As companies grapple with the lingering effects of the pandemic and try to make a way forward, work from home has emerged as a go-to strategy to minimizing burnout within organizations. While increasing workplace flexibilities is crucial to battling burnout in your organization, there are three vital elements often left out of the discussion. To create a workplace ready to tackle burnout, consider these three steps.
Develop a holistic strategic plan
Many companies are quick to highlight one or two strategies they’ve adopted as the complete solution to burnout. New apps for the workforce or no meeting Zoom days will have little impact if they are not accompanied by a strategic plan that links to your company’s goals and vision. Action plans should have these main components:
Ask better questions: For companies looking to banish burnout in their workforces, assessing their employees’ perceptions of burnout isn’t enough. While surveys can be impactful tools, asking an employee their perceptions will only give you half of the picture. Go beyond perception questions that simply ask an employee if they feel burned out. Instead, lean into questions that provide information about how many hours they are working each week and how often they have called in sick the past year.
Avoid survey fatigue by leveraging HR data to complete a picture of your organizational health. Engage in comprehensive assessments by utilizing data from HR to learn your attrition rates, utilization rates of EAP (and for what topics), the number of harassment and discrimination complaints you have.
Educate the entire workforce: From the C-suite to the newest employee in your company, increase your employee’s literacy in burnout. For leaders and managers, educate them on the signs and symptoms of burnout in their direct reports. Encourage flexible and collaborative leadership and teach your managers strategies to enhance innovation and efficiency. Empower leaders to regularly check in with their staff and ask for feedback on what resources are needed to complete tasks. When training the general workforce, provide education around stress and time management, task anxiety, and collaboration. Instead of “check the box” training, provide workshops where your workers can practice the skills they’ve learned.
Make concrete policy changes: One thing the pandemic has taught us is the way many companies operate. Companies need to operationalize the beloved phrase of “working smarter, not harder.” Use the actionable data you’ve collected to create effective policies that incentivize innovations that reduce employees’ time and enhance their wellbeing. When expanding workplace flexibilities, employee incentives, and changes to your operations tempo, cement them into policy. Embed them into the fabric of your company and then commit to checking the effectiveness of the policy every 2-3 years.
Stay in constant communication
Ultimately your employees are your best recruiters and testimony to the health of your company. When it comes to any incentives and flexibilities you’ve developed to address burnout, marketing is everything. Companies who wish to avoid burnout need to have a consistent marketing campaign notifying and encouraging employees to utilizes specific flexibilities and perks.
If you provide an app to help your employees with stress, go beyond a one-time email announcement that is sure to get buried along with others—instead, follow up with best practices on how to use the app. Remind the workforce of the flexibilities available to them by making sure managers bring them up quarterly at team meetings. Keep the conversation going and make sure your employees are aware of the perks of working at your company. Invite any feedback they may have on the incentive, including if they are using it.
Address the underlying issues that masquerade as burnout
As happy as burnout experts are around the increased awareness about burnout and what it is, often it is labeled burnout is mistaken for toxic workplace culture and lack of diversity. Burnout is the result of chronic unmanaged workplace stress. It’s the distress that results from too many demands, not enough resources.
However, for many in the workforce (particularly those with marginalized identities), it’s not only the volume for work that is causing distress but rather workplace culture. Organizations that create environments of tokenism, onlyness, and discrimination are often culprits that tax workers far beyond traditional burnout. A simple work-from-home (WFH) policy will not erase the microaggressions and harassing behavior that may be occurring daily in the company.
WFH may be the choice of your employees but dig in to determine why. Is it because the flexibility provides the opportunity to complete tasks with greater efficiency and less stress? Or does WFH reduce the amount of time spent in an office environment where they are bullied, harassed, and their talents are consistently overlooked?
Hybrid work models and WFH have many benefits for a company, however, without a comprehensive corporate strategy, they only provide part of a solution for those looking to prevent burnout. Leaders must look holistically at their company to assess how employees feel. They must also assess their policies and procedures, operations tempo, and rates of harassment and discrimination.
If your company has incorporated flexibilities and increased its health benefits, you need to promote it through frequent communication. Lastly, companies need to take a thoughtful look at why people are pursuing work-from-home. Is it to achieve balance and prevent burnout, or are they experiencing daily discrimination and exclusion?
Burnout can be mitigated in any workplace, however, it takes a comprehensive and thoughtful approach to address its underlying causes. While this is no small task, companies will reap the rewards for years to come if they invest in these efforts.
Kelley Bonner is a burnout expert and workplace culture strategist. As the CEO of Burn Bright Consulting, she helps Fortune 500 companies tackle burnout and other productivity issues while developing actionable strategies for sustainable culture change.