Since the spike of the pandemic cases which led to the imposition of the global lockdown, the impact of COVID-19 has forced a drastic shift in the lifestyles and work practices of individuals, from working in their usual physical office environments to working virtually in the comfort of their homes. Although, this has not been the same for some workers that have had to report daily and physically at their public-facing jobs. As the pandemic stretch into months, surviving this crisis has undoubtedly forced some organisations to increase their employees’ work hours alongside, maintaining new work practices to ensure employees’ security, motivation and productivity on their jobs. With remote work, employees are faced with intense pressure from their employers, including, the need to prove their presence and productivity while managing their home and other personal affairs. The biggest emerging threat to employee well-being, engagement, and productivity during this period is “burnout.”
To address mental well-being in the workplace, the World Health Organization (WHO) included “burnout” as an occupational phenomenon in addition to the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The World Health Organization defines burnout as a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been managed successfully.
According to research by Gallup, nearly 8 out of 10 full-time employees experienced burnout before COVID-19. The study reports that 28% of employees feel burned out at work “very often” or “always,” and an additional 48% feel burned-out “sometimes” (Gallup, 2019). From this analysis, at least 76% of employees experience burnout. Adding the anxiety from covid-19, salary cuts, or the stress of overwhelming workloads, etc., It is no surprise that the percentage of burned-out employees are prevalent during this period.
The realities of employees working remotely at an additional 10-30 hours weekly and with some unrealistic work deadlines create a work-life imbalance. A likely effect of this experience would be an emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion of employees, resulting in their low performance at work and total disconnection from their jobs. Managers will be faced with the challenge of motivating disengaged employees towards accomplishing the urgent goals of the organisation. The unpredictable events of the pandemic and the need for businesses to survive creates uncertainty about the threat of burnout dissipating anytime soon.
Here are some practices that can be adopted by team leaders to support the well-being of their employees.
- Model empathetic leadership by understanding and recognising disengaged employees.
- Communicate the need to practice living a healthy work-life by committing to self-care strategies, i.e., healthy living, taking regular breaks from work, creating realistic work schedules,
- Create forums for employees to openly share their concerns or demonstrate their adaptability to this new normal.
- Encourage face-to-face virtual meetings (at least once a week)
- Conduct anonymous surveys to seek feedback on ways employees can be supported.
- Build a professional employee-manager relationship with human connection and understanding to foster a positive work experience for employees.
Incorporating empathy into the organisational culture will foster a productive workforce’s growth through these turbulent times and beyond
· Employee Burnout: The Biggest Myth by Ben Wigert. Available at – https://www.gallup.com/workplace/288539/employee-burnout-biggest-myth.aspx
· Lead Your Remote Team Away From Burnout, Not Toward It by Adam Hickman, PH.D., and Ben Wigert, PH.D. Available at https://www.gallup.com/workplace/312683/lead-remote-team-away-burnout-not-toward.aspx
· Mental Health Evidence and Research – Burnout an “occupational phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases. Available at – https://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/burn-out/en/?utm_source=link_wwwv9&utm_campaign=item_313184&utm_medium=copy