HR’s role in managing pandemic-related burnout

The 2019 Coronavirus pandemic has brought about irrevocable changes in the way we work. Work from Home and remote working have become the accepted norm. However, this sudden transition from an office to a home office has come with its own challenges – keeping pace with technology, self-starting, communication, availability, a diffusion of work and home life.

Added to that is the anxiety associated with the Pandemic. Many have found all this overwhelming. Recognizing and supporting employees through any period of pandemic burnout is an increasingly novel challenge many leaders face, HR especially.

Employee Burnout 

So how can the HR department of companies recognize employee burnout and how it can support the employees’ wellbeing through the Pandemic and beyond?

There has been a 16 plus month of pandemic chaos. The accompanying restrictions on movement have made the activities for relief and downtime such as meeting up with friends, going to the gym, travel and light human interactions difficult.

Added to that is being cooped up at home, and for some with school-going children that need extra supervision.

Flexibility in work schedule is a plus, but when that flexibility means filling every empty hour with work, then it becomes problematic both mentally and physically.

These different elements are impacting every employee differently and causing mental and physical exhaustion. Therefore, it’s important to speak openly about mental health, stress, and burnout with your team and then try to understand how it’s specifically affecting them.

Most employees, when they are gainfully engaged, feel more productive. But the long Pandemic has led to exhaustion and fatigue. Furthermore, there is the stress and worry of a disease that has lingered on with no effective end in sight.

In such a scenario, employers need to be doing more than ever to care for their people and protect them from work burnout.

Steps to Take to spot Burnout and Effectively Handle it

Company HR people need to interact with team leaders to inform and educate them about burnout and what needs to be done to spot it and handle it. Research shows that lost productivity from presenteeism (i.e., working when sick or burned out) is 7.5 times greater than productivity loss from absenteeism. It’s a lose/lose situation.

The general signs of a burnout are – Exhaustion: physical, emotional and mental

  • Depression, which is manifested in general disinterest in anything related to work or life
  • lacklustre attitude

There might be physical symptoms of irritability, distraction and inability to fulfil a task. The critical thing to remember is that you’re looking for changes in how they usually act. Those changes are your warning signals.

Show that you care

If a team leader spots these symptoms in general interactions with the team members, the first step is to have a separate one-to-one interaction with that person.

1) Enquire about their general well being and ask how they are coping with the work and if they need any help regarding work or any other issue.

This acknowledgement of the effect of a stressful situation goes a long way in reassuring people that a company cares and that they are seen and heard and matter to their workplace.

2) Secondly, a team leader or person in charge needs to show appreciation in the work done and the hours put in by the team member or members to keep the work rolling.

3) The HR department or professionals can take an active role in arranging some downtime for the various team members. 

  • Arranging for yoga sessions and advice about taking breaks is all very well, but the mental stress and burnout experienced due to the unique pandemic situation needs to be addressed too.
  • One way would be to arrange mental well-being sessions. Experts can be called in regularly to identify what burnout is and ways to identify and acknowledge mental stress associated with burnout and coping mechanisms.

4) Getting experts to call out the stress and burnout and give suggestions in a general session is a good way to impart knowledge to even those who are reluctant about acknowledging that they are facing a work-related burnout or mental stress.

Alongside get mindfulness experts, therapists who can show ways to bring the stress down and coping exercises.

Anna Verasai
Anna Versai is a Team Writer at The HR Digest; she covers topics related to Recruitment, Workplace Culture, Interview Tips, Employee Benefits, HR News and HR Leadership. She also writes for Technowize, providing her views on the Upcoming Technology, Product Reviews, and the latest apps and softwares.

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