Though lockdowns are lifting, more organizations are facing a different challenge: employees struggling with burnout. When the pandemic began, organizations saw increased productivity, but that increase came with a price which many employees are paying now. You have likely seen signs that burnout is rising in your organization — and the latest data backs that up.
An April 2021 survey by Indeed of 1,500 U.S. workers across various demographics found 52% of respondents are reporting burnout — up from 42% in January 2020. Millennials and Gen Z seem to be the most affected, with 59% and 58% of those populations reporting being burned out. But older generations are struggling too — 54% of Gen X also report feelings of burnout.
Burnout isn’t a new issue, but according to a recent Gallup report, we may be dealing with a new kind of burnout. They are calling it the Wellbeing-Engagement Paradox of 2020. Gallup says employee well-being and engagement typically rise and fall together; the more engaged an employee is, the less likely they are to feel burned out. But during the pandemic, that relationship changed — engagement soared but well-being fell, and now burnout has taken hold.
Countries around the world are exploring policy initiatives that provide employees with legal protection if they choose to disconnect to reduce burnout. While these measures may help some, further changes are necessary to corporate culture to reduce the skyrocketing rates of employee stress and exhaustion. Companies need to be proactive, and employers can take steps today to mitigate burnout by prioritizing the mental health of their workers.
Implementing a proactive and preventive employee wellness program enables early intervention, setting employees and companies on healthy paths. In fact, a recent McKinsey Report suggested that companies that take a holistic screening and preventive approach to well-being have an opportunity to reach individuals before the point of crisis, after which time intervention is more complex and costly. Implementing a proactive approach starts with ensuring that employees have access to resources that support mental health and well-being and making sure they know these resources are available to them on a confidential basis. In most circumstances, simply providing access to educational content and expert information and advice is enough for individuals and their family members to address challenges they are experiencing.
While many companies provide employee wellness resources, low usage or access rates due to the stigma surrounding mental health can reduce their effectiveness. This can make implementing a new program or improving an existing program seem like an impossible task to learning and development (L&D) professionals.
Below are some practical ways that L&D leaders and teams can better execute their organization’s employee wellness program and encourage employees to use the assistance offered.
Integrate with Other Programs
Integrate mental health and employee wellness initiatives with existing L&D programs and training. For example, share expert content on stress relief strategies at the beginning of a development or coaching program. Taking a holistic approach to wellness helps employees understand that mental health issues deserve the same level of attention and treatment as physical health issues.
Reward Employees for Usage
Many L&D initiatives already run on a reward system and so should employee wellness. An easy way to do this is by conducting “watch and win” promotions with employee wellness videos.
Encourage Management to Lead by Example
L&D professionals should encourage senior team members and leaders within their organization to talk about their use of mental health resources. This can be done at larger company meetings or during one-on-ones with direct reports. By having leaders outside of HR or L&D promote the use of employee wellness resources, stigma can be further reduced.
Make Employee Wellness a Bigger Part of the Workday
This can be as easy as making mental health education a standard part of meetings. L&D professionals can work with managers and leaders to curate resources, content and videos from their existing wellness program that can easily be used to kick off meetings. Opening a dialogue and showing that wellness is a business concern allows a company to demonstrate that it cares about employee mental health in a very tangible way.
Educate Employees on What’s Available
Many employees do not want to tell their bosses that they are feeling overwhelmed, need help or are facing personal issues. L&D professionals should ensure that they educate employees on the confidentiality and ease of use of the resources available. That way, when an issue arises, the employee can get quick and easy access to help when they need it, without the fear of losing their jobs.
With these practices, L&D professionals can help their organization better support their employees’ mental health and well-being, further reduce the risk of employee burnout, and improve the quality of L&D programs and trainings.