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The rising levels of stress, anxiety, and employee burnout are impacting one’s ability to perform at work, leading to absenteeism and presenteeism. As Dr. David L. Katz points out, poor mental health can also increase the risk of developing or ineffectively managing costly chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.  

What does this mean for the bottom line of your business? Employee burnout leads to lost productivity, a decrease in talent retention, and an overall drop in morale that can be seen and felt by your customers.  

With the heightened focus on this urgent topic, we’ve asked Spring Health, one of Virgin Pulse’s integrated partners, to provide their expert insight to help your organization reduce employee burnout.  

The past eighteen months have upended our lives. The coronavirus pandemic, major social and political upheavals, the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters–we’re facing extraordinarily stressful circumstances. Many Americans have been laid off or furloughed by their employers. Those who have retained their jobs have had to make quick adjustments, whether working from home, adapting to a different workplace setting, or taking on unexpected new duties. 

All this has led to skyrocketing rates of depression, anxiety, and stress for American workers, 

setting the stage for another crisis: employee burnout. Burnout is an extremely costly phenomenon for organizations. Harvard Business Review estimates that the annual cost of healthcare spending due to workplace burnout comes to $125 billion to $190 billion. 

In addition, burned-out employees are 13% less confident in their performance and 63% more likely to take a sick day, according to a Gallup study. The same study also found that burned-out employees are 2.6 times more likely to actively seek a different job—driving up turnover rates at affected companies. Since employee turnover is estimated to cost organizations about $15,000 per employee, it is essential to reduce employee burnout to improve retention. 

Symptoms of Burnout 

Employee burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, often reached after an extended period of high stress. The three primary symptoms of work burnout include: 

  • Exhaustion 
  • Feeling negative, cynical, or detached from work 
  • Reduced work performance 

The importance of addressing burnout early  

Employee burnout can present on a spectrum. At its earliest stages, burnout can be mobilized more easily. Once an employee reaches the complete burnout stage, though, recovery can become a challenging and long-term process that significantly disrupts both the employee’s life and the organization’s efficacy. 

“My advice for employers would be this: Watch for early signs of burnout, and address them quickly. Simple things like encouraging work breaks and actively encouraging stronger work-life boundaries can make a huge difference for your team.” 

  • Dr. Millard Brown, VP of Medical Affairs at Spring Health 

Accommodate Peoples’ Needs  

Whether it’s offering more flexible work schedules for caretakers or rebalancing workloads that have been skewed by layoffs, employers have a lot of opportunities to support their team members without sacrificing larger organizational goals. 

Reduce Working Hours 

Reducing time spent working could help to avoid or reduce feelings of worker burnout today. 

Nearly a third of American employees (30%)* say reducing the number of hours spent working would help avoid or reduce experiencing worker burnout. The same number also say receiving more paid time off from their employer would assist them in avoiding or reducing experiencing worker burnout.  

Lead with Empathy  

Empathy and support from managers would help curtail burnout, according to more than a quarter of American employees (26%) who say having a supportive and understanding manager at work would help them to reduce and avoid worker burnout. 

Enhance Your Mental Health Benefits 

Workplace policies and benefits, too, play a big role. Nearly a quarter of American employees say better mental health-related policies would help them combat burnout. 

Specific suggestions include access to mental health benefits, mental health or wellness apps, and employer-funded therapy sessions. 

At Spring Health, we have an unlimited Paid Time Off policy. We encourage leaders to announce their time off as it helps to normalize prioritizing mental wellness and rest. Additionally, we are implementing “Fall Fridays,” closing business on Fridays throughout September by 1pm, adjusted across time zones.  

Teach Employees About Habits That Reduce Burnout 

Too often, American employees forego sleep, rest, and adequate breaks in order to meet work deadlines and expectations, believing this is what will help them excel and achieve. The truth is: happier and healthy employees make for more productive and effective ones, too. Employers can play a big role in educating their team members about this connection and actively encouraging habits known to prevent burnout. 

  • Limit social media use and media exposure 
  • Connect with friends and loved ones  
  • Practice regular self-care 

Implementing some or all of the practices above can help to reduce employee burnout on your teams.