As we approach mid-winter, it’s important to consider the true impact of the season on the greater workforce.  Following a busy and exciting holiday season, the long, winter months can lead to people developing a sudden sense of dissatisfaction or even burnout in their lives – this is particularly true when it comes to their jobs.

The back-to-work grind and winter blues that surface during January, February and March leave many workers reconsidering their place of employment or even their chosen career paths. It’s a time for change, warranted or not. A Randstad US study found, to address burnout, 42 percent of workers admitted to applying for new job opportunities,, while nearly 11 percent have quit their jobs as a solution to it.

Apart from the fact employee turnover is challenging for organizations, employers should have their employees’ well-being top of mind and must look for ways to address, head on, the issue of job dissatisfaction or burnout. Winter 2020 is a good time to reevaluate what you and your organization are doing to better understand employee needs, create a more employee-centric culture and work to retain top talent.

A great place to start is by leading toward decompression in the workplace, essentially helping employees break from working with action and immediacy, which often leads to burnout, and, instead, helping them connect their work and purpose with longer-term outcomes. Communication touchpoints are critical to achieve this. Ramp up the amount and frequency of feedback given to employees as well as ensure more consistent opportunities for employees to voice concerns and ask questions about their work to their reporting managers. Redefining the relationship and feedback loop between management and employees will ultimately lead to more transparency and human-centric leadership. And transparency will help resolve challenges employees face in their roles.

Are You Giving the Right Feedback?

A good place to start is by ensuring employees are getting more feedback on their work. A key reason people sometimes leave jobs is because they don’t feel their work is valued by their boss or management. It’s important, when deserved, for leaders to provide positive feedback to workers to not only acknowledge the good work people do and encourage them to continue doing excellent work, but also to help highlight how their work is valuable or strategic to the company.

When employees are spending hours of their time on projects or initiatives and receive no feedback, they feel less valued and sometimes struggle to link the work they do to how it benefits the company. When an employee feels disconnected from their work or their role within a company, leaders are the people who must reverse this and take the opportunity to lead to decompression. If they don’t help define a bigger picture for their employees, and continue to focus on having employees grind out action-driven work, they risk losing a valuable team member and high-quality work.

Positive feedback and encouragement aside, when an employee is underperforming, taking the time to offer feedback to them is equally as invaluable. However, negative feedback should never be given without actionable advice or suggestions to help improve the quality of work. If someone’s writing is weak, for example, leaders and managers must ensure they’re taking the time to coach the worker in a way leading to incremental improvements in their work. When work performance improves, it’s incredible how encouraging it feels for an individual, helping to stave off feelings of burnout or job dissatisfaction.

Don’t Overlook the Value of the 1:1 Meeting

On the other side of the spectrum, while providing feedback to employees is important, so is listening to feedback from employees. Regularly scheduled check-ins with employees gives them time to voice their concerns and questions about their role or their work. Ensuring employees meet with their managers on a frequent basis will enable people to take action for any job dissatisfaction they may feel.

Meetings give employees the opportunity to directly engage with managers about issues that crop up in their roles, such as feeling they’re always strapped for time. By knowing this, managers can then take a closer look at how much is on someone’s plate and redistribute work to alleviate an individual from a burdensome workload. Additionally, a regular check in might open doors for employees to be more transparent about how much they are “connected” to work after hours and will give leaders more insight into how to better help employees navigate “always on” work culture, perhaps pushing managers to strategically intervene, setting a precedent to adopt company-wide “email hours” policies, a key element to leading to more decompression in the workplace.

Interestingly, technology can also help achieve this kind of culture by creating more communication channels and easier access to collaboration with colleagues or managers. Slack is a good example of a digital channel which inspires more frequent touch points between workers, which opens the door to more continuous feedback loops.

These meetings, effectively, also set aside time to discuss less tactical items with employees such as their career growth opportunities within the company.

Frequent communications and conversations will ultimately lead to more transparency, and more transparency will give leaders an opportunity to improve the work experience for the talent they will rely so heavily upon this year. Leading with a human-centric approach will dramatically improve employee retention and lead to much stronger employee engagement in their work. The “daily grind” and “winter blues” are realities many people struggle with, but opening up the lines of communication in the workplace, especially between management and employees, will ebb away at those challenges.