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Feeling the burn of a new pandemic: staff burnout

While epidemiological medicine works overtime to keep up with the evolution of the Coronavirus and its impacts, the flow-on effects of the pandemic in so many other areas of our lives continues to evolve.  

Employee burnout isn’t a new phenomenon, it’s an issue that’s been around for a long time. Globally, employee burnout rose 5.1% from 29.6% in 2020 to 34.7% in 2021, according to figures published by Infinite Potential consulting in the first quarter of 2022. 

“In the last two years, the world has experienced the most rapid and significant levels of workplace change since the first industrial revolution,” the report’s authors noted. “The changes caused by the covid-19 pandemic created peak levels of volatility and uncertainty in people’s personal and professional lives.”

In comparison to global figures, the rate of burnout in Australia gives real cause for concern. Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, published in September 2022, found that 62% of Australian workers reported feeling burnt out by work, compared to the global average of 48% as calculated by Microsoft’s methodology. The figures also show that, among managers, 66% suffer from burnout — well above the global average of 53%.

What does burnout look like?

Burnout has physiological and productivity symptoms. There are a number of signs that can help you identify whether you or someone you know is dealing with burnout. 

The most common sign of burnout is physical and emotional exhaustion. People with burnout often report experiencing a disturbed or restless night’s sleep, with many sufferers feeling sapped of energy before even getting out of bed in the morning. 

Furthermore, burnout has a costly emotional toll. People suffering from burnout often feel unable to ‘connect’ with coworkers, family and loved ones, which can lead to serious relationship issues. 

Other signs of burnout include emotional and intellectual disengagement with their role – a phenomenon which has recently been labelled ‘quiet quitting’ — doing the bare minimum of your job’s requirements and putting in no more time, effort or diligence than absolutely necessary. People experiencing burnout may also become overly sensitive to feedback, often being defensive and argumentative, and show signs of introversion by being less outgoing at work and at home than what people would consider ‘normal’.

Additionally, burnout can present as a range of physical symptoms like nausea, headaches, an increase in anxiety levels and the onset of clinical depression. Not surprisingly, the physiological impacts of burnout have a huge impact on absenteeism in the workplace and can lead to a marked drop-off in productivity and performance.

Staff burnout and COVID
With the onset of COVID, many workplaces were forced to introduce working from home practices, or hybrid working as it’s now known. 

One of the trends to emerge from remote working has been what Microsoft’s Work Trend Index describes as productivity paranoia – the idea that employers are sceptical their staff are as productive at home as they could be at the office. The September Index showed that “90 percent of managers said that the shift to hybrid work made it difficult to trust workers to be productive in their tasks.”

As well as the productivity demands placed on employees working remotely, staff shortages and supply-chain breakdowns have seen people taking on extra responsibilities at work, many of which take them away from their core job tasks and responsibilities. 

Is it any wonder that employee burnout numbers are at levels we’ve never seen before?

Reducing employee burnout

Despite the rise in burnout, there are some simple levers workplaces and employers can pull to reduce employee burnout. One is to create a workplace culture where burnout is, first, identified (hopefully before it becomes an issue) and then, second, treated with the importance and respect it deserves, so affected employees can find their feet again.

Combatting burnout requires a rethink and reinvention of how your business operates, and it can come down to some basic adjustments that could make a world of difference.   Taking advantage of outsourced business support services is emerging as a highly effective means for ensuring your staff work smarter, not harder.  

Essential but time-consuming processes such as appointment setting, data entry, bookkeeping, IT helpdesk and live chat and social media management are some of the repetitive and ongoing daily tasks that can be easily outsourced to the right provider, alongside the more ‘traditional’ outsourcing tasks such as call overflow management and customer callback services. 

When structured properly, these services can make a big dent in the day-to-day workloads many employees are struggling to cope with, and go a long way to staving off employee burnout issues that are running rampant across our workforces.

In conclusion

As the world continues navigating the Coronavirus pandemic, more employees are reporting burnout along with increased workloads to cope with the demands of worker shortages and changing employer expectations from the growth of remote working. 

The financial and professional impacts of employee burnout are a huge risk to business, so it’s worthwhile looking at what processes you can leave in the hands of a professional outsourcer in order to reduce employee workloads. 

A business process outsource can provide you with the opportunity to deliver an exceptional customer experience while giving your staff a breather, and letting them focus on the core tasks of their job. This is, after all, how they’ll deliver the best value to you, your customers and your bottom-line.  

Stay on top of burnout – ask TMC about how outsourcing can help you.