A New Survey of More Than 700,000 Employees Reveals Another Crisis Facing the Workplace

Burnout is an emerging trend threatening employee well-being during the pandemic.

By Marcel Schwantes, Founder And Chief Human Officer, Leadership From The Core Inc. Magazine, May 20, 2020

It's no secret that the world of work has been turned upside down because of Covid-19. Organizations have sought to understand their employees, how they're doing, and in what ways they need to be supported.

During this time of crisis, Glint, a technology-based platform that helps companies build a more engaged workplace, has seen an increased sense of urgency from many of them in seeking a real-time understanding of employee sentiment so that they can make swift changes to support employee well-being.

Since March 18, Glint has gathered over 2.9 million survey responses from more than 700,000 employees around the world, in a sweeping range of industries. The biggest emerging trend threatening employee well-being? Burnout.

What Glint is seeing is that employee survey comments around burnout doubled from March to April, increasing from 2.7 to 5.4 percent, suggesting that it's a growing threat to the productivity and engagement of today's workforce.

"This is to be expected, as employees attempt to maintain their mental health while learning new ways to manage their many responsibilities -- the lines between which have become increasingly blurred," said Justin Black, head of Glint people science.

In fact, employees who said they struggle with balancing their personal and work lives were 4.4 times more likely to exhibit signs of burnout, and the effect was 2.3 percent for employees who felt overwhelmed by their workload.

"Communication is also a critical factor impacting employee well-being: Employees who felt their managers were ineffective communicators were 2.7 times more likely to use language signaling burnout," said Black, adding, "Good communication reduces uncertainty and increases perceived control -- and can protect employees from feeling overwhelmed in this new reality."

Fortunately, Glint is seeing employees and employers stepping up and owning well-being as a personal and organizational focus. In fact, in April, more than 10 times as many people watched mindfulness and stress management courses on LinkedIn Learning compared with February.

The reality is, with the amount of uncertainty and distress we're all facing, it's unlikely that the threat of burnout will dissipate anytime soon. Black recommends three ways that leaders can significantly promote employee well-being.

1. Regular employee check-ins

Using a short, frequent pulse to understand and respond to employee needs, especially during a crisis, is crucial. It highlights key areas of concern but also shines a light onto opportunities your organization can take to help people feel focused and productive. An example of this can be found at PayPal, an early adopter of Glint, which has issued weekly company-wide wellness surveys. The company found that what employees desired most was mental health and emotional wellness support. In response, it invested in providing free access to a mobile app that helped to manage stress, anxiety, and depression.

2. Structured manager discussions

The manager's role has never been more important in helping your employees feel connected, supported, and focused. Organizations need to support managers with fact-based information and centralized resources so they can have meaningful conversations and maximum flexibility to address individual challenges. Enable managers to share what they are learning and get their questions answered.

3. Emphasize prioritization

When situations change, demands do too. Many of us are now homeschooling and teleworking simultaneously -- all while also throwing out the goals we set a few months ago to shift focus on responding to new business pressures. Let's face it: Some things we thought we were going to do over the next few months are not going to get done. Times of distress cause us to take a fresh look at priorities, and this is an excellent opportunity to be kind to others by de-prioritizing projects, activities, and processes that are not urgent and not essential. It's also an opportunity to be kind to ourselves in the same regard.

As the pandemic's trajectory remains unknown, it's important for organizational leaders and managers to create some sense of certainty within their workforce. Employees now more than ever are looking for consistency, empathy, and guidance. And with the right insight, that can easily be achieved.