3 Ways to Help Employees Combat Burnout and Create More Balance
Work-life balance. Three words. Multiple meanings. It's about giving employees the tools and support to create balance.
The line between work and life is something of a fallacy. How we are in our lives impacts our work and vice versa. If we are struggling with stress and burnout at work, due to working crazy hours and having no balance, it will directly impact performance and productivity.
There is no one size fits all approach to creating balance. It means different things to different people. And taking the time to help employees define what work-life balance looks like to them is important.
The Mental Health Foundation states: “The cumulative effect of increased working hours is having an important effect on the lifestyle of a huge number of people, which is likely to prove damaging to their mental well-being.”
A report by the Health and Safety Executive found that stress, depression, or anxiety related problems accounted for 17.9 million of the 38.8 million days lost due to work related illness in the UK. Helping your employees cope better not only makes sense from an empathetic perspective, it also directly translates to the bottom line.
I talked to Katie Burke, Chief People Officer at Hubspot. To battle burnout in the fast paced and demanding tech industry, they have introduced their Unplugged program. This gives employees dedicated time to rest and recharge, “meeting free” time weekly, and dedicated programs that give employees the tools they need to make better decisions around balance.
Balance is a term idea starting to hit the work mainstream conversation around work, largely out of necessity. A survey by Flexjobs found that 75% of people surveyed had suffered burnout at work, with 40% of them experiencing it during the pandemic.
Related Link: 3 Steps to Avoid Burnout
So, how can you help employees create more balance?
Listen to feedback from your employees and act on it
Just because signs of the pandemic are abating in many countries now, it does not mean the danger of burnout is over. During the height of the pandemic, employees needed a different type of support. But let's not forget that the pandemic merely accelerated a pre-existing problem.
If you are an international company, employees from different cultures and different countries may be experiencing their working world differently. Constant feedback seeking and implementation is especially important whilst navigating choppy waters.
As Katie rightly pointed out, feedback that is not acted upon or done too slowly risks further demotivating employees. If you are going to commit to looking after your employees' wellbeing, quick implementation is key to establishing a bond of trust and incentivizes them to continue contributing honestly to the process.
It’s not about perfection. It’s about creating a dialogue around burnout and how to prevent it. As an employer, you can encourage employees to take ownership for creating personal balance.
Create a sense of community by making small things count
I often hear pushback from start-ups and small and mid-sized enterprise’s that taking the time to show employees that you’re there to support them is expensive and time consuming.
Yes, it can be. But it doesn’t have to be.
Small things count, too. Part of balance at work is about creating a support structure and a community at a peer-to-peer and team level. Simple bonding exercises can be helpful in achieving this. I have seen companies offer themed parties and Zoom parties (Hubspot brought in a kid’s entertainer, for example). But it can also be something as simple as gratitude exercises during team meetings, to thank people, make them feel appreciated, and show you care. Done consistently, small things can be powerful.
For employees at high-growth companies, it can be disconcerting starting work remotely, and not knowing anyone. Adequately planning how you bring on your workforce and starting people together creates more of a “community based” experience, which helps reinforce team bonding.
Training, support and resources
Learning doesn’t have to be onerous. Hubspot offers a Free Books program to make growth, learning and development easy and fun. Knowledge sharing, lunch & learns, and online tools can also help. Everyone consumes and processes information differently, so having various development forums can help individuals based on their personal preferences.
However, it’s not necessarily about throwing more and more information at employees when they already have a lot to process. This can be overwhelming. It’s about giving employees tools to help them understand what’s most important to them. An awareness of priorities will help combat overflowing "to do" lists and zero in on the things that contribute to greater performance. It is OK to say no to the things that aren’t important.
This ‘coaching gap’ (i.e. helping people to find answers for themselves) creates extra pressure for managers. It is essentially a fundamental shift in what it means to be a great manager (and a great leader). This shift must start at the top of an organization. Leaders need to be, more than ever, able to coach their teams, be effective communicators, and co-create expectations with employees backed up by tangible examples.
Helping their team to realize what’s important, as well as encouraging people to proactively seek out and ask for the support they need in their “balance” journey, will help them to troubleshoot problems before they arise.
Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor