COVID-19 still ramping up stress but employers can help via digital wellness tools
From the front-line worker placed in harm’s way on a daily basis, to the remote worker bearing significant emotional and mental burdens, this year has been difficult for many people — and in the midst of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic it can sometimes feel like there’s no end in sight.
“Burnout has been exceedingly common in our workplace culture study results,” says Dr. Alex Lovell, Director, Research and Data Science at the O.C. Tanner Institute. “But there are many levers organizations can pull to support their employees and mitigate burnout.”
Leaders who have weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with their employees where the conversation focuses on burnout, mental health and holistic wellbeing can decrease moderate to severe burnout by 38%, and leaning in to how each employee contributes to the organization’s overarching purpose leads to increased engagement and a 48% drop in feeling burned out. Now is also the time to recognize employees for the work they do day-in and day-out, Lovell notes. O.C. Tanner’s research found investing in meaningful rewards for employees, even though budgets are tight these days, increased organizational performance, innovation, customer service — and lowered the risk of moderate to severe burnout by 66%.
Communication, purpose and recognition all contribute to a robust workplace culture and it’s well-known that strong organizational cultures offer significant benefits, especially in times of crisis. But culture is a fairly nebulous term, Lovell says, which increases the difficulty organizations face in implementing initiatives to improve it. According to O.C. Tanner’s original culture report, culture can be broken down into six fundamental components that have a disproportionate impact on the employee experience and business results and the institute’s most recent research looks at how to better integrate recognition into workplace culture.
Especially in an increasingly remote environment, offering technology that holistically addresses employee needs is a great option to improve overall culture and in turn mitigate much of the stressors that contribute to burnout. Mental wellbeing has long been an issue for organizations, and with the events of 2020 still impacting everyone, “we’ve reached a full-blown mental health crisis, propelling us towards epidemic levels of lost productivity, declining wellbeing and absenteeism,” says Greg White, Director of Partnerships & Strategic Alliances at Virgin Pulse.
“We’ve always been committed to ensuring workforces stay physically, mentally and financially healthy and with the pandemic, we've been in a good position to address the huge challenge of keeping teams safe and connected, too,” he says, adding Virgin Pulse was quick to shift its focus from general employee wellbeing to supporting organizations in their response to this global health crisis.
Virgin Pulse has continuously innovated throughout the pandemic to meet the growing and changing health, wellbeing and safety needs of organizations. The solution provides a culture-boosting organization-wide virtual wellbeing challenge; integrated partner solutions to provide additional support in areas like financial wellbeing, family planning, nutrition, mindfulness, physical activity, musculoskeletal health and tobacco cessation, digital therapeutics to empower employees to manage or prevent the onset of chronic conditions and analytics to help organizations understand the ROI of their digital wellbeing investments.
“Organizations must take a more holistic approach to address the wide scope of wellbeing to prevent employee burnout and disengagement,” White says.
Virgin Pulse provides a global wellbeing solution that gives employees the tools to build healthy habits and that drives collaboration, as these social connections can do wonders for engagement, stress management and productivity.
Technology and purposeful culture-building aside, the world — and everyone in it — are experiencing an unprecedented environment of stress and uncertainty, and the most important thing leaders can do is “be patient, understanding and flexible,” Lovell says. There can’t be an expectation that everything will return to pre-pandemic normal, but, he notes, there is power in defining what the future will look like within your company and for your workforce.
“Organizations should work with their employees to co-create a new normal — one in which everyone thrives."
For more information on helping employees recover from a year of pandemic burnout, check out O.C. Tanner’s latest research on the topic.