How employers can prevent growing rates of burnout during COVID-19

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The coronavirus pandemic has upended work and life routines, straining employee mental health and leading to high rates of burnout. Seventy-five percent of people have experienced burnout at work, with 40% saying they’ve experienced burnout during the pandemic specifically, according to a new survey by FlexJobs, an online job service for professionals seeking flexible work, and the nonprofit Mental Health America.

Burnout, when not addressed, can lead to serious mental health conditions and costs employers $125 to $190 billion in lost productivity and healthcare costs, according to Gallup. Despite the risks of ignoring burnout in the workplace, 56% said their HR departments did not encourage conversations about burnout. Only 1 in 5 (21%) said HR offered productive solutions to burnout issues, according to the FlexJobs survey.

“HR needs to take an active role in helping workers practice healthy boundaries between their professional and personal lives,” says Carol Cochran, vice president of people and culture at FlexJobs.

See also: Mental health stigma still a barrier during coronavirus

Companies need to look at their flexible work and PTO policies as ways to alleviate stress and overwork, says Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO at Mental Health America. More than half of those surveyed by FlexJobs said workplace flexibility is the top way their employer could support them.

“Offering flexibility during the workday, encouraging employees to use their PTO when they need a vacation, and providing time off for employees to tend to their mental health can help employees at all levels of a company cope with COVID-19 and other stressors,” Gionfriddo says.

Addressing employee mental health has been a top concern during the pandemic, and providing virtual support is one way to combat feelings of burnout and stress. Mental health platforms offered by employers have noticed a surge in usage as employees turn to online tools. Forty-five percent of employees surveyed said they would be interested in virtual mental health solutions like meditation sessions, and 31% expressed interest in attending webinars about mental health topics.

See also: Best tools to support your remote workforce

Employers must be proactive in supporting the needs of their employees during this time, Gionfriddo says. Only about half (51%) of workers agreed that they had the emotional support they need at work to help manage their stress.

“Company leadership, including executives, HR, and management, have a responsibility to their employees to model and talk openly about behaviors that reduce stress and prevent burnout,” Gionfriddo says. “[They need to] help employees establish the appropriate boundaries when working remotely.”

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