Help Employees Feel Valued to Prevent Burnout, Experts Advise

09 Nov, 2021 Nancy Grover

                               

Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – The workers’ compensation industry’s continuing efforts to attract and retain new workers is surely not being helped by the pandemic. The so-called Great Resignation saw a record 4.3 million employees leaving their jobs in August alone, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

While experts cite a number of reasons for the mass exit of workers in the last 19 months, many point to burnout as a major factor. Professionals looking into the issue say employers can take a number of actions to retain their employees – if they understand what’s driving the problem.

“With this exodus from companies, most companies think it’s about compensation or workplace stress. It’s actually not,” said Linda Saggau, chief of Staff for R3 Continuum. “People aren’t feeling valued. That’s the number one thing that’s showing up in the research.”

The implications of burnout on organizations can be tremendous, from reduced productivity and increased absences to higher rates of sick days and employees leaving their jobs – either to go elsewhere or leave the workforce. During a recent webinar speakers identified the causes of burnout and how it can be mitigated and even prevented.

What is Burnout

Burnout is actually a syndrome. The World Health Organization says it is "conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed."

But workplace stress and burnout do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. Workplace stress is driven by the external situation, such as feeling overwhelmed or overcommitted. Burnout, on the other hand, is the internal disposition, how people interpret and deal with their stress.  

“What’s subtle but could be missed in the WHO’s definition is ‘not been successfully managed,’” said Jeff Gorter VP of Clinical Crisis Response for R3. “It’s not that workplace stress in and of itself inevitably leads to burnout. Key is ‘it has not been successfully managed.’”

Left unchecked, burnout can cause physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms, even suicidal ideation. It is characterized by an extreme lack of energy. Workers may mentally distance themselves from their jobs or have negative feelings about their careers.

“It’s this depletion, this utter exhaustion. It’s this distancing not only from the job but from people,” Saggau said. “We see this happen with physicians. A lot begin to remove themselves from their patients. They’re not intending to; they are hurting.”

Organizations can suffer significantly from burnout. A study by Gallup showed burned out employees are 2.6 times more likely to seek another job, 63 percent more likely to take a sick day and 23 percent more likely to visit the emergency room.

People going through burnout feel a sense of failure. They typically have deep seated feelings of inadequacy. They may appear to lack motivation. These feelings may lead them to take out their frustrations on others. A major component of burnout is cynicism.

“If you notice these symptoms in yourself or others, have compassion – for yourself and others – because when people are exhausted, cynical and disengaged they’re actually experiencing a legitimate syndrome,” Saggau said. “They’re not trying to be awful human beings. They are in pain.”

Blocking Burnout

A multi-pronged approach is the best strategy to mitigate and prevent burnout, the speakers said. Behavioral health support should be coupled with key business decisions and business actions.

“It’s remarkable, if you shift a couple of things on the behavioral health side or the business side how big of a difference you can make as a leader,” Saggau said, “not only in the near term, but in the long term, with your employees.”

 “These two areas are often viewed as separate, and sometimes, perhaps diametrically opposed,” Gorter added. “But the reality is they are inextricably linked; that what we do to manage and provide and facilitate our behavioral health support, resiliency, has a direct impact on business decisions, and vice versa.”

In terms of providing behavioral health support, Gorter says there are three areas, or buckets, that leaders can tap into.

  • Presence. This involves frequently checking in with employees at all levels. “Check-ins all throughout the organization is a powerful example of presence,” Gorter said. “It creates a space to listen and hear what your teams are saying. When your teams feel heard, the feel they can share their feedback. A key element of a protective factor against burnous is when employees feel that their feedback has been heard, their opinions are validated.”
  • Perseverance. “Acknowledge that it’s a marathon. We’re not in the same place we were in February 2020,” Gorter said. “We’ve moved forward. We’re not out of the woods yet. it’s important we set our pace accordingly to continue to make it through the next goals.”
  • Purpose. Acknowledging the uniqueness of the pandemic is important, Gorter said. Also crucial is to recognize the value employees have brought to the organization. “[Saying], ‘the things you’ve done, the solutions you’ve come up with, I just have to tell you how I value that and how impressed I’ve been,’” he said. “Being free with your praise has a benefit to you as well. Research shows your mood improves when you acknowledge the benefits others have brought.”

From a business perspective, organizations can seek ways to enhance the employee experience to focus on purpose and strengthen interpersonal relations. “Without a purpose, a vision, it’s very difficult to feel completely safe, grounded, directed, led,” Saggau said. “Now more than ever the job of leaders is to lead … help [employees] understand how to interpret strategy and how to engage in it effectively so they can feel accomplished and successful.”

One thing businesses can do is decide what to focus on – and what can be dropped. “It’s very easy to believe we need to keep all the balls up in the air,” Saggau said. “But the core of strategy is what you say ‘no’ to. Especially in these times, if your focus is scattered, it’s an opportunity to get together with your executive team and say ‘OK, what are we going to sacrifice, put down, pick up?’”

Saggau advises organizations embrace what she called the ‘Hedgehog concept.’ “It’s the intersection of your passion, what you’re better at than anyone else, and your financial driver,” she said. “It’s so powerful in terms of making strategic decisions and fostering strategic focus … it creates a framework that helps you understand – ‘here’s what we put down.’”

 


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    About The Author

    • Nancy Grover

      Nancy Grover is a freelance writer having recently retired as the Director, Media Services for WorkersCompensation.com. She comes to our company with more than 35 years as a broadcast journalist and communications consultant. Grover’s specialties include insurance, workers’ compensation, financial services, substance abuse, healthcare and disability. For 12 years she served as the Program Chair of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. A journalism/speech graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, Grover also holds an MBA from Palm Beach Atlantic University.

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