Employee engagement is key to a happy workforce. It keeps employees invested in their work mentally, emotionally, and behaviorally—as long as burnout does not get in the way.

Yet Glint’s Employee Well-Being Report found that employee burnout had risen nearly 4% between August and December 2020, surpassing a two-year high recorded in August. Defined by the World Health Organization  as a syndrome that results from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,”  burnout can result in exhaustion, a negative attitude toward one’s job, and a decline in productivity.  

Leaders can—and should—stop burnout well before it tightens its grip on an organization. That’s the focus of the on-demand webinar “The People Success Advantage – Driving Well-Being,” with Jeff Jokerst, the U.S. West Head of People Science for Glint, and Liz Thiel, Senior Director of Total Rewards and Associate Engagement for Netsmart, a Kansas-based health information company. Here are five of their top tips to fight burnout and cultivate well-being. 

1. Help employees set priorities and goals

As organizations have grappled with the uncertainty and tumult of the pandemic, many employees have felt a loss of control not just in their professional lives, but also in their personal worlds. One way leaders can help employees regain some of that control—and feel less uncertainty—is by helping them prioritize their goals and complete the tasks necessary to reach those goals. 

Liz says Netsmart’s managers hold quarterly performance discussions with employees to go over priorities. On top of that, they have monthly check-ins to see how employees have progressed toward their goals.  

2. Use surveys to understand and address employee concerns 

Feedback, collected through employee surveys, is an effective tool to help decrease employee anxiety. It shines a spotlight on where and how leaders can improve their organizations. For HR leaders who want to retain their people, feedback gives them a starting point for taking steps that will keep employees happy. 

The key is taking a people-centric approach. “Find out what the unique groups in your organization really want and what they need, and then make adjustments accordingly,” Jeff says.

It’s also a good idea to ask employees about stressors that may not be directly work-related, to see if the company can be of assistance. Netsmart asked employees to name their top stressor during the pandemic, and 41% said financial wellness. In response, HR leaders put more of an emphasis on financial benefits, such as flexible spending accounts and retirement benefits. 

“We were able to really emphasize financial wellness in a way that we hadn’t done before,” Liz says.

3. Build a framework for regular conversations

Keep the communication flowing between leaders and employees through formal and informal conversations. Use formal conversations to discuss team and individual priorities, and use informal chats to talk about progress. 

Feedback from employees can help leaders determine what content from those conversations is most impactful, so future conversations can be even more meaningful. The goal is to “increase both the quality and the quantity of those conversations,” Liz says. “In doing so, employees know what is expected of them and are more certain about their role in the organization.” 

4. Prioritize flexibility

The pandemic transformed where people work. As the crisis subsides and employees return to the office, employers should recognize that some people will be most productive at home while others will feel more engaged in the workplace. 

Netsmart has made provisions for both groups. “We were able to open our office in very safe ways,” Liz says. The company also equipped managers to help employees create productive remote environments, with steps such as ensuring their home workspaces are ergonomically correct.

By allowing employees to work in the environment in which they feel most comfortable and certain, organizations can reduce stress and increase happiness.

5. Demystify mental health resources

For employees on the verge of burnout, an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can make all the difference. But employees have to know the service is there. HR leaders should communicate frequently about the different reasons an employee might reach out to their EAP. 

One of Liz’s proudest moments came when she was reviewing responses from a recent survey. “We had a significant number of people say, ‘I haven’t needed that EAP benefit or those counseling services yet, but I know exactly where to find them if I do,’ ” she says.  

Final Thoughts: Reduce uncertainty to deter burnout

For many employees, uncertainty has become the status quo due to the pandemic, and the changes it has brought about in the workplace and at home. That uncertainty creates stress, and can lead to burnout and less productivity. 

By reducing uncertainty, HR leaders create a supportive environment for employees that leaves them feeling more in control of their professional lives. Regular communication and attention to feedback from employees can help leaders create a work environment that is low on ambiguity, high on clarity, and far better for well-being. 

What a deeper dive into these ideas? Watch the full webinar.