Excessive and prolonged stress can create mental, emotional, and even physical burnout. As leaders, we must recognize that pressures and tension unrelated to work sit at the periphery of our employees’ lives waiting to creep in and take over. Work can be another opportunity for pain, or a release from the tension. 

The overwhelming topic of discussion happening right now in both the business community and the press is the grand return to the office, and with it the related uptick in business needs. People are traveling, meetings are happening, and businesses are chasing down higher productivity rates than ever before. This, paired with the world reopening at the exact same time, is likely to result in a bit of a learning moment for employees as they recalibrate their way of thinking and living back to “normal” life. 

A survey from Flex Jobs and Mental Health America shows that 40% of those experiencing burnout at work cite the pandemic as the reason. As the pandemic begins to abate in this country, it’s crucial for employers to be thoughtful and intentional about how workers are welcomed back into the workplace. They must be goal-driven while still allotting for the fact that adjustment can take time and patience. 

Here are 10 actions leaders can take right now to assist your employees in avoiding the burnout tsunami:

  1. Communicate a shared vision. Clearly let employees know how you see their future in the company and get their buy-in. Making sure that everyone is on the same page is a crucial starting point.
  2. Set challenging but not overwhelming goals. They need to stretch, but not too much. Having a rewarding and attainable goal to work towards can refresh and invigorate employees. 
  3. Brush up on your empathy. Personalize your management approach per employee. We’re all human and taking the time to connect with each other can pay big dividends. Plus, there is rarely a one size fits all answer to the reacclimating pains that are likely to arise.
  4. Reduce the stigma of counseling and getting help. Create and encourage support. Make sure your employees are aware of the options available to them. After all, numerous studies have shown that the pandemic had a huge impact on people’s mental health. 
  5. Lessen environmental stress. Upgrade to open and collaborative spaces. Ensure that the office is a positive environment conducive to work. During the pandemic, many employees were in their comfortable home environments – do your best to ensure that the office is also inviting.
  6. Encourage renewal breaks. Frequent walks, real lunches, morning coffee, afternoon tea.
  7. Respect quiet hours. Dinner, family time, sleep… keep emails and calls to work hours whenever possible. It can be challenging for employees to set boundaries so it’s important for you to set them when possible. 
  8. Teach single threading work habits. Don’t brag about multitasking; one task at a time. 
  9. Keep a flexible work schedule enabled. Home, work hours, ease into the office full-time. When the pandemic hit, employee’s lives were abruptly upended – there is no need to do that again if you don’t have to. 
  10. Promote collaboration. Purposefully set up small teams who can support each other. We’re all in this together and it’s important for employees to feel that way.

Taking these actions now will assist your employees in maintaining their sanity over the coming months and navigating their way through life; with work hopefully being a place they want to be… not have to be. Ultimately, the best thing you can do is keep an eye out for employees sliding into crisis and come alongside them to face their issues together.