COVID-19 changed many employees’ work routines, both in positive and negative ways.
As a result of long-term remote working, many companies are considering introducing hybrid working models, giving staff the option of combining working from home with going into the office.
However, hybrid working could also have a significant impact on employee mental health with many reporting symptoms of ‘hybrid burnout’.
Burnout is defined as a phenomenon ‘resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.’ In 2020 it became a recognized condition by the WHO.
Hybrid burnout is the result of juggling long hours working from home with commutes to offices, which can not only be physically exhausting but also take a considerable toll on employee stress levels.
But what can businesses do to help employees manage the physical and mental health implications of a hybrid working environment?
1. Recognize the signs
Individuals in management should become aware of the signs and symptoms caused by hybrid burnout, as well as what they can do to prevent or respond to it.
Staff may become fatigued, forgetful, and struggle to concentrate, with so much going on around them. Early on, this may make people feel worried, irritable, on edge, or tense.
Further down the line, this anxiety – caused by juggling multiple work environments- may become so severe that it affects professionals’ ability to work productively (or at all).
There are also potential physical symptoms to consider, like heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, and headaches.
2. Assess company culture
A Gallup study revealed the main causes of burnout are not the nature of the work itself, rather, how a person is treated and managed while they are working.
Consider how different leadership approaches might impact employees. For example, behaviors like bias or unfair corporate policies can cause stress and lead to overworking, with staff feeling a need to ‘prove their worth’.
Make certain that healthy work behaviors are modeled from the top. Help employees understand their value to the company and their contributions to the organization’s goals. Employees feel more valued, and display more motivation in the workplace if, and when, they understand their exact role in the greater purpose.
Take a few minutes each week to update employees on company news and how your team’s actions are contributing to the company’s overall success.
Also, make time to tell staff specifically what you value about their contributions. Try to build this into your regular routines, perhaps by starting your team meetings with shout-outs acknowledging the accomplishments of individual team members.
3. Encourage conversations
As well as ensuring all staff feels appreciated and comfortable in their roles, managers need to ensure they demonstrate to their teams that the business has an open, supportive and welcoming approach when staff are distressed or finding it difficult to cope.
Employees need to feel conversations about difficulties surrounding work are both welcomed and expected.
This requires employers to feel empowered to enable better conversations about mental health in the workplace. At Nuffield Health, we introduced Emotional Literacy training for all staff.
92 percent of whom took the training stated they felt able to support a colleague in distress. Initiatives like this build an open community, and a common language, encouraging more people to say “I’m not OK” and ask others “Are you OK?”.
Employees should also be signposted to any other designated people, like, mental health champions for additional support.
4. Communicate set policies
It’s important company policies that promote good work/life balance are widely communicated. With hybrid working, this means using multiple channels to ensure you reach all employees, whether it’s through company social media platforms, emails, or even by text alerts.
Actively nurturing and promoting reasonable work hours, including, if necessary, encouraging employees to go home, when in the office late, or messaging them to ‘go offline’, at the end of their regular workday if you recognize a pattern of unhealthy overworking.
Help assess workloads for those who feel pressured to remain working beyond normal business hours and let them know there is always support available and additional resources to help them manage mounting projects or multiple deadlines.
Sometimes employees simply don’t realize these are things they are welcome to ask for.
5. Provide professional emotional wellbeing support
A recent Nuffield Health whitepaper revealed spending more than 2.5 days a week working away from the office can be associated with deterioration in co-worker relationships and job satisfaction.
For those having difficulty with the balance between remote and office life, consider introducing professional wellbeing support like Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) and timely access to effective psychological therapy (such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy).
These interventions can be delivered remotely or face to face and give individuals access to a specialist who can help them understand and break unhelpful thinking patterns and “what if” thinking that may exacerbate stress and burnout in uncertain times.
By Gosia Bowling, National Lead for Emotional Wellbeing, Nuffield Health.
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COVID-19 changed many employees’ work routines, both in positive and negative ways.
Burnout is no joke. It’s an extreme state of exhaustion that can manifest as demotivation, anxiety/stress or feeling overwhelmed. Unsurprisingly, the rates of burnout have risen exponentially since the beginning of the pandemic. In fact, web searches for the phrase ‘signs of burnout’ were up 150% in 2020 from previous years, as many workers felt extra pressure to perform to help their companies navigate through the pandemic.
Like in many industries, working in recruitment has had its challenges over the past 14 months. At the beginning of the pandemic, many recruiters found it difficult to get in touch with clients as they swapped their offices for home working and put many roles on hold overnight. Alongside this, candidates felt either disheartened while job hunting or stuck in their current roles as they didn’t want to risk moving to a new role due to the economic downturn.
Now, as the market across many sectors rebounds and new roles are being called into agencies, it may be a difficult (and tiring) transition for many consultants as they try to keep up with demand. If you find yourself in this position, you’re not alone! Below, we’ve outlined four key actions you can take to protect your mental energy and prevent burnout over the coming months.
Recognize your personal cues
While chatting to Lead Consultant for Tiger HR, Aseel Ibrahim, on our Tiger HR Tales podcast, Tracey Carlton from BLME said it perfectly: “it’s so important to be kind to ourselves, and allow ourselves to just have those moments”. Part of this is educating yourself on your personal cues that indicate something isn’t right. Maybe you’re not sleeping very well, or you’re skipping the daily walk you usually look forward to. We recommend letting those around you know what they should look out for if you believe you’re in danger of becoming burnt out, as they may be able to pick up on these things before you do.
Stand up and say “I’m not OK”
Remember: you can only manage so much. We’re all still dealing with the effects of the pandemic, and so it’s normal to feel unmotivated or overwhelmed at times. If, however, you think you’re at the point of burning out, you need to speak to your manager. By reaching out and asking them to re-prioritize your workload, you can get your to-do list back under control. In these situations, taking a step back and assessing where you need help is essential.
Draw a line around your boundaries
As teams continue to work remotely or partially remotely, over-communication is key. This is also the case when it comes to your boundaries. At the very least, you should let your team know when you’re finishing up for the day and when you’re taking your lunch break. If you need to take a few hours out to finish paperwork or work with minimal distractions, block that time out in your diary and protect it like you would a meeting with a client. These healthy behaviors will demonstrate to your team the importance of separating work from home time, which in turn should help prevent overworking.
Build a support network
Whether it’s your desk buddy or your best friend, having at least one person you can offload your thoughts and feelings to is so important when dealing with difficult situations. Organizing regular catch-ups with your support network is essential to check in with how you’re feeling. It could be something as simple as a five-minute chat at the end of the week, or a monthly get-together over drinks. Whoever you choose, you need to give that person the permission they need to step in if they see you displaying negative behaviors. This way, they can act as a sounding board for potential strategies for coping and can get you through even the most severe bouts of burnout.
As recruiters, we often experience times of extreme pressure. We may have to work long hours or become stressed when preparing shortlists for several different clients at once. However, when it comes to feeling burnt out, you need to act quickly in order to prevent yourself from becoming sick or unable to function. By taking steps to prevent the cause, you should be able to overcome burnout and promote healthier ways to manage your mental health and wellbeing.
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