Employee Burnout: What Employers Need to Know & What They Can Do to Help

In 2019, when the World Health Organization officially defined and recognized “burnout” in their international classification of diseases as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” few could have predicted the life-changing events of the ensuing years, let alone the concurrent spike in employee burnout.  Four years later, a new Aflac survey of U.S. employees has produced some troubling indications for those who may have been hoping that employee burnout would wane with the pandemic. 

The survey found that over half of American workers today identify their level of burnout as moderate or higher – a rate consistent with reports from the height of the pandemic.  The fallout from such widespread employee burnout can have severe consequences for workers and employers alike.  Employees who experience high levels of burnout report associated anxiety, depression, and trouble sleeping, which can often translate to decreased productivity and job performance in the workplace. 

Still, given the real problem rampant burnout poses to businesses, the Aflac survey found that only 45% of employers identified burnout as an issue for their company.  Closing this awareness gap and introducing interventions to reduce and prevent burnout are crucial priorities for any employer intent on securing sustainable success in their business.

Steps you can take now to address burnout in your organization:

  1. Provide resources that address the total well-being of your employees.

Receiving physical health coverage through one’s workplace has been a norm for generations, but physical health is just one slice of the pie when it comes to employee well-being.  With regards to burnout, mental health, and even financial well-being are the driving factors.  A vast majority (80%) of workers surveyed expressed that coverage for mental health treatment was just as important to them as coverage for physical health, so employers should seriously consider offering mental health coverage if possible. 

If coverage is not feasible, another avenue to support the mental health of your employees – as well as assuage any financial anxiety that may contribute to increased stress – is to provide support resources in the workplace.  Hosting forums on the topic of mental wellness featuring speakers from within or outside your organization, introducing seminars or workshops around financial planning and retirement, or even ensuring that information about external resources is easily accessible to employees – these are just a few options that may help employees feel supported and empowered, preventing burnout.

  1. Acknowledge the importance of mental health year-round.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but considering and accommodating the mental health of your employees should be a year-round endeavor and should go beyond mere acknowledgement. Small but consistent efforts tailored to the realities of employee’s lives both at and outside of work, such as providing increased flexibility for workers with caregiving responsibilities, can have a far greater and more lasting impact than infrequent recognition around awareness occasions or open enrollment.

  1. Commit to building work-life balance into your company culture from the top down.

Many well-meaning employers may do their best to instate policies that support a healthy work-life balance, only to be baffled when their employees don’t take advantage of them.  The key to rectifying this? Modeling the behavior that you’d like to see in your employees. Being a workplace leader means that your employees look to you for indicators about how they should conduct themselves.  It can be tricky to make sure that you are taking sufficient breaks and time away from the office given the responsibilities you must juggle as an employer, but it will help establish more widespread buy-in across department, division, and role, which can pay serious long-term dividends in building a burnout-averse culture.    

Unfortunately, the current data makes it clear that the threat of employee burnout exacerbated by the pandemic and economic instability is not likely to go away any time soon.  But by incorporating these tips into your mindset and approach within your organization, you can make great strides in providing your employees the support they need to prevent and overcome burnout, ensuring sustainable success for your business.

Do you have any lingering questions about how to address burnout as an HR professional? A Harger Howe Account Manager would be happy to answer them.  To learn more about Harger Howe Advertising and the services we provide, please contact our President Mike Walsh at mwalsh@hargerhowe.com.