Understanding the Stressors Behind Workplace Burnout

Understanding the Stressors Behind Workplace Burnout

Connecting with your workers and having an open conversation on mental health are ways employers can support their workers.

Let’s think about the word "workplace." There was a time when the workplace solely meant "the office;" this place we would visit throughout the week to do our work. This was also the place we left our work behind to then focus on our personal lives: Simple, clear, clean lines.

In the last few decades, and specifically the last couple of years, the lines have blurred. For many workers, technology has enabled us to do our work far outside the walls of the traditional workplace. Work happens everywhere. While there are many positive outcomes of this work anywhere capability, it also has its share of challenges.

Remote work (initially dubbed telecommuting) has been around since the 1970s, and in some research, it dates back centuries. It wasn’t until the late 90s/early 2000s when working remotely from home started to really pick up steam. Early adopters working from home in part or in full began this new world where these two ‘places’ started to become one. Of course, there were immediate benefits with the most obvious being no commute. This often meant less time away from home, which led to reduced costs and more time with family. On the flip side, no commute for some workers led to earlier start times and later end times, lengthening the workday. As a result, in some cases this caused increased stress and even early signs of burnout.

In the last decade, research started to indicate that stress levels and mental health concerns were on the rise. The pandemic then ushered in not just an overnight work from home mandate for roles where it was available, but a period in which everyone in the household was working and living together. For many people, especially working parents, this was stressful. For those who found themselves independently working from home, isolation in the early stages of the pandemic put everyone’s mental health at risk. In fact, ADP Research Institute’s “People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View” study found that “…stress at work is at critical levels, with 67 percent of workers experiencing it at least once a week, up from 62 percent pre-pandemic.” These last couple of years have only exacerbated the challenges that were already brewing and brought them to the forefront in all aspects of our life, at home and at work.

As we emerge out of the pandemic and begin returning to the workplace and exploring hybrid models, many organizations are recognizing the need to push the stigma associated with mental health aside, open up conversations and work collectively to support their team members. There are a few key components companies can embrace to support their workforce.

Understand Common Stressors

Recent research and insights on stress in the workplace can help provide context on the sentiments of employees and the current state of their stress levels, including factors that might be causing that stress to rise. By keeping a pulse on what’s happening at the larger level, you can better zero in on stressors that might be impacting your unique workforce.

Connect With Your Teams

While research on a broad level is helpful for the macro view, the focus should be on your own employees. Take the time to connect with your staff and check in with them to see how they are doing. Be present in conversations, both group meetings and one on one to observe, listen and engage. Do you notice anything different about their behavior? How do they seem to you? Ask "how are you doing?" and stop to listen.

Showcase Benefits Offerings (or get them in place if they don’t exist)

Many companies today offer wellness programs, outside basic medical insurance offerings. Work with your team who handles these programs and educate employees on what might be available if they need additional support such as Employee Assistance Programs. If these programs don’t exist, prompt the conversation with your leadership team to seek options.

Share Stories and Open the Dialogue

A great way to open the dialogue is by sharing a story of a personal experience if you feel comfortable. For many employees, they may be feeling like they’re alone in their struggles when in fact they are not. Hearing a story similar to yours is not only comforting but can offer hope and likely strategies on how to cope and manage their situation.

Without question, stress levels are impacting your people. They are human beings, with challenges and struggles within their personal and professional lives. That is reason enough to raise the conversation on overall wellness and ensure they know you care about them as a person. Such stress can impact the work they perform. While companies cannot remove all the stress in their employees’ lives, they can provide support through programs and conversations, prioritize overall wellness, and create space for employees to bring their whole selves to work, however the workplace is defined for them.

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