We need to talk about pandemic burnout. There is an ongoing mental health crisis across the globe as an increasing number of workers report feeling unable to cope with social distancing and the countless coronavirus-related lockdowns. The situation is far from gravy in America – a nation that seems to have entered the last leg of the pandemic. According to Gallup, the average American’s assessment of their own mental health is “worse than it has been at any point in the last two decades.” Researchers suggests it’s important to address this pandemic related burnout before it takes a serious toll on employee wellbeing.
Workplace surveys describe a noticeable increase in rates of employee burnout during the pandemic. The past twelve months have taken a mighty toll on professionals, and many say their employers aren’t helping. According to Trusted Source, there is a 10 percent increase in burnout rates of employees compared to the previous year.
The pandemic has forced most companies to adopt the work from home model. With many regions still reeling under a second or third surge of the virus, this remote model is now here to stay. The transition to remote work from office-based work was sudden, and most people and organizations did not have the time to adapt to the new model.
A major cause of burnout, according to a dipstick study of people working from home, is the need to be in video streaming meetings with team members, supervisors, etc. A major part of the working day is spent attending these meetings, which by their very nature are exhausting. The need to be constantly staring at a screen, with the absence of any human body language cues can be draining. In a face-to-face meeting, the nonverbal clues play a big part in the discussions and meetings. They relieve the monotony of interaction and add to the takeaways. All this is absent in a video meeting and in the process, the brain tries to overcompensate, which is tiring and unhealthy in the long run.
Burnout has been recognized by the World Health Organization in its international classification of diseases as a widespread “occupational phenomenon” characterized by –
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy, depletion or exhaustion, negative feelings or cynicism about one’s job, and reduced effectiveness at work.
It is yet to be recognized as a medical condition by WHO.
Burnout, according to a study done by the American Institute of Stress, costs the U.S. more than $300 billion a year in absenteeism, medical, legal, insurance, and diminished productivity.
At an organizational level, one top tip is for the business to accept that burnout happens and that a culture that fosters well-being and good mental health is a must-have. A foundation building block is to conduct regular stress risk assessments (and act on the output),” advised Kat Hounsell, mental health and well-being coach who runs an organization, Everyday people.
A happy culture at the workplace where the workers are contented and satisfied is essential.
“Burnout takes many forms,” Jason Fried, the CEO of basecamp said. “Give people plenty of time to themselves, lots of autonomy to make decisions, ample time off, sabbaticals every three years, [and] outlets to discuss stress.”
Setting expectations regarding job roles and output is also important, he added.