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How Communications Can Help Employers Treat Staff Burnout

October 25 2021

Since the world has faced Covid-19 and all the consequences of the pandemic, the problem of employees’ burnout has become much more acute than it was ever before. Lockdown, forced isolation and breakup of common behavior patterns turned out to be very significant factors of psychological stress for individuals all over the world.

After the first months of the quarantine, people in lockdowns started to complain that the limits of the working day became blurred, and it became very difficult to switch from working tasks to personal life. In fact, there was no change between office and home, the place where a person stayed during the whole time remained the same, and online meetings in Zoom often ran late in the evenings. For employees with children, combining work and time with kids, who also stayed at home while schools and kindergartens were closed, became an additional problem. In some cases, all these challenges and stress factors that added up to the usual workload and stress along with the mass hysteria about the toll of the pandemic, began to cause burnout.

As time passed and vaccination became widely available, companies started to bring employees back to the office. Some of them quite quickly adapted to the new formats – either hybrid model or full-time office. Others got so very used to remote work and were enjoying home office so much that they started having additional stress and burnout because of the need to return to office.

In the past year and a half, employers all over the world faced the need to consider the highly turbulent environment not only in business planning and adjustment of business strategies. The increased psychological burden of many people also requires particular attention. To maintain a company’s productivity and efficiency, managers and owners are developing and implementing various methods of psychological support for employees.

Communication is the first step in preventing employees’ burnout. During the period of forced isolation, many communication links were broken, and personal warmth and touch were lost. Therefore, at CROS, we, for example, focused on restoring these links once face-to-face offline contact became possible again. In the past year, we strengthened the internal communications segment: we formalized approaches to corporate culture, resumed informal meetings of teams offline and online, introduced certain improvements in the office to make it more comfortable for people, and gave our staff more freedom to choose their personal schedule of office hours and remote work. As a result, we are getting feedback that our employees are having less stress, they are getting positive emotions from communication between each other.

Peers from other industries that have also faced employee burnout are also paying more attention to internal communications and off-work activities. For example, Birtix 24 has organized offsite strategic sessions. Lanta Bank’s Deputy CEO Irina Rys’ gave an account about organizing skiing competitions and setting up ping-pong tables for employees to relax and release stress. However, there are still some people and companies that consider emotional burnout a far-fetched issue and prefer to simply substitute employees who stop delivering strong results.

In the Western world, the problem of burnout is more acknowledged. It is widely accepted that personal health – both physical and psychological – is now a priority. Emotions become important not only in deciding when purchasing a product or service, but also when choosing your next employer. Meanwhile, burnout became the main problem of 2021 for 81% respondents in a research by the international consulting company Willis Towers Watson.

Willis Towers Watson’s experts have also shared their insights on how companies can reduce the risk of their employees’ burnout and suggest several ways for doing that:

  • First, it is easier to prevent burnout than to cure. Therefore, companies are advised to support employees’ wellbeing: organize physical activity challenges, stimulate open-air breaks, and provide healthy nutrition guidance. 
  • Second, the company’s management should be informed about signs of burnout to identify them among all employees, even those in the home office. 
  • Finally, since the workload has often become unpredictable and unsustainable, it is recommended to provide more support and feedback from the management, and in certain cases, to be more flexible in working hours and to allow vacation and days off when requested.

Professional burnout expert Jennifer Moss says that empathy by the management is key to a company’s success in the modern world. First and foremost, empathy creates an open and safe space where each employee can express their feelings and where they would be heard by the management. Furthermore, it can help build mutual trust among employees: leaders trust staff that they can perform in the most efficient manner, while staff trusts leaders in taking decisions. This results in Moss’s third point of takeaway: companies reach their business goals and employees burn out less often thanks to a comfortable and safe atmosphere at work.

In real life, companies choose different ways to support their employees. For example, Microsoft is offering its employees $1200 that can be spent on anything that can help maintain or improve their well-being. Google introduced additional days off and no meetings week. Investment bank Jefferies offered staff free workout equipment, including the expensive Peloton bike.

The pandemic very quickly and without giving any time to adapt has produced new challenges for us and created a whole new environment. Both companies and employees have been forced to fit in the new conditions in real time, to simultaneously rearrange the psychic setup and business processes. However, if the trend for a human-centered world remains, in several years we may possibly find ourselves in a more psychologically sound society and companies would be able to be both more effective and empathic.

Ekaterina Movsesyan
CEO, CROS Public Relations & Public Affairs Company
Ekaterina has been working in communications for over 17 years. She joined CROS in 2010 as a project manager. As Vice President and Deputy CEO, she was in charge of comprehensive communication projects, new accounts and practices development, and was in charge of the implementation of the company’s strategy. In the CEO role, Ekaterina carries out operational management of the agency and manages business development and development of CROS competences. Since 2020, she is a member of the expert panel of the “Silver Archer”, the most prestigious Russian PR award. She graduated from the Moscow Institute of Economics, Management and Law, also the European School of Brussels, she got EMBA program at the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO and Independent Director program of the Association of Independent Directors.

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