2021 was a big year for everyone—a very big year. With the pandemic in full swing, we were all forced to deal with the never-ending deluge of personal and professional challenges associated with it. As a result, in 2022, many of us are tired, burned out, languishing, and looking to switch jobs as a way out.
In November 2021, 3% of the US workforce quit their jobs, setting a record of nearly eight months of record resignations. Often dubbed the “Great Resignation,” it’s not just about workers quitting their jobs. It’s also about workers focussing more on what they want in life rather than being defined by their work. Part of that is looking for more meaningful work, more flexibility, better pay, childcare options, and in some cases, safer working conditions.
Another catalyst for change has been the forced switch to remote working. Suddenly work is about back-to-back video calls with little to no social interactions with other team members. For many, it was intense, boring, and seemingly endless. Many workers have burned out in the process and are rethinking their relationship to work. Many see resigning as the only way forward.
Is burnout to blame?
According to the World Health Organization, employees are burned out, exhausted, or mentally depleted. They’re mentally distanced from their jobs and increasingly less productive. Over time, this decline in productivity can lead to resentment, cynicism, increased sick days, and higher turnover.
Unfortunately, it’s a growing problem. The Wall Street Journal recently pointed out how big the burnout problem is in the US. They cited a survey by the Conference Board, which found more than three-quarters of workers surveyed cited concerns such as stress and burnout, up 55% from six months earlier. And that this year, 16% of US workers said they put in more than 60 hours a week, up from 12% in 2011.
And while burnout is not a new phenomenon, working from home has likely exacerbated these feelings. Gallup Research found the main contributors to employee burnout are unfair treatment at work, an unmanageable workload, unclear communication, lack of manager support, and unreasonable time pressure. All of these issues can become harder to manage in a virtual environment. In addition, the intensity of long hours, back-to-back Zoom calls, and constant Teams messages coupled with home-schooling and personal health challenges mean workers have become disenchanted with their work life.
Curbing Burnout & Slowing Turnover
While there are a lot of aspects of day-to-day life we can change to try and curb the feelings of being overwhelmed or burned out, it’s hard to do it. We can sleep more, find a hobby, take a day off, or turn off our social media accounts. But what we need is for our companies and our managers to better manage our workloads and give us breaks when we need them. And then let us know it’s ok to take more.
Fortunately, some companies are trying to break the burnout cycle. Last year, Bumble gave everyone a week off to “shut off and focus on themselves for a week,” whereas Bolt piloted and permanently switched to a four-day workweek. Other companies are taking smaller steps. They’re implementing policies that focus on reducing day-to-day work pressures, offering fun team-building activities, implementing blackout communication hours, and encouraging more structured communication and 1:1s between managers and team members.
But workers want even more. PWC’s Future of Work Survey showed that employees are looking for the flexibility and benefits they gained during the pandemic. Nearly half (44%) of employees wanted to work remotely at least three days a week, and many said they would leave a job if they could not keep that flexibility. Respondents also said they want other perks, such as access to mental health resources and more support to better support their children in their times of need.
It’s a lot, but if companies don’t start to rethink their culture and relationship with employees, they’re sure to lose more key team members. Because when one leaves, there’s likely to be more.
As we move into this new ‘normal’ post-pandemic life, here are a few ideas on avoiding employee burnout and improving workplace culture. Of course, it can take months or even years to change a culture; however, even just a few steps in the right direction may help reduce the prevalence of burnout and encourage your team members to stick around for another year!
1. Promote Work-Life Balance
Give employees flexibility in their schedule to allow for commitments outside of work like a hobby, picking up their kids from school, or furthering education. You can also offer ways for employees to balance out the stress and pressure of work. It could be through a weekly scheduled yoga or meditation class, a subscription to a meditation app like Calm or Headspace, or even designing the office to be a little calmer and more inviting. You can also actively promote mental health days or bring in guest facilitators who can help share tips and tricks for finding a work-life balance that works for each person.
2. Organize Some Fun Team Building Events
Whether your team is working in person or virtually, it’s worth taking some time out for some fun team-building events. They’re a great excuse for everyone to get away from their work and engage with each other on a more personal level. These activities or events can be as simple as an icebreaker before a meeting or, more complete, an interactive chocolate workshop. With tinyB Chocolate, you can host a chocolate experience that is all-inclusive, easy, hands-on, and sure to create a memorable experience that everyone will talk about for months!
3. Manage Employee Workloads
Make sure you’re taking the time to understand what your team is working on, what’s consuming the most time, and what, if any, roadblocks you can remove. Employees should never be tasked with unreasonable workloads or hours. While work volumes may increase around deadlines, we cannot expect employees to sustain heavy workloads for extended periods of time. If they need to, then it’s likely you need extra resources.
4. Encourage Time Off
Taking days off has never been more critical; however, many workers struggle to ask for time off. They struggle because they often fear the work they’ll return to, that they’ll be seen as replaceable, or their company culture discourages vacation. Instead, managers should encourage employees to use all of their allotted vacation time and let them know it’s essential for their mental health and wellbeing because employees who take time off are often healthier and more productive.