Burnout: A Big Risk for Businesses in 2021 (And the Way to Beat It)

Carolyne Njeri

Burnout: A Big Risk for Businesses in 2021 (And How to Beat It)
An occupational phenomenon with far-reaching consequences, burnout has a huge – seemingly invisible – impact on businesses that not many CEOs are aware of.

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In the age of remote work, more people are allowed to operate from the comfort of their homes – while enjoying more flexibility – than ever before. And while it has been mostly successful, there has been growing concern over burnout caused by the distortion of work-life balance as a result of working remotely. 

Since most businesses didn’t have remote work protocols in place before the pandemic, their adoption of out-of-office work has been jerky for the most part, bringing about the dark side of remote work alongside its perks. Even now, almost 2 years later, some haven’t really gotten a hang of it. And with life being as stressful as it is now- death tolls rising and new Coronavirus strains coming up faster than we can keep up- it is no wonder that the rate of burnout has gone up among employees. 

Why is Burnout a Threat to Your Business?

According to this survey, 52% of employees say they feel burnt out. Many claim that working remotely has blurred the lines between their professional and personal life, as a result of more hours spent working. But this doesn’t necessarily mean increased productivity; one of the biggest indicators of burnout is a lack of focus and sustained disinterest in assigned duties. It’s also been known to cause drug addiction, absenteeism, reduced employee-retention and a slough in morale. That’s not the worst of it though. Burnout, if ignored, can have far-reaching consequences, even as severe as death. In fact, the situation has become so dire that the World Health Organization reported that over 700,000 people died due to stroke and heart diseases linked to working long hours.

Despite the pandemic bringing burnout to the limelight in recent times, it has been plaguing the modern workplace for years on end. And it’s not just employees- entrepreneurs are at the highest risk of developing burnout. According to the Harvard Business Review, 50% of entrepreneurs will experience burnout at one point in their lives. This can result in alienation from employees and associates, physical discomfort (insomnia, headaches, chills, chest pains, digestive issues, etc), procrastination and a total disinterest in work. Eventually there’ll be a decline in profits, decreased confidence in decision making, and in the worst case the business may go under.

So as a business owner, working to reduce the level of burnout in your company can not only bring about increased productivity (and income), it can also be a lifeline to struggling employees. This is why notable brands like LinkedIn, Mozilla, Marriott International and Nike have started giving their employees a full week off to relax. What’s more, employees are now sensitive to employers that take mental health seriously. This survey conducted by the Conference Board found out that 60% of job seekers and employees are concerned about stress and burnout in the workplace. They are not interested in working where profits are prioritized over their well-being.

How Do You Keep Burnout at Bay? 

If you haven’t been paying attention to burnout and mental health in the past, and you’re trying to deal with it now, crisis management is a welcome solution. But ideally, you want to have a system in place that can ward off the big B round the clock. According to Forbes, mental health prioritization shouldn’t just be a perk aimed at slowing down turnover. If done right, it could have a positive impact on the entire business ecosystem. This is why a long-term solution should be at the top of your list if you want to create a healthy work environment for yourself and your employees.

Here’s how:

  • Slow Down on the Meetings

Have you heard of Zoom fatigue? If you haven’t, you need to know that it’s a real issue and it’s possibly one of the biggest triggers of burnout in 2021. This HBS and NYU study showed that since the pandemic, the number and size of meetings has increased by an average 13%. Since people are working remotely, and collaboration tools such as Meet, Teams and Zoom are the tip of our fingers, it is understandable that employers feel the need to constantly keep in touch with employees, whether for supervision, discussion or instruction. The truth is however, that these meetings are chronic time-consumers. They also greatly contribute to exhaustion as they tend to drag on longer than they should.

So the next time you want to hold a meeting, ask yourself, “Can this be said in an email instead?” Also, have an elaborate schedule and agenda for any meetings you plan to hold. This way, each party knows when they’re expected to be present for a call, and what is to be discussed so the meeting starts and ends promptly.

  • Define Clear Communication Rules

The pandemic has changed a lot of things. Some people have become full-time caregivers, others are worried about medical bills, job security, etc. Piling on work stress on top of this may send your employees over the edge. But this can easily be remedied through healthy boundaries and proper communication. For instance, when you delegate tasks, be sure to let the employee know when you expect them to deliver an output. But don’t be so rigid; be open to hearing your employees’ reasons if they aren’t able to meet your expectations.

Also, set boundaries about work-talk after hours.  According to a survey over 44% of employees never switch off from work, and this can be attributed to receiving work correspondence even after work hours have elapsed. The result of this is a blurred work-life balance that eventually causes burnout. This is why you should avoid sending emails outside work hours or over the weekend and encourage your employees to switch off work-related apps when the work day ends.

  • Check Up on Your Employees Regularly

When you notice an employee slacking, instead of lashing out, reach out to them to find out what the problem may be and offer a solution when you can. If you run a large company and can’t have a one-on-one with your entire staff, encourage your managers to constantly check whether your employees are in their right mental and physical health. 

Another solution can be to divide deliverables into bite-sized tasks that can be completed easily. Giving your employees huge chunks of work at once mounts undue pressure on them that could tamper with their wellbeing. Also, encourage employees to take regular breaks and use their vacation/sick days to unwind. Organizing out-door team building exercises, company picnics or excursions (while adhering to Covid protocols, of course) can also be a good way to get your employees out of their houses to distress.

In these unprecedented times, when our mental and physical health are being taxed constantly, compassion goes a long way.

  • Hire Freelancers

Show us one staffing issue that can’t be solved by outsourcing- there’s probably none. Where hiring freelancers in the past was seen as a luxury, it has become a necessity. Increased workloads, stricter schedules, thinned workforce are some of the reasons why most companies are hiring (and thriving) with freelancers. 

When employees are overwhelmed by work, to the extent they can’t perform or caving under pressure, the wise thing to do is to bring in experts to ease their load and restore balance to your business. But don’t rely on them only when you’re in crisis. Businesses that have been hiring freelancers consistently have been reporting increased productivity and profits

We at Ureed.com are committed to connecting you with the best talent across the board to meet your needs every time. Don’t hesitate to make freelancers a part of your workforce to reduce the risks of burnout to your employees – contact us today to learn more.

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