by Mark Marone  |  April 28, 2021

  • Mental and emotional stress are taking a toll on employees and leading to burnout which reduces employee engagement.
  • Managers and executives can take steps to protect workers’ wellbeing by encouraging time off, giving them a space to express their needs, and changing company culture and benefits.

Burnout and stress are affecting 75% of workers—more than ever before—and experts suggest mental health will continue to decline until a new sense of normalcy appears. Companies must form strategies to ensure the mental and emotional needs of their employees are being met.

Workplace Burnout and Stress Are Affecting Employee Engagement

In a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 45% of Americans agreed that the global pandemic has harmed their mental health with an additional 19% saying it is having a “major impact.” SHRM research says 22% of employees report often having trouble concentrating on work tasks and 35% of employees report having reduced energy. When a few tired days become chronic stress and exhaustion, burnout has set in and employees disconnect from their work.

It’s estimated that depression and anxiety lead to over $1 trillion globally in lost annual revenue due to productivity loss and the corresponding decline of employees’ physical health. But it goes beyond productivity. Burnout and mental health strain affect employee retention rates. Up to 80% of workers say they would leave their current job for a company that focuses more on their mental wellbeing. If companies don’t start concentrating more on workers’ mental health, they may find themselves looking for new workers.

Strategies for Protecting Well-Being in the Workplace

When workers are stressed, anxious, or depressed, their engagement at work declines. It’s important for managers and executives to take steps toward better mental and emotional health in the workplace. Consider these options:

  • Keep the workday at work. Workers today feel increasingly pressured to answer business messages and emails outside of work hours. Use email scheduling tools to automatically send correspondence in the morning when work begins and help employees put “Do Not Disturb” hours on their messaging apps. Switching to asynchronous communications when possible can reduce burnout and increase productivity considering workers spend up to 80% of their day answering emails and messages.
  • Encourage using PTO. Make sure employees are taking their vacation days, as time off is the number one tool to fight burnout. Many employees put off restorative vacations (or staycations) for fear of appearing uncommitted or falling behind, yet their lack of time off results in lowered efficiency, productivity, and engagement. If necessary, mandate it like LinkedIn did with a company-wide week off in April 2021.
  • Give them a space to express their needs. Employees are going through a lot and they need a space where they can feel safe expressing their frustrations or asking for help. These psychologically safe spaces foster conversation and engagement between employees and managers. Make it a point to create these spaces. Managers can also connect one-on-one with workers and ask what support that person might need to help combat burnout.
  • Add flexibility to routine. Presenteeism—the tendency of workers to be present, but not when they can do their best work—leads to lost productivity and revenue. Adding flexibility with work from home and hybrid workplace options will allow employees the freedom to work in a way that’s best for them. Flexible working hours are also a great way to provide mental health support and ensure employees are doing their best.
  • Evaluate company culture and policies. Without managing the stress behind burnout, employees will not become reengaged. In a Willis Towers Watson report, 47% of companies surveyed say they will enhance health benefits, 45% are increasing mental health support, and 33% have plans to make changes to vacation and PTO policies. Managers and executives can support employees with changes to company expectations and benefits.
  • Practice empathy. It may sound simple but practicing empathy—the act of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes—can be a huge step in reducing burnout within employees. Up to 76% of employees say more empathy from managers and executives will drive better productivity, and up to 93% of CEOs say they need to practice more empathy to address the wellbeing of employees.

Supported Employees Are More Engaged Employees

Deloitte analysis in the UK showed that for every £1 (about $1.40 USD) spent on mental health services, an employer could expect £5 (about $6.90 USD) in returns. Robust mental health programs benefit workers by protecting their physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. This in turn reduces presenteeism, absenteeism, and turnover.

As managers and executives, we can help foster a low-stress environment in which employees can function at their best without feeling overwhelmed or burnt out. From encouraging workers take time off to changing corporate culture and policies, employees need support to combat burnout and remain engaged at work.

Check out our blogs and training programs to learn more about engaging workers for success.

Written By

Mark Marone

Mark Marone, PhD. is the director of research and thought leadership for Dale Carnegie and Associates where he is responsible for ongoing research into current issues facing leaders, employees and organizations world-wide. He publishes frequently on various topics including leadership, the employee/customer experience and sales. Mark can be reached at mark.marone@dalecarnegie.com.

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