Covid-19 and Employee Burnout

Today we discuss Covid-19 and employee burnout:  how to prevent and recognize it.

Almost a full year later, coronavirus continues to plague the  world with existential fears, uncertainty, and no distinctive line between work and life.  If finding work live balance was difficult before, the pandemic magnified that challenge. 

The numbers are quite alarming – 58 percent of employees in the U.S. report employee burnout, which is an increase from 45 percent in the early days of coronavirus. 

Remote work is among the reasons behind the increased levels of burnout.

Many organizations had to suddenly shift to teleworking to comply with the social distancing measures. These organizations did so without having policies to help them ease the transition. The end result is employees feeling overloaded with work and stress.

What is Employee Burnout?

Although not a novelty of the COVID-19 era, employee burnout became more prevalent and widespread during the pandemic. Burnout presents a condition that causes physical or emotional exhaustion, lack of energy, and often a job dissatisfaction. 

Reduced productivity and procrastination, byproducts of employee burnout, affect the whole team. 

Although tempting to minimize burnout to a bad day at work, the reality is far more dire.   Burnout is chronic, and it adverse effects snowball over time. 

Therefore,  employers must recognize the signs of burnout, and address burnout early.

Awareness:  How to Recognize Employee Burnout

Employers must pay extra attention to the subtle clues of overworked and overstressed employees. Especially in the remote working environment, these signs may be difficult to spot, so increased vigilance is necessary.  These are the most frequent signs:

  • Obvious Exhaustion Employers should take seriously any employee who is visibly tired or fatigued. While feeling exhausted from time to time is normal, if it’s happening every day, it might be the first sign of burnout. Besides, employers should be careful about both physical and emotional clues. Burned out employees often take more breaks from work than they did before. Their demeanor and physical appearance change – they often have dark circles under eyes, worn-out expressions, and loose or gain weight.
  • Mood Issues: Easily upset or angered, cynicism towards coworkers and work, moodiness, behavior that is out of character,  are signs of employee burnout.
  •  Absenteeism: If an employee suddenly starts taking extensive day-offs and/or sick days, could signal burnout. Burnt out employees may turn to escapism and avoiding the root of their stress and pain.                                   
  • Low Engagement: Low interest in their work and having no zest for assignments they used to before, are telltale signs of burnout in employees. Employers should be attentive to unenthusiastic employees, especially those who were typically active and highly engaged.                                                                                                                             
  • Delays/Not Completing Tasks:  Burnt out employees may find it difficult to focus.  This leads to missed deadlines, or improperly concluded tasks. 

Preventing Employee Burnout & Providing Support

As the new wave of coronavirus infections continues, it becomes increasingly important for employers and employees to  work to prevent employee burnout.  Employee  health and well-being must be at the forefront of employer’s considerations.  

Set a Clear Schedule

When working from home, employees wake up, have their meals, breaks, and work in the same environment. There are no clear lines between work and leisure time. That may  make it impossible to separate oneself from work because it’s always there. 

The best way to avoid life and work becoming one is a precise schedule. The working hours should be clearly defined, and employers should encourage employees to maintain a schedule, including taking necessary breaks throughout the day. 

Have a Clearly Defined Workspace If Possible

If possible, employees should have a defined workspace and not turn their entire home into an office. Depending on their living conditions, employees should choose a room or a working corner and only work in that area. That will prevent having a sense of work consuming their private lives. 

Be Considerate of The Workload

Furloughs and lay-offs often means that the remaining employees are tasked with assuming additional responsibilities. Employers must be mindful of the burdens placed on remaining employees.  Where possible, employers should seek to alleviate workloads by bringing on additional staff as soon as feasible.

Decompression Sessions

According to Deloitte’s practical guide to Remote Collaboration, employees should schedule compact and breakout sessions, frequently check-in with colleagues, and schedule breaks accordingly. These practices can help them to overcome challenges that often arise in a remote setting and can result in burnout.