Entrepreneurs

4 Meaningful Ways Managers Can Help Employees Struggling With Burnout

By Deborah Sweeney

Do your employees struggle with burnout? “Overwhelmed” is how one study describes the way employees feel 18 months into the pandemic.

Since July 2020, digital wellness company meQuilibrium has been tracing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on employee well-being through a series of surveys. Between July 20210 and December 2020, meQuilibrium reports that employees have “experienced sizable increases in burnout, work-life balance challenges, as well as job and health stress.” These challenges have also negatively impacted employee health with an increase in somatic symptoms of stress, such as soreness in the neck and shoulders.

Further, there is a decline in the way employees feel supported by their employers. In July 2020 and December 2020, meQuilibrium noted that the majority of employees felt supported by their employer. By July 2021, the number of employees who reported feeling supported in the workplace dropped by nearly 10%. This lack of support, or simply not feeling as though there is support, has likely led to further increases in employee burnout or stress.

What can you do to support team members struggling with burnout and promote employee well-being in the workplace? While burnout differs for every person who experiences it, there are certain meaningful ways managers can step in and offer help.

1. Create a safe space

One of the first steps to fighting burnout is catching the early signs that are indicative of burnout. After taking note of burnout red flags, managers and employees can work together to address any problems causing burnout and to get control of the situation.

What if a team member doesn’t feel comfortable talking about burnout at work? Some workplaces follow strict rules where there is not much leeway for personal discussion in the office, especially covering sensitive topics.

Genuinely concerned managers can create a safe space outside the office to meet with team members. A safe environment allows those struggling with burnout to feel a bit more comfortable about opening up, sharing their feelings, and expressing their emotions.

Ask your team member where they feel comfortable talking. You may meet up one-on-one at a coffee shop or go for a walk together at a park.

2. Become an empathetic listener

The greatest tool to help employees with burnout is to practice empathetic listening. As an empathetic listener, you are:

  • Patient. A team member may take some time to share their story with you and that’s okay.
  • Present. You are in the moment with this person and not thinking about unrelated topics.
  • Non-judgmental. You are not here to place blame, shame, or minimize a team member’s feelings.

Also, do not use this time to offer unsolicited advice or criticize the team member.

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3. Ask curious questions

As team members explain their situation, use this time to listen and think of questions to ask afterwards. These questions should be rooted in gentle curiosity.

For example, you may ask if the team member is able to recall a time in the past when they felt this way, and then follow up the question by asking how they got through it. Asking these kinds of questions helps the team member recall moments when they were presented with challenges throughout their career. They may remember the strategies they used to rise to the occasion and the feeling of confidence that came with accomplishing certain tasks or projects.

Keep in mind, however, that burnout does not exist in a one-size-fits-all box. While one team member may remember a time when they were able to meet a challenge and deliver on incredible work, others may not have similar experiences. A helpful strategy for someone having problems dealing with workload, for instance, might be to offer some temporary flexibility to ensure the team member is able to meet goals and deadlines.

4. Brainstorm support resources together

According to McKinsey & Company, listening to team members and exploring creative solutions can help employees with burnout. Managers, however, can only do so much in terms of providing support to struggling team members.

Take a moment to brainstorm support methods together. Where else can team members find support? It may be beneficial for them to see a therapist, or take some time off and spend it with close family or friends.

Similarly, you may also brainstorm ideas for self-care activities with team members. Focus equally on needs and wants. Some ideas may include getting on a sleep schedule, eating balanced meals, taking a break from social media, and starting a gratitude practice.

There’s no quick fix for burnout

Combating burnout does not end with a quick fix. There is no playbook for this growing issue in the workplace, leaving many companies scrambling to find ways to improve work experiences for employees. Experimentation plays a key role, as businesses test out various programs and policies to see what succeeds and what does not.

Following these steps works as a means to show employees they are not alone. Once you have a better understanding of what a team member needs, you can gently move them towards getting and receiving the necessary help and reaching recovery.

About the Author

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com, which provides incorporation and LLC formation filing services to entrepreneurs. See Deborah’s articles and full bio at AllBusiness.com.

RELATED: 5 Effective Ways to Prevent Sales Rep Burnout

This article was originally published on AllBusiness.com.

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