Burnout occurs when the demands placed on someone exceed the resources they have available to them, taking tolls on their mental health and energy. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the combination of increased anxiety coupled with the increased expectations of their employment has created the perfect storm for an over 59% increase in anxiety levels among Americans. Mental and behavioral health is just as important to maintain, if not more, than one’s own physical health. Together, we can provide the necessary resources and support to our employees to ensure their health is protected in this unprecedented time.
If not already implemented, it should be a top priority for leaders and managers to mitigate emotional distress and burnout by providing access to information and cognitive skills to handle the newly increased stress load on everyone. Almost 36% of people with emotionally-charged personalities and high levels of empathy risk the brunt force of burnout. Concerns about health, trust, work, finances, children, family and the uncertainty of what will happen have created a perfect storm for serious behavioral health issues in the workforce. Treating your employees, and yourself, with the support and care they need will lessen this risk for emotional and mental drainage.
Burnout signs and risks
One of the most important things we can do for each other is help to identify burnout and learn techniques to help lessen its effects. Signs of burnout include but are not limited to:
- Sadness, depression, or apathy
- Easily frustrated
- Blaming of others, irritability
- Lacking feelings, indifferent
- Isolation or disconnection from others
- Poor self-care (hygiene)
- Tired, exhausted or overwhelmed
- Feeling like:
- A failure
- Nothing you can do will help
- You are not doing your job well
- You need alcohol/other drugs to cope
Recognizing these symptoms and acting efficiently with techniques can prevent further burnout, which can result in secondary traumatic stress. Communicate with your employees and introduce coping techniques like taking breaks, eating healthy foods, exercising, and using the buddy system.
Resources available to employees
If your company has an HR department, it is encouraged that they remind employees that every single member of the company is facing mounting stressors and fears, and that a a support system must be in place. Nonprofit news organization Marketplace suggests that employers offer and communicare telehealth mental health care. Healthcare costs are no easy feat, but if your company is able to help cover some appointments with employees, this would provide an external source of professional help many people need in this situation. Communicating that it is perfectly fine to feel anxious and uneasy is a good support system as well, since many employees may think their feelings are invalid and should not express them, when in fact it should be encouraged. Some additional resources include:
- “Taking Care of Your Mental Health in the Face of Uncertainty” (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
- “Mental Health And COVID-19 – Information And Resources” (Mental Health America)
- “Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak” (World Health Organization)
- “Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease” (CDC)
- “Coronavirus and isolation: supporting yourself and your colleagues” (Mental Health at Work)
This is an extremely difficult time to be living through, and no matter how much strength you have, the uncertainty of the world is bound to weigh heavy on everyone’s shoulders. Being there for your employees and providing mental health support during this time is essential to helping your business continue to succeed, as well as being human and encouraging hope.