For employers, this means taking burnout seriously. This begins with taking the time to address your employees and consider checking in with them. After all, having employees that are slogging through the day will significantly impact their wellbeing and the company’s progress. Keep in mind that it may not be your company’s fault that burnout happened. Thousands of employees have slumped into burnout due to issues stemming from the pandemic. While it may not be your fault, it is important that you take responsibility as a company to keep it from happening again.
This means taking some time to listen to your employees and taking action. Actively listening and being mindful of your employees' feedback will go a long way compared to making a blanket call about new policies that may not fix the problem or make it worse.
For employees, it’s hard to take charge of burnout, especially if you’ve built up habits to be constantly available for work and haven’t built a distinct boundary between your work and home space. Although it may take a process to break those habits and get out of the headspace to build a distinct boundary between your home and work life again, there are still other things you can do to take charge of your burnout.
One way to do this is to explain how you’re feeling to your employer. It may be a bit daunting to bring up the subject of mental health to your superior, especially if you haven’t discussed it with them before. Remember that you aren’t alone when it comes to mental health affecting your work. In fact, over half of workers surveyed by Mental Health America agreed that their workplace affects their mental health.
There’s certainly the fear that your supervisor won’t listen, misunderstand, or disregard your wellbeing. If this becomes the case, there are other steps that you can take to improve your health and get away from burnout, but you’ll never know unless you take the first step to control your work environment and mental health.
Above all, be mindful
The best way to take steps towards a healthier space mentally for all employees is to begin having discussions to find out what works best for everyone. We know that this discussion and the ways that companies take action can look many different ways.
Although your company’s path away from burnout may be unique to you, we know how overwhelming it can be to start. Whether you're an employer looking for suggestions on how to deal with burnout and what to ask your employees or an employee looking to take charge in their own work-life, we’re here to help get you started.
We’ve created a comprehensive guide for both employers and employees to take charge of burnout in the workplace and start having discussions to change the work environment. Download the guide to take charge of burnout in your career and workplace.