Fighting Burnout with Employee Communication and Engagement Strategies
Last updated on February 2, 2023 at 06:53 pm
Employee burnout is on the rise. From the pandemic to global conflict, there are many things putting a strain on our mental health and wellbeing. Burnout is affecting everyone, whether you’re a deskbound worker managing your new work-life balance or a deskless employee who has been on the frontlines of the pandemic over the last few years. Aside from the negative toll burnout and stress have on our health, it also takes a big toll at work. We’re exhausted, and something has to give. So, I want to share how communication and employee engagement strategies can help lessen burnout.
Understanding Employee Burnout
To be able to make the kind of meaningful change required to prevent burnout, first, we have to understand it. The WHO defines burnout as “a syndrome resulting from workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
They explain that there are three dimensions to burnout:
- Exhaustion or depleted energy levels
- Negativity or cynicism towards one’s job
- Reduced professional efficacy
And the American Psychological Association has found that in 2021, 79% of employees have experienced work-related stress with 3 in 5 reporting the negative impacts of that stress.
The other thing to consider is that burnout is triggered by workplace stress. So, while there are very real and very stressful things going on in the world that are impacting our mental health, burnout is a workplace problem. It’s our inability to properly support the mental health of our workforce. And it’s catching up with us. The Great Resignation or Great Discontent is really a movement where workers are saying enough is enough. Employees are taking their mental health and well-being seriously and are in a competitive market where they have the power. Companies that don’t understand employee burnout and how to fix it are going to be left behind.
Strategy 1: More Employee Communication
Last year, we surveyed deskless employees about the state of frontline worker comms. One of the most interesting trends was the difference between managers and non-managers on satisfaction with the amount of communication. Managers were far more satisfied. This was backed up by an open-answer question where we asked everyone to share the one thing they think could be improved about employee comms at their company. 13.5% said they would want to increase the amount of comms they receive, which was the most commonly reported answer.
Some of these responses include:
“More clear and direct communication. They expect us to do all these things. But they never explain to us what to do. And we never get a thank you.”
“That he would just be honest with me and other employees about the state of our business, our industry. Honesty would be nice.”
“Just be honest. We know not all the answers are known, but we still want to be kept in the loop.”
It’s clear that there are gaps in employee comms that need to be addressed. Using an employee comms audit will help you find any gaps in your channels or messaging. Are there any groups that are left out of your main channels? Are you sending enough direct messages to frontline workers? Can you reach deskless employees directly?
Once you get a clear sense, make sure that you are communicating enough. And use surveys to make sure you are including the topics that matter to your teams. More on surveys in the next section.
Strategy 2: Check-In With Everyone Regularly
The amazing thing about all the technology we have available to us is that you can more easily survey your employees on a regular basis. As long as you act on the results, consistently getting a finger on the pulse on how your employees are doing will help you understand where resources and adjustments are needed.
Pro Tip: break your results down by location and position so you can more easily see the trends. That way you could see, for example, that more line workers at your Ohio facility said they felt overwhelmed compared to other locations. You can then dig deeper into the results to find out why. Or target additional surveys to that group to really figure out what’s causing the problem and what they specifically need.
Strategy 3: Lead With Compassion
This goes for your CEO, senior managers, and frontline managers. People in positions of power need guidelines for how they can lead with empathy. Sometimes this comes down to very clearly changing HR policies to be more human and also investing in their training. Even remotely, you can still put your managers through virtual leadership training to make sure they are as prepared as possible for the incredibly difficult job of leading through a global crisis. Not sure if it’s worth it? Just remember managers account for 70% of employee engagement.
For tips on how leaders can be better communicators, check out these resources:
- Blog: Will the CEO Please Stand Up? Why CEOs Must Embrace Executive Communications
- Blog: 6 Tips to Create an Executive Comms Plan
- Whitepaper: Primer on Frontline Manager Communication
Strategy 4: Talk About Mental Health in Employee Comms
We need to stop tip-toeing around talking about mental health. Mental health is not just about people with anxiety disorders, depression, or anything diagnosed by a psychologist/psychiatrist. Mental health just refers to a person’s psychological and emotional well-being. And like physical well-being, it should be taken seriously. But 80% of those who are struggling with their mental health don’t feel comfortable seeking help or talking about it, so it’s up to comms and HR professionals to normalize having these conversations and make help accessible.
This can be as simple as starting a Wellness Wednesday series where you talk about all forms of wellness. You could share articles and resources, and hotlines to call for those who are struggling. You can make structural changes by including more mental health support in your benefits. But the easiest place to start making meaningful change in this regard today is to address it. Say, “we know this year has been so hard and we all handle that differently. We’re here for you. We get it and we want to talk about it.”
Acknowledging any important issue is the first step to employees feeling like they can also speak up.
Strategy 5: Appreciate Your People
This comes in two parts. The first is to not lose sight of the stars in your company with everything going on. Employees who continue to go above and beyond at work should be recognized. We need to celebrate the wins and change the conversation to positivity whenever possible. You should start to rethink the employee recognition program.
But the second part of this is to go beyond praise and invest in educating and developing your workforce. This includes:
- Letting them know what great benefits are available
- Providing virtual and in-person development opportunities
- Make sure they know that you care about their future with the company
Nothing revives an employee more than feeling valued and like their development is a priority.
Include Your Deskless Workforce
No matter how you combat burnout at your company, please make sure you don’t leave out your deskless workers. If you can’t currently directly reach this group at your company, we can help. Schedule a demo to learn more.
About the Author
Sydney Lauro is the Demand Generation Manager for theEMPLOYEEapp. Prior to joining the team at theEMPLOYEEapp, Sydney worked in internal communications for Chipotle. She users her internal comms expertise and passion for improving communication and the employee experience to create content and share best practices to help other communications professionals.
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