When the pandemic first began, life hit me with a one-two-three (maybe four-five?) punch: job loss for my spouse; kids’ school shutting down, lockdown in our home with 24/7 family time; cooking, cooking, and more cooking; and a complete halt to gatherings with friends and family and social activities. Several months into the pandemic and lockdown, my kids still had not returned to school, an aging loved one moved in with us, and I went from “working mom” to “working mom who has to balance caregiving, Zoom calls for everyone in my house, educating my kids, performing the majority of household duties, and caring for the emotional state of all my family members.” So many colleagues questioned how I was doing it. And to be honest, I don’t know. But I do know that after many months of pushing through this climate of the unknown, I’m fried. Done. Toast. Burned out.
The first sign happened in late March: I noticed it was harder and harder to focus on the simplest of tasks. The second sign? How long it took me to complete tasks that once took minutes. That’s when it hit me: After more than a year into the pandemic, my work-life balance had disappeared. Those once-quiet moments are now filled with squeezing in work or tasks for my family, because when you’re juggling so much, time is everything—making it much harder to recharge and refuel my mindset.
Perhaps, not surprisingly, I'm not alone. A recent New York Times article framed burnout like this:
“Call it a late-pandemic crisis of productivity, of will, of enthusiasm, of purpose. Call it a bout of existential work-related ennui provoked partly by the realization that sitting in the same chair in the same room staring at the same computer for 12 straight months (and counting!) has left many of us feeling like burned-out husks, dimwitted approximations of our once-productive selves.”
I couldn’t agree more, and there’s a good chance your people are feeling this way, too. More than 70% of workers reported burnout at least once last year. And MetLife's 18th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study 2020 highlights this new work-life reality we’re all in, noting that “2 in 3 employees feel more stressed than before the COVID-19 pandemic,” and 77% say they struggle because today’s technology makes it tough to “switch off” or leave their work behind at the end of the day. In today’s work-life world, we’re “always on,” according to the study, “forcing people to manage their priorities in dramatically different ways.”
While employers can’t control their people’s personal circumstances, they can play a big role in supporting them through all the twists and turns of today’s modern life. Employees who feel that their employer supports their overall well-being ultimately feel heard, valued, and respected, according to the MetLife study. And this leads to a boost in morale and productivity.
For example, the 2016, 2018, and 2019 Gallup Panel™ studies found that employees who are burned out are more likely to:
And less likely to:
Translation? How you communicate about your benefits during this challenging time is crucial. The benefits, resources, and tools you offer to your people are only as valuable as your communications about them.
Here are 5 ways to help you cut through employee burnout and fatigue and ensure that your benefits communications reach your employees’ ears.
As for my own case of burnout, I’ve had to deploy a few different tips, tricks, and life hacks to get myself back on track, including:
Ask for help. I can't do it all, nor do I know it all. So, with my workouts, I have my trainer with me. With my kids’ schoolwork, my husband steps in to help.
We're all discovering and exploring new ideas to deal with burnout. In fact, it's come up during many conversations with clients, and here at Segal Benz, we are excited to help them shape their benefits communications strategy with addressing burnout in mind.
We’re proud to work with organizations that value their people. If you want to learn more, we’d love to talk.