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Are Employees at Peak Burnout?

It’s the feeling of being drained but unable to recharge, the frustration of a tiring routine, the everyday distress in response to the current state of the world—employee burnout is now more widespread and universal than ever.

As the pandemic endures and its effects trickle down, many are struggling to keep up with workplace demands, longer hours, and remote work conditions. Once attributed mainly to millennials, burnout refers to the experience of chronic workplace stress, characterized by exhaustion, fatigue, cynicism, and feelings of reduced professional ability. 

Have we reached our physical, mental, and emotional limits? If so, how can we recover? Read on to learn more about reaching peak burnout:

The Mental Health Crisis

Studies show that mental health in the United States is deteriorating among all age groups. Researchers and health officials are concerned about the larger population developing depression, as the existing mental health crisis is intensified from the societal effects of the pandemic. 

This could lead to higher substance abuse rates, potential drug overdoses, and even suicide. Indeed, 40 percent of U.S. adults are already struggling with mental health or substance use. Many people are not receiving proper treatment due to lack of access to care, or are afraid to seek out treatment because of the stigma surrounding mental health. 

As the country continues to cope with the fear and uncertainty brought on by COVID-19, most healthcare and frontline workers are confronted with physical exhaustion, trouble with sleep, work-related dread, and heightened awareness of being exposed. In fact, when asked about their mental health, 76 percent of healthcare workers reported exhaustion and burnout, and 75 percent said they were overwhelmed.

The stress, isolation, loss of life, and financial downturn associated with the virus also extends beyond these individuals. One analysis revealed that 9.8 million working mothers in the U.S. are suffering from burnout. Faced with the stress of shifting to remote work, many working mothers have full-time jobs while also managing childcare and overseeing their children’s virtual education, all of which can take a huge toll on their mental state. 

This shift to remote work has resulted in more video fatigue and forced employees to adapt to spending most of their time at home. Many employees are also putting in more time at work, with the average workday being almost an hour longer than it was before the pandemic. 

So how can HR help?

1. Check in with Employees

It’s extremely important for HR leaders to recognize signs of burnout or excessive stress in employees. In the workplace, burnout often leads to disengagement, increased turnover, absenteeism and a loss of productivity.

During these difficult times, it’s critical for managers to create opportunities for employees to have their voices heard. Transparent communication will create room for discussion around appropriate accommodations and flexibility based on employees’ situations.

Encourage employees to take frequent breaks and share best practices for making space on their calendar. Implement “no meeting days” and remind them to take their vacation days. Be sure to share your organization’s wellness initiatives as well as resources they can turn to for help during these trying times. 

This can all go a long way in promoting a culture of balance and well-being during a time when they need the extra support.


2. Pay Attention to Basic Needs

While there’s no perfect or direct way to combat burnout, there are actions we can take to move us in the right direction. 

To respond to the growing burnout epidemic, we must take a step back and redefine what it means to be healthy. We should first acknowledge that our basic needs are not being met. We may not be getting enough sleep, sunlight, or exercise, and we may be consuming too much negativity from the media and news cycle. 

We need a guide for identifying the harmful components of modern life and a new way of identifying, processing, and addressing the toxic patterns we may find ourselves in. We have to prioritize sleep and physical routines, as well as nutrition and exercise. We need to create room for the conversation around mental health and destigmatize the topic as much as possible. 

If we have reached our limits, it’s time to reevaluate the cost of achievement and unite over our shared cause of conquering this widespread burnout. We can then begin the work of reshaping our vision for a balanced and healthy work-life experience.


Want to learn more about how the pandemic is affecting employees? Check out our recent blog post on Why It’s Harder to Focus During a Pandemic.

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