Fighting Burnout with Employee Communication and Engagement Strategies
Since the pandemic and the mass migration to remote work, I’ve read countless blogs and articles about rising employee burnout, Zoom fatigue, and work-life balance ceasing to exist. I was a remote worker even before the pandemic, so I can definitely attest that there is an adjustment period of getting used to all meetings being video calls, figuring out your routine, and setting work boundaries to avoid endless working and the blurring of lines between work and life. But it gets easier and, frankly, I have loved working from home from the flexibility, the ability to control my environment, and that amazing lack of a commute.
What I’ve found to be causing burnout isn’t suddenly working remotely, it’s the stress of the pandemic itself, the stress of change, and, generally, our attitudes towards work. A global health crisis, political tensions, racial injustice, and everything else we have going on in the backdrop of work is stressful. And it’s exhausting.
So for me, that begs the question, why is most of what I’ve been reading mainly talking about burnout for deskbound employees who are newly remote? 80% of the global workforce doesn’t sit at a desk and are equally impacted by this kind of burnout. They either never got to stop working, were furloughed, or laid off. Any of those three situations could easily cause stress and burnout. So, why are we framing this conversation like it’s a “remote work” problem, when it’s a mental health and management problem?
So, I’d like to address this very important topic of burnout from an all-inclusive perspective—aka not just focusing on remote, desk workers, and how to lessen Zoom meeting fatigue. And, specifically, I want to share how employee communications and HR teams, together, can make an impact for all employees at their organization.
1. Check in with everyone, regularly.
The amazing thing about all the technology we have available to us is that you can more easily survey your employees on a regular basis. So long as you act on the results, consistently trying to get a finger on the pulse on how your employees are doing will help you understand where resources and adjustments are needed.
And pro tip here, you need to be able to break your results down by things like work location and position so you can more easily see trends. That way you could see, for example, that more line workers at your Ohio facility said they felt overwhelmed compared to other locations. You can then dig deeper into the results to find out why or even target or additional surveys to that group to really figure out what’s causing the problem and what they specifically need.
2. Lead with compassion.
This goes for your CEO, senior managers, and line/shift managers. Everyone in a position of power in your organization needs to be given guidelines for how they can lead with empathy. Sometimes this comes down to very clearly changing HR policies to be more human and also investing in their training. Even remotely, you can still put your managers through virtual leadership training to ensure they are as prepared as possible for the incredibly difficult job of leading through a global crisis. Not sure if it’s worth it? Just remember managers account for 70% of employee engagement.
3. Communicate enough.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all talked a lot about the importance of over-communicating. People were desperate for answers, updates, and how everything was going to affect them personally. But it’s very easy to cross that line into communication overload. I’ve always found it helpful to put myself in the shoes of people on the receiving end of the communication:
- Does this make sense?
- Is it jargon-heavy?
- Is it clear where they can get more information or ask questions?
- Would I want to receive this?
- Does it leave me with more questions than answers?
- Knowing all the other communications and messages they’re receiving, is this going to be overwhelming?
And then it’s key to come back to your internal communication audit (we recommend doing these annually by the way). The audit process helps you hone in on the big picture questions: Who has access to what channels? Where might the gaps be in my communication strategy? And then take it further by determining: What way do my employees want to receive messages like updates on COVID-19, changes to the business, and daily operations? Who do they want to hear them from?
4. Talk about mental health and make it a priority.
We need to stop tip-toeing around talking about mental health. Mental health is not just about people with anxiety disorders, depression, or anything diagnosed by a psychologist/psychiatrist. Mental health just refers to a person’s psychological and emotional well-being. And like physical well-being, it should be taken seriously. But 80% of those who are struggling with their mental health don’t feel comfortable seeking help or talking about it (Inspire HR), so it’s up to comms and HR professionals to normalize having these conversations and making help accessible.
This can be as simple as starting a Wellness Wednesday series where you talk about all forms of wellness (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, etc.). You could share articles and resources, hotlines to call for those who are struggling. You can make structural changes by including more mental health support in your benefits. But the easiest place to start making meaningful change in this regard today is to actually address it. Say, “we know this year has been so hard and we all handle that differently. We’re here for you. We get it and we want to talk about it.” Acknowledging any important issue is the first step to employees feeling like they can also speak up.
5. Let your employees know they are appreciated.
This comes in two parts. The first is to not lose sight of the stars in your organization with everything going on. Those employees who continue to go above and beyond at work and in their communities need to be recognized. We need to celebrate the wins and change the conversation to positivity whenever possible. It might be time to rethink your employee recognition program and consider how those employees should be celebrated. It’s probably not a cake in the lunchroom anymore, but maybe a donation to a local food bank in the employees name or to a charity of their choice.
But the second part of this is to go beyond praise and invest in educating and developing them. This is everything from letting them know what great benefits are available to them, creating virtual training where in-person development opportunities have diminished and ensuring they know that you care about their future with the company. Nothing revives an employee more than feeling valued and like their development is a priority.
No matter what you do to combat burnout at your organization, please make sure you don’t leave out your deskless workers. If you can’t currently directly reach this audience at your organization, we can help. Schedule a demo to learn more.
You may also be interested in: