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How to protect against worker burnout during coronavirus

For businesses, the Coronavirus pandemic created a sudden need for crisis management. As the pandemic changes and, for the moment, stays with us, the challenge for businesses changes too. The question is how to protect against worker burnout?

What is worker burnout?

Burnout is a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress. Staff become exhausted, cynical and have feelings of reduced professional ability.

According to a 2018 report by Gallup, lack of communication and support from a manager is one of the main causes of worker burnout. Employees who feel strongly supported by their manager are 70 percent less likely to experience burnout on a regular basis.

The additional stress that coronavirus has brought us, can affect our energy levels. While this alone doesn’t equal worker burnout, it’s worth understanding how staff may be feeling. Research from Actus suggests that 84% of employees it polled said they suffered with fluctuating energy levels throughout lockdown. Making sure employees are doing OK, and checking if they need anything to help, will go some way to provide extra support.

There’s a danger that, with the shift toward semi-permanent remote work, people’s work/life balance will get distorted. When you spend 23 hours a day in the same place, the idea of taking holiday time to spend even more of those hours at home might feel pointless.

Home working can certainly work well though. It’s down to the individual, and with some adjustment, a new work and home life schedule can be created.

Putting people first

In times of uncertainty and crisis, simply keeping a business afloat is the focus. However, don’t forget to always put people over the job. This is a crisis that isn’t just affecting the economy. It’s affecting everyone and as an employer, you have a role in making sure people feel supported. So, how to protect against worker burnout.

How do you put staff first?

Enforce breaks Even if you’re not in the same building, remind your staff that they should take time away from the screen. Encourage them to get fresh air and take a walk. In fact, it might seem like a small request but encouraging your staff to take regular breaks in 2020 is one way to prevent burnout.

Make sure people are taking holidays – Many holidays have been cancelled, but encourage staff to still take the time off. Even if they’re not able to go where they’d like, time away from work to recharge is important to protect against worker burnout.

Set reasonable expectations over working hours – It can be easy to start work earlier because you’re not sitting on a motorway in a queue of traffic for your commute. Make sure your staff (and you) remember that starting work earlier is fine providing you finish earlier too.

Look after physical wellbeing – While some people already work from home, others have been thrust into it overnight. In an office environment, people have a proper desk, a suitable chair, and the other equipment needed to make us comfortable. Are you offering guidance to staff about their at-home workstation? Musculoskeletal issues, such as back pain and injuries, cost UK plc’s nearly 7 million working days a year. Are you covering the cost of chairs, and extra screens?

Open communication channels – It might feel to staff that they are being forgotten as they work from home. Make sure you offer your people the chance to voice any concerns they have. Encourage staff to be open and honest and the challenges they’re facing. Ask them what they need and how you could help.

Some people may flourish working from home

Another important thing to remember is that not everyone likes separating work and home. Some people don’t miss the commute or the office banter! Taking time to understand your staff and what they need is important.

One size definitely doesn’t fit all. While some people are desperate to get back into the office, others may be putting in requests to work from home more often. If employees are working from home, don’t forget to speak to your accountant about the possible tax payments and credits.

Are there financial implications of worker burnout?

In 2019, there were 12.8 million working days lost in the UK to depression, anxiety and stress. The science shows that while worker burnout isn’t a registered mental health condition, but it can lead to one of the above.

Investing in your people shouldn’t be underestimated. Things to consider are:

  • Private medical insurance, including mental health support
  • Telephone doctor support
  • Professional guidance around workstations (office and at home)
  • Mental Health First Aider training

Before making any investments, pay a visit to your accountant. They will be able to advise you on any tax, payroll or legal implications.

As a business owner, now is the time to move to long-term strategy to manage the affects of the COVID pandemic.

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Avatar for Liz Cordell
About Liz Cordell

I’m an experienced copywriter, with a great attention to detail. Having previously held positions at a global publisher, a top 100 law firm and a Big Four professional services firm, I now work with clients across a range of industries. Whether it’s new content for a website or creating interesting blogs for my clients, I can create engaging copy that doesn’t take a lifetime to read.

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