Could burnout at work be the next pandemic
Burnout

Could burnout at work be the next pandemic?

Regardless of how you look at it, burnout is bad for business and so companies need to find a solution to motivate and keep their employees happy.

30 September 2021

It took me a while to get used to working from home. For most of my career I've taken great pride in dressing well, commuting and arriving at the office on time and being ready to go. It gets you into the mood for work and it certainly helps maintain your productivity. Prior to the pandemic I would never have even considered working from home. But then, just like all of us, I was forced to.

I'm glad I was because it opened my eyes to a new style of working. It showed me possibilities that even as a recruiter, I never really truly appreciated. Having the flexibility to do food shopping during the week or go out for a walk was hugely beneficial. And, to my surprise working from home did not impact my productivity.

But despite the benefits, there are some drawbacks. One of the things I missed was socialising face-to-face with my colleagues. A simple act like crossing the road to have a coffee with someone at work suddenly became impossible.

For those without families, remote working can actually feel quite lonely.

Flexible working has its limits

Ironically, what many of us found was that with work and home life merging into one another, we were actually working more. Subsequently, many of us felt stressed. This is why burnout could be the new workers pandemic.

A very interesting survey conducted by the Adecco group showed that mental health is worsening, while working hours have increased by 14% since 2020. This time-period also coincides with the pandemic.

Overall, 63% of all workers reported that they now work more than 40 hours per week. The most affected appear to be younger workers with more than half (54%) reporting that they are now experiencing burnout. This worries me because this is the same generation who will be responsible for the future success of the companies they work for.

More generally and this is not specific to remote working, there is a general feeling that mental health issues in the workplace are worsening. 51% of managers admitted that they found it difficult to identify when staff might be struggling from overwork or burnout. 71% of workers also stated that having the right support for mental health at work will become important to them in the future.

Employee wellness will be crucial to a company’s success

Burnout doesn't just come from working too many hours – it grows when workers feel that there is a lack of meaning in the work they are doing. The loss of excitement and vigour that should come with work can disappear, especially if employees feel disconnected from each other. Anxiety is also another major factor that can contribute to burnout. It can also cause workers to lose interest and motivation.

Regardless of how you look at it, burnout is bad for business and so companies need to find a solution to motivate and keep their employees happy.

Here are some suggestions for how companies can promote a greater sense of well-being

  1. Take employees on a journey: Organise non-work outdoor events such as a hike in the mountains to help foster teambuilding and a sense of comradery
  2. Encourage exercise: Offer discounted gym memberships and allowances for exercise equipment to help promote good mental health through physical activity.
  3. Involve staff in dialogue and decision-making: Let employees in when it comes to big decisions that will affect the company. Companies are more likely to succeed with its employees, if they are kept well informed about the changes that might be coming. It gives them a sense of inclusion and shows that the company respects them and their opinions.
  4. Develop a culture of openness: this is easier said than done, but if successful employees will not feel afraid to express how they feel about how the company is doing.
  5. Offer learning and development courses: By offering training, employees are given a purpose which can be incredibly powerful. Training can also provide a welcome distraction away from work and provide an environment where employees feel like they are investing in themselves.

Burnout could well be the next workers pandemic, but companies can protect their employees and it is essential that they do.

As we enter this new fast-paced technological world, the chances of burnout will increase and the stresses placed upon employees will grow significantly. It’s therefore important that a company has a policy in place to promote wellness among employees.

If they do, the burnout pandemic may never appear on their company doorstep.

Luca Semeraro

Head of Badenoch & Clark
Zurich, Switzerland

Follow Luca on LinkedIn