by Terri Roeslmeier
The “Great Resignation” has been a buzz word we have all talked about now for the past several months and it doesn’t seem to be going away. Just recently reported by the BLS, the Great Resignation reached an all-time high in September with 4.4 million workers quitting their jobs.
What is the cause of the Great Resignation though? Is it workers wanting more flexibility in their work/life balance that their current employer doesn’t offer? Is it wanting to work at home permanently, but not having the option available anymore? Was it being cooped up at home that made workers realize they want a change in their careers when the job market is better? It’s all of this and more.
The fall 2021 Hiring Report released by Monster though indicates that burnout is the #1 reason employees are quitting their jobs. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health has become a growing concern. Many employees feel like they are “always on” and work longer hours when at home. There is also a sense of isolation. There is less comradery and social interaction with co-workers, so more workers are feeling lonely and disconnected. All of this, but not limited to, can contribute to feeling burned out. A survey conducted by Indeed in the springtime even showed that more than half of workers reported they were burned out.
What is employee burnout exactly though? Verywell Mind defines burnout as a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and is characterized by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job), and feelings of reduced professional ability.
Signs and symptoms of employee burnout that Verywell Mind reports include:
- Alienation from work-related activities: Individuals view their jobs as stressful and frustrating. They also may become cynical about their work and the people they work with.
- Physical symptoms: This can include headaches, stomachaches, or intestinal issues.
- Emotional exhaustion: Individuals feel drained and tired. They have a lack of energy to complete their work.
- Reduced performance: It can affect everyday tasks both at work and at home. They feel negative about tasks and have difficulty in concentrating. They also have a lack of creativity.
- Depression: Employee burnout can share similar traits to depression and include feelings of hopelessness and cognitive and physical symptoms.
As we can see, employee burnout is important to combat not only for job resignation purposes, but for the mental well-being of employees. Some may even say that the Great Resignation is causing more employees to burnout due to hiring needs because of the Great Resignation. In some cases, this trickled down effect is probably very true. So, how do we stop the Great Resignation? How can we keep our employees from leaving? One place to start is by investing time and money into your employees to avoid burnout. In this blog, we will take a look at (8) ways to keep employees happy and employed at your company.
- Check-In with Employees
Frequent check-in meetings with employees are important to see how they are doing. It’s an opportunity for managers to see how their team members are feeling and if they are stressed out with tasks they have at hand. These meetings are probably one of the best ways to detect employee burnout. It also gives employers an opportunity to consult individually with those employees who are beginning to feel burned out and to discuss ways you can help.
Check-in meetings are also an opportunity to discuss employees’ goals at your company. Harvard Business Review suggests asking employees, “if they could shape their dream job at your company, what would it be?” This gives employees the floor to share the direction they would like to head into and allows you to begin thinking about shaping this role for them. It also encourages employees to know you are thinking about long-term growth opportunities for them at your company.
Employees also like to know they are valued and are making an impact at the company they work for. During your check-in meetings, be sure to spend time acknowledging their work and the value they are providing. Employees want to know they have a purpose at your company.
Things to consider:
- Some of your check-in meetings you may want to hold off-site, such as at a coffee shop. Depending on how often you meet, you may not do this every time, but meeting outside the office to have some of these conversations is a way to talk in a casual, open environment. It is also a relatively inexpensive way to take an employee out.
- Managers should consider holding weekly 15-minute meetings. Jennifer Moss, author of the new book, “The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It,” suggests holding short 15-minute weekly meetings. These meetings can be used to discuss the highs and lows of the week and what managers can do to make things easier the next week. It’s a simple task that can pay off in terms of mental wellness and productivity. Jennifer also noted that specific questions should be asked to best assess how an employee is doing. Her research found that an average person says they are “fine” 14 times a week when they are asked how they are doing; 19% of the time they are lying.
- Monitor Workloads
Managers should monitor workloads and ensure no one has an unreasonable amount. Workloads may spike at certain times of the year; however, managers will want to make sure employees don’t sustain heavy workloads throughout the entire year. Evaluate employees that have demanding workloads and try to find ways to alleviate that workload from their schedule. Also monitor expectations and goals. Be sure you are setting attainable goals so no one is overstretched and works tirelessly to achieve them. Goals need to be reachable.
- Provide Mental Health Support
There are a number of ways employers can provide mental health support to employees. Providing mental health days is one way to do so. It allows employees to take time off for self-care and needed time off for themselves. Mental health days may be something to consider implementing in 2022 if it is not already offered at your company.
Employee Assistance Programs that offer wellness counseling is also something to consider looking into as an addition to your benefits package. Some healthcare providers already offer counseling and wellness programs with their health insurance so it’s something to look into if you are unsure if your health insurance provides it. If it is included with your insurance, share this information with employees so they know it is available to them.
You may also think about bringing in a wellness coach a few times a year where they can offer best practices to employees on mental health. This is a nice opportunity for a group lunch and learn. You can even consider doing wellness group activities during the lunch hour, such as yoga, painting, bringing in a masseuse, etc.
Lastly, encourage employees to take a break if they are feeling overwhelmed or stuck with a project. A simple walk or snack break can help them decompress and come back with a fresh mind!
- Survey Employees About Working at Home vs. in the Office
There are pros and cons to working at home versus coming into the office. A recent survey by Bankrate, showed that 56% of workers preferred remote work or adjustable hours. Having the ability to work from home has been another factor contributing to the Great Resignation. At the same time though, the disconnect from co-workers and lack of socialization problems are real. According to the Buffer 2021 State of Remote Work survey, 16% of respondents reported difficulties with collaboration and 16% also reported loneliness while working at home. Is hybrid the magic fix? From personal experience, it seems like many enjoy the hybrid work schedule because you get the best of both worlds. To see what is best for your organization, consider sending out a survey to your employees to gauge what majority of employees would prefer. The survey will share insight in what schedule would make your employees most happy.
- Promote Office Camaraderie and Connection
Making time to connect and build relationships among team members is also important. This can go hand in hand with the above topic of working at home. Whether you have employees working at home, in the office, or a hybrid schedule, it is important to promote an environment where people can get to know one another. According to Harvard Business Review, their COVID-Era survey data showed that both blue and white collar workers around the world place a higher priority on having a “good relationship with co-workers” than on many other job attributes.
If you are not able to hold in-person events, virtual events can be held, such as virtual happy hours or team trivia. You can even have virtual cooking or cocktail making classes. Anything that can help bring the team together for a good time is beneficial for office camaraderie. In-person social events are definitely a better way for employees to get to know one another, however, virtual events are a good alternative if in-person is not possible.
- Encourage Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance has probably always been important for most workers; however, it’s becoming a greater factor now when deciding to work or stay at a company. As a best practice, encourage employees to take vacation time, especially as you near the end of the year and employees still have vacation time left. This allows employees to know that you care about their well-being and that you want them to be able to enjoy time off.
Another good practice is to shut down the office early for holidays, if possible. This helps enforce the importance of spending time with family, especially over the holidays. It’s also important to offer flexible schedules to accommodate for family or religious events. If someone has a personal obligation, welcome an environment that allows them to tend to important personal events during the work day.
Lastly, some companies even offer a more flexible schedule by allowing workers to start and end work at any time as long as they get in 8 hours a day. If someone is more productive starting earlier or working later, why not allow them if they get in the same hours of work?
- Upskill Employees
Upskilling employees is a practice that can offer great benefit for employers. It can help employees increase job satisfaction (avoiding burnout) and in return help retain employees. It also has financial benefits for the company.
What is upskilling exactly though? According to AG5, it is the process of taking skills and knowledge in a certain area to a new level. It’s also an opportunity to promote employees and help them grow instead of hiring new individuals.
Monster’s Fall 2021 Hiring Report, showed that 45% of workers would be more likely to stay with their employer if they were offered skills training. It offers a new exciting experience for employees, especially for those that have had the same role for a few years. Instead of finding a different job, this gives them the opportunity for a new role at your company. Financially, a Gallup survey reports that the cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one and a half to two times the employee’s annual salary. This is probably very true when you think about spending money advertising the position, onboarding someone new, and all of the other expenses that goes into recruiting a new employee. Starting salary for that person may even be higher then if you were to promote someone from within.
- Provide Management Training
Management training may be something to consider offering to new managers as well. Managers play a crucial role in employee engagement and retention. A study performed by Randstad showed that 60% of respondents said they had left a job or would leave over a bad boss, with 58% indicating that they would stay at a job with a lower salary if that meant working for a great boss.
Poor managers can induce stress on employees and drive them out the door. Management training can help managers learn best practices for managing employees. They need to be equipped with skills to provide appropriate feedback, to communicate effectively and clearly, to have the ability to set reasonable expectations, recognize employees for achievements, and be able to delegate tasks. Great managers can make a huge impact on company culture and employee morale!
The Beginning of the End of the Great Resignation
We just took a deep dive into 8 ways to combat employee burnout. Employee burnout is very real and has become an even more prominent problem during the pandemic. It is one area though that employers can try to get under control in order to avoid further resignations. It might not be the only answer to end the Great Resignation, but keeping employees happy and healthy is certainly a good place to start.