Pandemic wellbeing | 3 tips for tackling employee burnout

3 tips for tackling employee burnout

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, many workforces have moved to remote working arrangements to contain the spread of the virus and safeguard staff.

The sudden switch to this new way of working – and the overarching uncertainty the pandemic has caused – has unearthed different challenges for workers.

Some of these include juggling home-schooling with work, caring for vulnerable relatives, the immediate financial struggle and the feeling of isolation for those living alone.

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With so much change and uncertainty on the cards, it is possible that employees could start to feel burnt out as the lines between professional life blur even further. This has hugely damaging effects for both the individual and the employer.

To help people professionals prevent employee burnout, HR Grapevine has collated three tips to help combat it:

Regular check-ins are essential

Line managers should regularly check in on employees to gauge how they are coping, the sort of personal responsibilities that they have, and what type of workload they can handle. Finding this out will ensure that no one has an unmanageable workload.

A recent Fast Company article – authored by Humu CEO Laszlo Bock – pointed towards a scientific theory which suggested that when teams continuously assess their workload, they can get more done but avoid getting burnt out at the same time.

Aside from checking in on staff individually, he suggested that line managers should also pull the team together every one or two weeks so that everyone can talk through their workload together.

Responsibilities can be adjusted based on everyone’s capacity and this should relieve some stress from overworked individuals.

Encourage staff to take annual leave

Due to current lockdown measures and travel restrictions, some employees may be reluctant to take annual leave because they are cooped up indoors and unable to go anywhere to enjoy their time off.

But particularly in a time when employees are struggling to work during lockdown, and are juggling lots of different plates at one time, it is crucial that they take annual leave to help them recuperate and prevent burnout.

This notion was corroborated by Twitter’s EMEA HR Lead, Anne Kiely, who said taking annual leave is “hugely important for our mental strength and wellbeing to switch off”.

Be empathetic

Now, everyone has different anxieties, whether it is about the stability of their job going forwards or being separated from friends and family.

And, according to the Fast Company article, being empathetic towards employees is key during this difficult time and this can help to prevent burnout.

Rather than starting a meeting and diving straight into the nitty-gritty, take some time to check in with direct reports and listen to what they have to say. Find out how they are getting on and ask what they did the night before (or something else like that).

In addition, no one is working in usual circumstances so employers should be flexible where possible, for example, if an employee needs to take some time out to help a child with schoolwork, then let them. They will be able to make up the time later in the day or week.

Burnout has doubled

While it is important for HR and employers to mitigate the risk of employee burnout, a recent study has detailed the rise in staff burnout amid the pandemic making it an even more important issue for employers to prevent.

Last week, research from LinkedIn’s Glint revealed that burnout doubled from March (2.7%) to April (5.4%) 2020, suggesting that HR departments need to urgently address this issue before it threatens the productivity and engagement for remote workers.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) put burnout on its International Classification of Diseases (ICD) list last year, which is used as a global benchmark for health diagnosis – according to

The public health agency explained that burnout is categorised by three dimensions including: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of negativism relating to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.

In addition, Glint’s data found that those employees struggling to balance their personal and professional lives – whether this is down to factors such as childcare duties or caring responsibilities – were 4.4 times more likely to display signs of burnout.

As was noted by Justin Black, Head of People Science at Glint, the importance of communication should never be overlooked, regardless of whether employers are tackling a crisis.

He exclusively told HR Grapevine: "With the amount of upheaval we’re all facing in the workplace, it’s very unlikely that the threat of burnout will disappear anytime soon.

“As a manager, you can help protect and promote your team’s health and wellbeing by checking in with them regularly and offering encouragement, resources, guidance, and other support. It's also important to refocus priorities, which will help your teams work better, be healthier, and be more fulfilled in their roles, as well as help the business prepare for recovery,” Black added.

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Comments (1)

  • Derek
    Tue, 2 Jun 2020 4:45pm BST
    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, what about those who have worked throughout at the office or warehouse, we have been totally ignored in all this rush to help WFH or furloughed colleagues, worked throughout the good weather then been in lock down on days off,
    Come on give us some recognition

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