Burnout is recognized by the World Health Organization as a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. A complete loss of motivation and augmented self-doubt along with a negative outlook eventually leads to fatigue, stress, depression, and anxiety, and may even prove to be lethal. With increasing competition in every industry, stress levels are skyhigh and the pandemic has worsened the situation.
Employee burnout is on the rise. There was a 9% (Indeed) increase in the overall worker statistics during the pandemic, resulting in a total of 52%. The pandemic has affected us in more than just one way. About 80% (Forbes) of the workers believe that COVID-19 has caused them to be burnt out completely whereas 67% (Forbes) say that the pandemic has just worsened their situation. During 2020-21, work from home blurred the line between working hours and personal time and weekends and weekdays. It was challenging for many to balance isolation, homeschooling kids and doing household chores, not to mention the anxiety of dealing with a pandemic. Roughly 1 in 4 working parents is experiencing burnout, according to a survey of nearly 500,000 workers conducted by Maven, a virtual clinic for women’s and family health, and Great Place to Work, a global firm that researches workplace culture.With digital fatigue taking a toll on both the physical and mental health of employees, leaders around the globe are taking special measures to keep their workers’ mental stability intact.
A wake-up call for CxOs
Burnout is also fueling the Great Resignation, spelling trouble for employers as burned-out workers are more than twice as likely to quit their job. To address the dire need for employee wellbeing, companies require perceptive leaders who are willing to listen to their team members and medical professionals.
Realizing the gravity of employee burnout, a few companies are taking big steps to mitigate work stress. To relieve employees from protracted Zoom meetings, LinkedIn offered a paid week off to 15,900 of its full-time workers. Employees will also have the ability to work flexibly up to 50% of the time.Google gave its employees a day off in September for “collective being” to deal with burnout. Facebook allowed workers to take the entire week of Thanksgiving off. Semiconductor major AMD announced a ‘Summer Recharge Program’ encouraging additional day-offs over several long weekends. Lenovo India also revised its workplace guidelines to include mandatory leaves (five days) every quarter to unwind; and brought in a policy of no meeting post 6.30 pm; no meetings at 1-2 pm, which shall be a mandatory lunch break, and one no-meeting day till 2 pm every week. Many companies have expanded access to online mental health resources or coached employees on how to better support workers dealing with pandemic-related stress.
Physical offices aren’t obsolete!
In 2020, almost overnight, organizations were forced to shut their offices and switch to work from home models. However, while working from home may continue, it would be unwise to declare the traditional office extinct. Even in the post-COVID era,office space is extremely important to maintain a social work culture so that the employees and employers of the company can work collectively as a team.
More than three-quarters of C-suite executives recently surveyed by McKinsey report that they expected the typical “core” employee to be back in the office three or more days a week. While they realize that the great work-from-home experiment was surprisingly effective, they also believe that it hurt organizational culture and belonging. In stark contrast, nearly three-quarters of around 5,000 employees McKinsey queried globally would like to work from home for two or more days per week, and more than half want at least three days of remote work. But many also report that working from home through the stress of the pandemic has driven fatigue, difficulty in disconnecting from work, deterioration of their social networks, and weakening of their sense of belonging.
Office space shapes company culture and boosts collaboration. Thus, offices are more beneficial than one may think. A physical office, where employees work together under the same roof, is a natural facilitator of collaboration. Communication is also more efficient in person. Businesses should keep their office space but offer hybrid work. Extensive data across surveys suggest that most employees want hybrid work arrangements — that is, a mix of in-person and remote work. Employees who need peace and quiet to focus or who thrive in an office setting should be given the choice to choose the workplace. When planned mindfully and strategically, the hybrid work model can take an organization to a new level of productivity and creativity.
Let’s lead thoughtfully
The need of the hour is to find solutions that take into account our whole selves and not just the professional persona. This means proactively creating a forum for people to voice their need for a break; creating a safe space to discuss challenges and constraints, both personal and professional;allowing and accepting failure; and creating a platform for the human connection at work. These are important ways to create a community and build an institution. These are holistic, flexible and sustainable initiatives that will lead, hopefully, to a cohesive and creative culture.
I am a staunch believer of the impact of culture on the long-term success of an organization and valuing a team’s physical and mental well-being. In this context, the future of work will be around creating a culture of respect, collaboration and compassion.We are more likely to witness a hybrid work model, additional wellbeing breaks, and the need for a supportive and caring work environment which can help retain employees and attract new talent.