According to Fortune, over 10 million American employees are experiencing post-pandemic burnout. This means that across thousands of companies, burnout has led to a decreased capacity for organizational performance, innovation, and communication. As organizations try to combat the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many leaders and human resources associates are seeking a solution to the high turnover rates they are facing as a result of burnout.
Today’s employees expect their workplaces to prioritize their well-being in unprecedented manners. If employers disregard this call to action they will likely see absenteeism, an unengaged workforce, and a significant loss of talent. While there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution to the issue of workplace burnout, there are many innovative tactics companies have used to successfully mitigate its occurrence.
Innovative Ways to Combat Burnout and Their Outcomes
Across the nation, organizations of all sizes and across a variety of industries have come up with innovative ways to reduce the incidence of burnout. Some of these solutions include offering companywide week-long shutdowns, four-day work weeks, unlimited paid time off, and associate coaching programs.
Company-Mandated Weeks of Rest
Well-respected and popular brands such as Mozilla, Bumble, and Linkedin have established “Wellness Weeks,” when their entire businesses are shut down. This is a truly innovative approach. By concurrently giving everybody time off, workloads do not continue to pile up for individuals or departments who are away.
This means that their time off is restful rather than anxiety-filled, as individuals can focus on their personal priorities rather than anticipating the impending stress of returning to work. Employees at every level — from customer service representatives to CEOs — are able to truly take a break from emails, meetings, and other daily tasks when their companies shut down. Workers are rejuvenated and are able to show up stronger when given true breaks. The benefits that come from rest weeks include higher morale and employees that are more innovative, willing to collaborate, and capable of committing their full energy to help their organization succeed.
Shorter Work Weeks
As a result of the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global’s campaign, over 30 employers across North America have decided to pilot a four-day work week. While some organizations may believe they cannot afford to have three-day weekends every week, every month, or even a few times a year, the benefits of doing so are impressive. Companies like Shopify and Primary have determined that the cost of losing 20% of the workweek is incomparable to the newfound efficiency and well-being of employees. What used to be completed in five days, is now being completed in four. Team members are determined to finish their tasks and meet their goals more effectively knowing that they will be rewarded with an extra day off at the end of the week. This initiative has enabled many companies to reduce production costs without cutting employee’ pay. Overall, this presents a win-win situation for everybody involved.
Paid Time Off and Job Flexibility
Giving associates the option of having unlimited paid time off may sound counterintuitive as more time off could theoretically slow progress and hurt efficiency. However, a recent study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management discovered that when employees are offered unlimited vacation rather than a specific number of paid days, they actually tend to take less time off. In turn, businesses get more working days out of their employees, who are more productive as a result of the fact that they are able to personally decide when they need to pause their professional lives to care for themselves or their loved ones.
Interestingly, Gallup also found that individuals who are able to work flexible schedules work more hours per week than other employees. Combined with the fact that those with adjustable work hours perceive their workplaces to be more inspiring and encouraging, this means that employees have lower levels of stress and improved well-being, effectively reducing the likelihood of burnout. Individuals who are fulfilled in their lives are more likely to be loyal to their companies, taking pride in their work and committing to stay with their organizations long-term.
Prioritizing Wellness and Mental Health
For businesses that do not want to compromise the traditionally structured 40-hour work week, there are still plenty of ways to prevent and reduce burnout. Notably, PepsiCo responded to their burnout crisis – which resulted from the overlap of work and home lives during the COVID-19 pandemic – by providing free childcare for emergencies, six sessions of professional counseling services, and the opportunity to access online health checkups when preferred.
Coaching programs are also a great way to reduce workplace stress and project overload which exhaust workers. These programs contribute to the development of psychologically safe work environments, enabling employees to speak vulnerably about their struggles. As a result, they are more likely to ask for the help they need to succeed, professionally and personally. This creates an accepting workplace culture in which individuals can communicate with and rely on their supervisors and one another for support. Providing free coaches also signals that a company is deeply invested in the overall well-being and development of its workers. Organizations who offer coaching often find that their employees perform better, increasing the profitability of their business.
Offering individuals time off to manage their mental health allows them to take a necessary pause from work and return with newfound energy, increasing productivity, probability of retention, and happiness. Mental health days can be used for catching up on stressfully long to-do lists, caring for loved ones who are facing health challenges, or taking time away from a fast-paced and overwhelming work environment for long enough to recharge and refocus. Admittedly, a single day off is not enough to resolve burnout, nor will it fully fix the mental struggles that an individual is facing outside of work. But, at a minimum, it will show employees that they — and their holistic wellness — are important. This is vital because when leaders take care of their workers, their workers will take care of the company. In essence, appreciative and energized associates are more productive and put a greater amount of energy into their tasks.
Encourage Employees to Use their Resources
If companies do not express sincerity when enacting policies to reduce the incidence of stress or telling employees to prioritize their wellness, they will not be able to prevent the inevitable occurrence of burnout. People must feel that the help being offered to them is genuine and that if they utilize the opportunities presented to them they will not be punished or come back to an even more stressful position. Thankfully, there are various manners in which leaders can encourage their teams to accept the benefits that are purposefully offered to them.
Leaders can regularly schedule time off for their teams or offer incentives to workers who utilize their vacation days. As previously mentioned, some companies schedule entire weeks off, while others occasionally schedule three-day weekends so that employees can rest or complete personal chores. Additionally, some organizations require their team members to take a certain number of vacation days per quarter, in order to assure that they are taking the breaks they need but may be denying themselves. Offering a monetary reward for employees who use at least a week of consecutive vacation days has also been found to drastically change the willingness of individuals to use their paid time off.
In order to promote overall wellness, leaders can establish policies wherein employees will not be questioned for requesting time off, calling out sick, or notifying the team that they will need to leave work early. Instead of asking for reasoning, leaders should ask if an associate is alright and then allow them to take the time they need. Upon return, leaders might offer support in the form of discussion or delegating tasks to others in order to lighten an unrealistic workload.
Companies must actively create psychologically safe work environments in which transparent conversations about wellness can comfortably take place. If leaders continuously showcase to employees that they are supported in their needs and goals, employees are more likely to seek help when they are overwhelmed.
Providing holistic coaching is another way to create consciousness about the importance of mental well-being. Employers can bring in experts to offer coaching to their employees, helping them navigate vital areas of their lives such as their relationships, health + wellbeing, life experiences, finances, and careers. This can help individuals create habits that serve them well and help them manage their goals and stressors.
Investing in Employees is an Investment in Your Company
It is clear that investing in workers’ well-being reduces burnout and turnover, but it also increases efficiency, happiness, innovation, and company loyalty. These qualities are vital to a business looking to succeed in today’s marketplace, as employees are the cornerstone on which a business’s growth is built.
While none of the above tactics alone is guaranteed to wholly resolve the issue of burnout, implementing at least one way to reduce associates’ stress could have a significant impact on employees and overall workplace culture.
Leaders looking to transform the wellbeing of their employees should consider partnering with Activate 180 to offer their team holistic growth, preventing burnout and inspiring innovation at work. Activate 180 has made it affordable for anyone who wants a coach to have a coach, not just the executives. Their personalized, one-on-one, monthly coaching sessions elevate performance, productivity, and happiness. Activate 180’s well-rounded approach to coaching ensures all areas of your employees’ lives are thriving because when you take care of your employees, they’ll take care of your business.