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Curbing Burnout

A recent survey from isolved finds that more than half of employees are experiencing burnout. Here are strategies to reverse this trend.

By Maggie Mancini

Despite HR leaders increasingly supporting efforts to improve workplace well-being and emphasize the employee experience, more than half (65%) of employees are suffering from burnout, according to a recent survey from human capital management (HCM) company isolved. Though the prominence of employee burnout has decreased by 4% since 2022, a large portion of employees are still experiencing it.  

At the same time, 59% of employees say that they work when they’re sick, nearly half (43%) say they would be willing to take a pay cut to have a better work-life balance, and a quarter (25%) say they’re in a toxic work environment. As companies in all sectors prioritize talent retention and engagement amid a tight labor market in 2024, improving employee well-being is particularly important.  

“You’ve got to know why people are experiencing burnout and how they define it for themselves,” says Amy Mosher, chief people officer at isolved. “That’s important for your company and your culture. Whether it’s too much work, disorganized work, people without the right skill set, a tremendous amount of change and not enough training, or people just not understanding how to prioritize tasks, the reason why can be different for everyone. Understanding that is more than half the battle. Once you understand that, you can take those steps to mitigating where you can as a business and improve the employee experience.”  

Mosher suggests tailoring these mitigation strategies to employees’ overall needs. This could be offering more training opportunities, initiatives to support work-life balance, or programs for mental health, medical wellness, or financial well-being. Recognizing why employees are feeling burnt out – and understanding that those reasons may be different for everyone – is a crucial step to providing support. 

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of employees say that stress is impacting their work performance. This can lead to decreased productivity, issues with clients and customers, and ultimately hurt the company’s bottom line, the survey finds. When it comes to balancing organizational needs with employee well-being, Mosher says that technology is a powerful tool for keeping employees working efficiently while freeing up time for them to focus on their well-being.  

“It’s important to utilize the technology that’s already available to you,” Mosher says. “People in their personal lives reference things on their phones and laptops all day, every day. Why wouldn’t organizations want to make all their productivity tools available to employees in that format, freeing up time for them and allowing them to become more efficient.”  

For example, Mosher says artificial intelligence can be leveraged to free up time for employees and allow them to focus their energies on more important, knowledge-based tasks. In addition to providing more efficiency, AI can help HR leaders identify areas where professional development would be beneficial and improve skills so that employees’ work performance isn’t so closely impacted by their well-being.  

“Employees are moving in many different directions and are being asked to do more with less so often, especially during busy times when companies are balancing employee wellness with the socioeconomic needs of the business,” Mosher says. “Leveraging advanced technology is probably the most profound thing an organization can do right off the bat.”  

Mosher also says that companies should have a culture that’s transparent and employee feedback is welcomed. By helping employees understand the “whys” of the organization and allowing them to suggest opportunities for learning and development, everyone is playing a role in advancing the business and supporting overall well-being. This, Mosher says, improves engagement and, in turn, improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the workforce. 

The survey also finds that 88% of employees say it has become important to have a job they find personally fulfilling. For Mosher, this means keeping employees connected to their organization’s overall mission.  

“It helps for businesses to not just post their organizational goals but talk about what it looks like from a business perspective and an individual perspective,” Mosher says. “Certainly, we do this utilizing our own technology. But any business can and should connect individual goals to the organization’s goals and individual values and competencies to the organizations’ values and make that part of the everyday conversation. There’s a lot that can be done from an HR perspective to help organizations better understand that connection and how important it is to employees to feel personally fulfilled.”  

Employees want to know that when they get up and go to work every day, they’re impacting something bigger than just themselves. When an employee feels like the work they’re doing improves the top and bottom line, it gives them a better experience because they, in turn, invest more into the organization, Mosher says. 

Despite fewer employees reporting burnout year after year, the number is still significant, and employers should work to improve employee well-being to curb stress. When it comes to alleviating it and the negative impact it can have, more than half (52%) of employees are craving a more flexible work environment.  

“Flexibility means a lot of different things to different people. The magic sauce here is helping leaders and employees understand what it means to them as individuals,” Mosher says. “I feel like our teams that work in the office do also have a very flexible working environment for a multitude of reasons. Even though they’re not working from home, flexibility is not synonymous with being able to work from anywhere at any time. Helping employees understand what flexibility means to them and connecting that to what the company provides is important.”  

Mosher adds that flexibility means equity, giving employees the opportunity to do what they think is right to enable a better work environment. For example, an unmarried recent college graduate who works in an office in New York City has a different need for flexibility than a mother of five in a completely different role working part-time from an office in Arizona. But understanding that flexibility means different things to both of those workers is half the battle, Mosher says.  

To help support flexibility, HR leaders can talk to employees about how they define it and the perks that they value. Whether pushing a return-to-office policy or not, investing in the infrastructure that allows employees to have the capability to access what they need can help leverage an equitable, fair, and flexible work environment that’s tailored to the needs of the workforce. This can be rewarding for a company’s employee base and improve well-being. 

“We haven’t figured out the magic of curbing burnout,” Mosher says. “And recognizing that is an opportunity for us to better people’s lives and their careers, through addressing what matters most to them from a career and personal perspective, allows their work to enhance their well-being and not hinder it. The more we can bring to light about burnout, the more we can talk about how to improve it.” 

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