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Handling Employee Burnout in a Recession

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

At Untapped AI, we have noticed something drastic going on. Recently, our

platform has seen an increase of up to 35% in pre burnout in workers. In the midst of so much uncertainty: the continuing war in Ukraine, colossal increases in energy prices, global banks telling us to buckle up for a recession, and with declining head-counts or hiring freezes in even some of the world’s largest organisations - it’s no wonder that employees are more burned out now than ever.

This is particularly true in organisations that have already experienced shrinkages in their workforce. Where certain roles or even departments have been cut, it remains to the survivors to keep the lights on during uncertain times. This could involve anything from additional duties, longer hours, and taking on the stress that comes from simply trying to help the company survive. Initially this could seem like a chance to step in as the hero, but if mishandled, this can rapidly descend into burnout.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) classified burnout as a workplace phenomenon, BUT they failed to recognise it as a medical condition. This meant that companies potentially had a get out clause for taking responsibility for the burnout suffered by their employees. Thankfully, at Untapped AI, we do not believe this will remain the case, as changes wrought by global uncertainties are making activists of us all and employee activism is on an upward trajectory.

How will burnout affect your business in 2022?

Even in uncertain times, high employee turnover is never desirable. Right now, businesses will want to hold onto their top talent. Since burnout is heavily correlated with resignation, it’s in every company’s best interests to prevent this from taking place.

Indeed, research from our platform has indicated that 65% of people with full burnout go on to leave and change their careers (yes - even in a recession). But one of the more empowering factors of going through burnout is that people are forced to be very realistic about their boundaries and capacities. That 'hard won' realism means they create their own boundaries and are okay with keeping to them. This emerges from the 'bone-deep confidence' and humility that comes from knowing what happens if they don't.

Our experience has shown us that the most effective point of intervention, the time to offer help and support to those heading towards full burnout, is when they start talking about feeling anxious and being overwhelmed as a central part of their working experience. This is the time that organisations need to act. After all, if the fundamental issues of burnout are not addressed, they will add to the continual dreaded 'brain-drain' and loss of great talent.

How can I help my employees?

1. Explore non-monetary benefits

Of course, everyone deserves a healthy salary, but increased wages will never be enough to maintain the boundaries needed to prevent burnout and establish resilience. Yes, people want to work hard, yes, they want to be rewarded but they also want time for other aspects of life that help them feel valued and fulfilled. Think about what matters most to your employees - time with family, less costs associated with work and engaging in uplifting activities etc. Honouring these could translate into initiatives such as relaxing a formal hybrid work policy, allowing more down-time such as finish-early-fridays, or even connecting employees to meaningful resources such as employee financial management advice platform nudge.

2. Growing, building and investing in ‘Self-aware Leaders'

These figureheads are a crucial means for mental health support to be truly integrated into the lifeblood of an organisation. The self-aware leader will create space and invite difficult conversations around mental health and its impact on people. It’s a tough process and these leaders need help. In fact, helping leaders navigate tough times and give them the space to grow into the leaders their employees need them to be is part and parcel of what we do. We know from our platform that when leaders take on this responsibility, and when it's done well, the levels of stress, anxiety and potential burnout in a company dramatically decrease.

3. Having open conversations about boundaries

At this time, we could learn a thing or two from our Gen-Z employees. They’re much clearer about their boundaries and how they want to run their lives - and they are less in awe of conventional structures. And the research shows they are feeling confident enough to ask for help. This matters because in an increasingly uncertain world, boundaries are exactly what is needed. A culture of openness and seeing a human beyond just their job title is essential. Open conversations about someone’s priorities, worries and thoughts are crucial because it encourages trust, can decrease feelings of stress, and can help everyone understand how best to move forward. After all, a problem shared is a problem halved.

Worried about how the recession is affecting your staff? Reach out to us and explore with us how best we can help you weather the storm using our Networked Coaching approach.

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