Beyond Burnout: How to Help Employees Feel Less Stressed

Americans are seriously stressed out, and the situation could get worse for the country and your company as the workforce gets younger.

Employers are hoping to tackle workplace stress and burnout through financial and health wellness programs. A survey by Buck, an HR and benefits consulting firm, found that 40% of companies in 56 countries say they have created a culture of well-being — up from 33% in 2016 — and of the remaining firms, 80% say they want to create such a culture.

This could be a smart path, because more than half of employees with access to wellness programs feel they create real, substantial benefits, according to a survey by United Healthcare. And 73% of employees without such a program want one, the survey indicates.

These figures indicate that companies can become an employer of choice by creating a wellness program that puts employees and their needs first. Here are some tips.

Focus on Your Relationship

Stressed employees who are approaching burnout often want something from their job that isn’t there. To understand what’s missing, leaders and employees need to talk.
“I think the common gap is that too many people in business have become transactional, not relational,” says Brian Hamilton, vice president of SmartDollar. “People on your payroll are not units of production. They are people. Nearly 80% of them are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Everyone loses if an organization doesn’t engage them relationally and help them.”

Hamilton suggests demonstrating that the team matters to the company. Begin by reviewing the roles of your team’s members and ensuring that everyone is a good fit. If not, look for possible ways to change roles or responsibilities to better match people’s skills and interests while still accomplishing the tasks your company needs. Seeking out this common ground can demonstrate your commitment to caring for your team so they feel heard and empowered to tackle their tasks.

“Make sure employees are in the right position. If they’re not, they’re going to dread Mondays and run for the door on Fridays,” Hamilton says.

Encourage Mental Health Days

Many employers provide sick days to help employees recover from an illness or injury, but mental stressors require recovery time too. Expanding leave policies to allow for mental health days with few restrictions will encourage people to take time when they need it. This can help to reduce stress and burnout if employees feel safe using the time.

“Our research of 1,000 employees found that only one-third were encouraged by employers to take more PTO. However, 78% felt that working more is at least moderately important in getting promoted,” says Peter Brussard, vice president of product for Bridge. “Companies may contribute to employee burnout through unwritten policies: Only 11% are encouraged to take mental health days through sick time.”

Give Staff Plenty of Options

“There are a host of lifestyle improvement programs that can help manage stress — encouraging physical activity, good nutrition, healthy sleep and more,” says Ruth Hunt, a principal in the engagement practice at Buck. Providing multiple options can help employees find their preferred way to unplug and relax, she says.

“Policies respectful of employees’ time can range from parental leave regardless of gender, flexible work policies, managerial encouragement for employees to take their vacation time and cultural support to be truly unplugged on nights and weekends,” Hunt says.

The average American reportedly works more hours than a medieval peasant did, so it’s likely your team needs a push to disconnect and step away. Thankfully, there’s plenty that employers can do to help tackle stress before it becomes burnout.