Archived Insight | May 7, 2020

Dealing With Employee Burnout? Here’s How to Help.

The COVID-19 health emergency is taking a toll on workers’ emotional health when many were already experiencing burnout. Burnout – feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and physically exhausted – is on the rise. Worries about the virus and its risks are increasing anxiety, stress, and depression. Organizations dealing with employee burnout can help their people cope by promoting mental health and offering support.

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Nearly half of workers say they are burned out

Quarantines and stay-at-home orders are contributing to increased burnout. Nearly half (45%) of workers polled in early April said they are burned out. One in four of those workers attribute feelings of burnout to the pandemic. Quarantine, in particular, is associated with insomnia, stress, and anxiety, according to a study in The Lancet published in March. 

Working parents, who make up about one-third of the U.S. workforce, are having an especially tough time. The Lancet study found higher rates of mental health issues among parents quarantined with children. Working parents face new pressures as they attempt to juggle work, self-care, and homeschooling their children without support. Women, who typically put in more hours caregiving and managing households, are also more likely to experience burnout.

Burnout’s high costs

An organization filled with a burned-out workforce will suffer high penalties. Employees on the verge of a breakdown tend to use more healthcare services. According to one 2015 study from the Harvard Business School, annual healthcare costs associated with work-related stress range from $125 billion to $190 billion and account for 5% to 8% of national health spending. Burned-out employees are also more likely to be disengaged from their work — sometimes completely. A 2017 Kronos survey of HR leaders found nearly half believe employee burnout accounts for up to half of their annual turnover. 

Mindfulness and meditation help when dealing with employee burnout

Meditation and mindfulness training can help individuals build skills to manage stress, improve focus, and support emotional intelligence. The practice encourages employees to stay present in the moment and focus on one task at a time instead of multitasking. 

A 2014 study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found one online mindfulness program successfully lowered employee stress, improved resiliency, and enhanced overall well-being. 

Beyond monitoring employee workloads and encouraging them to unplug from time to time, organizations can take other actions to help reduce burnout. Providing access to virtual yoga and other fitness classes, attention training, and courses to build self-knowledge and mindful mental habits all help reduce the burden on employees. Remote lunches and video one-on-ones can also promote understanding and compassion.

Supporting health and well-being

Mindfulness and meditation can be a great start to dealing with employee burnout. But a comprehensive wellness strategy focuses on the whole person, including physical, mental and financial health and security. Programs that support a healthier, happier and more engaged workforce can translate into lower turnover, fewer sick days and reduced stress. Both the workers and the organization win. 

In addition, family-friendly policies can provide needed support for working parents and other caregivers struggling to manage work and personal responsibilities. Policies and benefits may include: 

  • Paid parental leave 
  • Paid sick leave
  • Childcare benefits
  • Eldercare benefits
  • Flexible work arrangements 
  • Guidance on seeking medical support
  • Access to resources to cope with stress

Implementing a successful program requires planning and communication. Supporting workers early on with empathy and compassion can help relieve burnout and provide needed care. We can help you make smart investments in your people. Embedding health and well-being programs into the culture can set your organization up for long-term success.

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This page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax or investment advice. You are encouraged to discuss the issues raised here with your legal, tax and other advisors before determining how the issues apply to your specific situations.