In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of workers across the globe have realized the importance of work-life balance. As a result, they’ve walked away from organizations that have failed to prioritize employee well-being, thus paving the way for The Great Resignation.

Burnout is one of the major causes for low retention in any organization. According to a recent report by Limeade, of the 1,000 full-time U.S. workers who started a new job in 2021, 40% of respondents indicated that burnout was the main reason they left their job; followed by organizational changes at the company (34%), lack of flexibility (20%), well-being not supported by the company (16%) and insufficient benefits (19%).

It is imperative that learning leaders and employers manage stress before it leads to burnout. Employees suffering from a work-related illness, such as stress, may risk productivity due to longer breaks and lack of motivation. If not managed, stress can also negatively affect an organization’s culture. Research by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that 1.7 million workers in the U.K. suffered from a work-related illness in 2020-2021 and 50% of cases were due to stress, depression or anxiety.

So, how can organizations create a stress-free workplace and retain their employees? Here are six tips to get started.

1) Offer Training in Stress Management

For organizations to recognize stress in the workplace, everyone should participate in stress management training. This ensures that the entire organization is aware of how to recognize signs of stress and how to support those who are suffering from a stress-related illness.

Stress management is an important skill for employers because it gives them a hand in being more conscious of their employees’ work environment. For example, it can make employers aware of the number of tasks they delegate per employee as to prevent work overload. Ultimately, when navigating stress management, open communication is key to alleviating stress.

2) Tackle Stress Head on

Organizations should be proactive when addressing stress in the workplace, and first should identify the cause. In many cases, it could be due to an excessive workload, an understaffed team, juggling multiple deadlines or a personal challenge.

Whatever the cause, organizations are responsible for assisting employees in finding solutions for their mental well-being. If an employee is struggling with time management or skills development, consider delivering training on prioritization. If an understaffed team is suffering under an increased workload, consult human resources (HR) about recruitment options.

3) Create a Better Workplace Culture

Improving company culture can have a positive impact on employee well-being. Encourage staff to take frequent breaks, like going for a walk, or to spend lunchtime away from their desks to ensure a healthy work-life balance.

Organizations can foster a healthy culture by implementing benefits such as, subsidizing gym memberships or hosting yoga classes to encourage mindfulness. They can also recommend activities that encourage a unified company culture, like department-wide competitions.

4) Allow Flexible or Hybrid Work

The pandemic has been the catalyst to drastic change in workplace norms, causing nearly half of the population to work from home. Despite this change, there are some organizations that still follow the traditional work landscape and expect employees to work full-time and in person. Though once the norm, during these times, this practice could exhibit potential trust issues.

Employees want to feel trusted by their employers. Trusting employees to work from home can build a stronger sense of responsibility. Giving them the autonomy to decide where they want to work could help them feel more productive and comfortable in an optimal, work environment. According to a recent Gartner poll, 48% of employees will likely work remotely at least part of the time after COVID-19, compared to 30% before the pandemic.

Depending on the employee, they may have a lot of personal commitments to work around in addition to their workload, like taking their children to school. Companies should not implement tight work schedules but instead, allow employees the flexibility to work around life’s responsibilities.

No employee is identical, so naturally, their ideal working environment will vary. The pandemic has shone light on the platitude: People do not live to work; they work to live. This is why it is crucial for organizations to cultivate a culture that supports a healthy work-life balance.

5) Block “Quiet Times” During the Workday

With the increased use of video meetings, it is now convenient for organizations to schedule meetings despite work location. However, it is also easy for the overuse of virtual meetings to affect employees’ engagement. Too many meetings can disrupt work performance and affect productivity.

Employers should consider employees’ schedules when setting a meeting and limit the number of meetings per day as to not disrupt team productivity. They can also alternate between using email or messaging as a mode of communication depending on the situation.

Block times on the calendar for allocated quiet times that enable employees a period to focus solely on their work. Distractions, such as constant video meetings or emails, can affect how productive employees feel, and eventually can lead to burnout. Employers and learning leaders should help employees improve their work efficiency by mitigating the overuse of meetings and messaging.

6) Provide Mental Health and Well-being Support

In addition to overseeing productivity, employers should oversee their employees’ mental health. Organizations should offer solutions to foster employee well-being, like therapy visits insured by the company or tracking employees’ moods with a well-being application. Companies can also provide employees access to speak to a mental health professional, virtually or in person.

Whatever route a company decides to take, ultimately, it should be for the benefit of employees’ health and well-being.