As we’ve adapted to COVID-19, many businesses and organizations have had to quickly make decisions in the moment and are now starting to pick up the pieces and try to move forward. With so many external factors at play, one thing’s for sure – your employees will play a huge role in getting the business back to normal. One of the consequences of the crisis has been slumping sales, leading many businesses to furlough or layoff many of their employees leaving them with a significantly reduced workforce.

It’ll be a while before many businesses get back to full staff, and the workload for your remaining employees will climb as they help bring business operations back to full throttle. This can lead to a negative side effect we should all be aware of and try to mitigate – burnout.

Burnout can have a huge impact on employee mental health. We all know the regular factors that contribute to employee burnout, such as working long hours or working too many days without time off. Now, add the new stress coming from our current situation into the mix – a huge uptick of anxiety, an always-on mentality, and either working from home or in a higher pressure version of an onsite environment. I’m sure with these added factors in the picture you can see why this is critical for HR professionals to address.

So how do we do that? Here are six suggestions:

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1. Know the triggers

Understanding employee burnout as it relates to our current conditions can help organizations recognize it fast and mitigate its effects. That comes from recognizing what the different kinds of employees working for you are experiencing. Below are some example employee roles and stressors that may be adding to their burnout risk:

  • The essential worker who's directly fighting the virus: People like front-line healthcare or public service professionals and many others have been battling this pandemic for months. Fatigue has set in and they’re at risk of getting infected every day. Most haven’t seen their own family much at the same time as they’ve been battling to keep the rest of us safe.
  • The parent working from home who's now an employee and a teacher: Schools and daycare facilities are closed, forcing parents to juggle the role of a working parent and teacher for their kids. When they’re multitasking so much, it’s nearly impossible to put 100 percent focus on both so there’s a feeling of not doing either well. In fact, according to a recently published SHRM report, “Over 7 in 10 employers are struggling to adapt to remote work.”
  • The onsite employee facing new safety concerns at work: People like grocery store clerks, delivery and warehouse workers, manufacturing line workers, and cashiers are all dealing with a day-to-day that suddenly puts them at risk. They may not be properly prepared or have the personal protective equipment they need to do this effectively, and by now are probably thinking they didn't sign up for this. This adds stress on top of what are usually already stressful jobs.

For these fatigued employees, their biggest question nowadays is “when will the end be in sight?” Luckily, a strong HR technology approach can help you give employees what they need to keep their stress in check, push through the hard times, and come out the other side stronger.

2. Allow time to recharge and reset

Employees, now more than ever, need time off to recharge their mental batteries and focus on their personal lives. This is going to help them be at their best while at work. It’s like working out – your body needs to rest just as much as it needs to exercise so it can rebuild and repair itself to be stronger than before.

Technology-wise, you can help build a healthy balance of work and time off for your employees with a combination of scheduling, employee self-service options, and reports:

  1. Setting up a predictable schedule pattern provides employees insight into their schedule knowing what’s set and what their expectations are for each week.
  2. Configuring schedule rules and alerts that notify managers before employees are overextended will help curb burnout. These notifications can be pushed out through email or to mobile devices for quick action. You’ll want to do some research first and find out what the right number of hours is for your teams. For example, if your employees typically work 40 hours a week, but are now working 60-70, setting an alert when employees approach or are at 40 hours enables your managers to take decisive action.
  3. Giving employees some control in these hectic times by introducing employee self-service can go a long way. Do employees need a bit more time off? Well, with self-service processes enabled just a few taps on their phones or clicks at their computer will let them easily request it or swap shifts with a fellow employee. They can do a whole lot more, too – activities like punching in or out, reviewing their schedules, checking their pay, and checking performance goals just to name a few.
  4. Creating in-depth people analytics reports can give a snapshot of how many hours employees are working and hold managers accountable to any new company guidelines HR sets up to mitigate burnout.

3. Provide deeper support structures

Regular one-on-one conversations between managers and employees are even more meaningful right now, and they’re an opportunity to gain insight into your team’s energy levels. They’re also chances to understand and help ease employee worries.

HR technologies with performance management tools enable managers to track ongoing conversations with employees to monitor how well they’re adjusting to certain situations, especially stressful ones like today. Using and leveraging that information to identify trends can help uncover symptoms or patterns leading to burnout.

While taking on additional responsibilities, are your employees getting the proper training? Setting up your employees for success will only motivate and drive them to make more of an impact. The right learning options allow you to track and report on how well your employees are adapting to these newfound responsibilities by seeing the skills and certifications they've completed, showing you who's prepared for the new workplace situations we're all dealing with.

4. Be mindful of outside factors

Some employees have to balance caregiving and work-from-home responsibilities, blending their work and personal lives. Many folks out there are adjusting to having their kids with them 24/7 while at work, forcing them to always be on. And this doesn’t even include helping their children continue to learn by ensuring they’re following the curricula their schools provide.

Employee self-service comes into play again here and puts a variety of options at employees' fingertips. Whether they’re on a laptop, tablet, or their mobile phone, they can quickly take care of administrative tasks like reviewing their schedule, enrolling in benefits, setting up direct deposit to get paid efficiently, and updating their employee information. This convenience allows them more time to focus on their own health and their family.

5. Show employees how their work is impactful

Deep down, many of us want to make an impact and have pride in our work. It’s what drives us internally. The uncertainty and long hours make that a little hard to see right now – it’s up to you as an HR professional to help employees not fall prey to the negativity around them and instead stay motivated to move forward.

Setting up your performance management system in your HR solution so employees can track their impact will help drive them to succeed even during times that aren’t ideal. Being able to tie those impacts to compensation also signals to employees they’re making a difference in the work they do.

Are your employees manufacturing more product than projected because they’re bringing 110 percent during their shifts? Are they coming into work in a grocery store even when the risks are much higher? Make note of it and don’t forget, praise goes a long way. As part of tracking their performance goals, you can provide spot bonuses or even give a bump for hazard pay because of the exposure they’re facing.

Conclusion: Facing burnout head-on helps secure your organization's future

COVID-19 has been a more than two-month marathon that isn’t going to let up anytime soon. But these times of uncertainty are crucial opportunities to show your employees that you’re ready to lead them through with your actions. Mature, responsive organizations understand they need their employees to be agile, adaptable, and healthy to work at their best.

Managing burnout through the recommendations I’ve listed will help employees remember you for going above and beyond what an organization is expected to do. When the time comes, they’ll be there to help pick up the pieces and rebuild for the future. If you would like to learn more ways to help your organization and your employees manage through these difficult times, check out our resource page.

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Published: Monday, May 11, 2020