Stress and burnout were on the rise before COVID, but the pandemic has made things much worse.
Workers are now more than three times as likely to report mental health concerns than before the pandemic.
We’re stressed, but we’re not taking time off. In 2020, American workers left 33% of their paid time off unused while the average workday increased by 49 minutes.
Burnout seeps into every aspect of an employee’s personal and professional life, causing symptoms like lack of motivation, increased mistakes, poor sleep habits, disconnection from family and friends, irritability and much more. A staggering 76% of employees say that workplace stress affects their mental health with depression or anxiety.
When people are burnt out, every part of their lives suffers. And even for a problem as personal as burnout, companies have the responsibility to assist their employees.
Here are 10 ways companies can fight the burnout epidemic:
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1 . Provide Mental Health Resources
Breaking the stigma about mental health is crucial to fighting burnout. AT&T offers mental health assistance to employees through text, email or phone. Unilever offers in-person meditation and mindfulness workshops and mental health training for managers. Chevron makes self-guided resilience resources available to all employees, and TIAA offers monthly mental health challenges to all employees.
2 . Increase Mental Health Coverage
In addition to office resources is professional mental health treatment. Companies like ZenDesk and EY have expanded benefits to cover mental health or provided employees with free or discounted access to teletherapy. In the early days of COVID, Starbucks expanded its mental health coverage for employees and their families.
3 . Check In With Employees
Taking interest in employees is a simple but incredibly effective way to fight burnout and build connections. Investment firm BlackRock conducts pulse surveys to understand the stressors and needs of its employees. That information helps drive programs and policies to meet their needs and fight burnout.
4 . Offer Mental Breaks
Celebrating rest and giving employees a chance to recharge and socialize can break the burnout bubble. Design firm Smart Design runs lunchtime virtual happy hours, known as midday mental breaks, to encourage employees to step away from work and socialize, even if they’re working remotely. Companies like Cisco and Ben & Jerry’s provide places in the office for employees to take short naps during the day.
5 . Cut Back On Meetings
Meetings are notorious for bogging down employees’ schedules and leading to stress and overwhelm. Video company Storyblocks implemented No-Meeting Wednesdays to give employees time to work without interruptions. PR firm Highwire has a goal to purge 30% of meetings and shorten all necessary meetings.
6 . Offer Flexible Schedules
As offices reopen, many companies are allowing employees to adopt permanent hybrid or flexible schedules to give them more freedom. Atlassian recently announced that employees can work from home permanently, as did Facebook, Reddit and Skillshare. Other companies are adopting a hybrid approach, including Amazon, Nationwide and Dropbox.
7 . Change The Expectation To Be Constantly Available
Encouraging employees to not always be connected gives them the freedom to take breaks as their needs arise and step away from work at the end of the day. Companies like WATT Global Media and JL Buchanan use a results-only work environment, where performance matters more than hours worked. Other companies are offering more flexibility for working parents and caregivers to adjust their schedules.
8 . Offer Additional Time Off
After a stressful year, many employees just need additional time off. Dating app Bumble recently announced it is giving all of its 700-plus employees a paid week off to help with burnout. Microsoft is giving employees an additional five days off in 2021 to rest and recharge.
9 . Offer Company-Wide Wellness Days
Large companies, including LinkedIn, Marriott and Shopify are shutting the offices down for days or weeks to give employees time for self-care. Shopify’s “Rest and Refuel Fridays” started during peak pandemic and continue in 2021 with Fridays off in July and August. Mozilla is shutting down its entire company for a “Wellness Week” in addition to its “Wellness Days” that are companywide days off once a month through 2021.
10 . Pay Employees To Take Time Off
Many employees are hesitant to take time off, so some companies are offering incentives. In addition to their normal pay, PwC pays employees to take time off, up to $250 for a full week off. Full Contact gives employees $7,500 a year to take a vacation—but they actually have to disconnect and enjoy it without working.
The burnout epidemic has been brewing for years across America, but it has reached a fever pitch after more than a year of a pandemic. All employers have the responsibility to consider their employees’ mental health and provide tools, resources and policies to fight burnout.