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How to Protect Your Employees From Burnout: Unplugging From Work

CoAdvantage- Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, employees already had a hard time establishing firm boundaries between home life and work and fully unplugging from their job duties. A CareerBuilder survey from earlier this year (pre-pandemic) found that nearly half of workers “complete work outside of office hours,” including responding to emails at night and while on vacation. The result: feelings of stress, fatigue, and burnout.

The pandemic has only worsened the problem. Now, with so many employees working from home, more workers than ever find it difficult or impossible to unplug. In fact, a survey from The Next Web (TNW) found that “not being able to unplug” was the most commonly cited challenge of remote working by employees. Worse, Wharton professor and organizational psychologist Adam Grant says, “The pandemic has extended the average workday by 2-3 hours.”

Again, the result has been burnout. Bloomberg reports that a survey of 1,001 American workers by Eagle Hill Consulting found 45% of workers say they were burned out, and that was back in April.

The ability to unplug is crucial to employee well-being and productivity, though.

YoungAh Park, assistant professor of psychology at Kansas State University, tells EHS Today (an information and news resource for workplace safety professionals), “Research has shown that employees who unwind from work stress during off-work times are better at showing proactive behaviors to solve problems and are more engaged in their work. In the long term … detaching themselves from work is beneficial for sustaining employees’ well-being and job performance capabilities.”

What can employers do to reduce burnout?

First, make it possible to unplug. Employers need to set appropriate policies and expectations and communicate them not only to workers but to their direct supervisors. Even the best intentions can be waylaid by an errant mid-level manager emailing late at night. Make policies clear and universal.

Second, make clear that unplugging will be acceptable. It’s possible that employees may not trust corporate reassurances that they can unplug. It’s important to model appropriate behavior and actively encourage workers to take time off. “I let my team know if I e-mail you during your time off, I don’t expect an answer,” one Vice President of HR told the Society for Human Resource Management. “I am just clearing items from my desk and my head. It can wait.”

Third, if encouraging doesn’t work, force employees to unplug for their own good. Require that employees take time off within a certain time window, or get creative with incentives. Tech firm ServiceNow, which offers unlimited time off, started hosting “staycation contests.”

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about CoAdvantage’s ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.

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