By: Amy Sales, CMP
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how many in-office jobs function. One thing that has not changed is workplace burnout, and unfortunately the pandemic has exacerbated its effects. Increased technology and sparse in-person interaction has created a disconnect, worsening stress from heavy workloads and general pandemic fears. In October 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs (aka the “Great Resignation”) in August for a variety of reasons, including retirement, better opportunities, and in some cases, burnout. In this post, we will focus on burnout, what it is, how to recognize it, and how to treat it in both your employees and in your association’s membership.
What is Employee Burnout?
Employee burnout (EBO) is physical and emotional exhaustion that results in a lack of professional efficacy, engagement, and energy. EBO can cause employees to seek other employment opportunities and members to disengage, question membership benefits, and renewal. Recognizing that your association’s members are employees, too, and they may be experiencing this malaise, is the first step in alleviating it in your organization. As your association pivots programs to function as close to normal as possible during the pandemic, it is important to understand that your members are impacted at work and seeking solutions different from what has been done in the past. In other words, for example, recognizing that scheduling another virtual meeting may be one of several your membership has to sit through in a day.
How to Identify EBO – Warning Signs
EBO can occur over time, but the warning signs for both employees and members are very similar, including disengaging from the culture and decreased productivity. Many become apathetic, and some experience poor sleep, which can result in compromised memory, the inability to make decisions, and an increase in mistakes, all of which can cause additional frustration. Those experiencing burnout may become negative and be more absent. Being aware of these warning signs is the second step to having EBO affect your members or employees.
How to Prevent and Treat Burnout – Evaluation of Programs and Benefits
Employees are looking for more from leadership and associations are looking for more from their membership. If you identify EBO within your organization, evaluate your programs and benefits. This is the third step to mitigate EBO in your employees and members.
Create a culture within your organization that appreciates employees’ hard work and encourages them to take time for themselves without the feeling of regret. Encourage them to disconnect when away and assist them in training others to step in during their absence and offer your talents when needed. For members, recognize that your members participate as volunteers. If they feel that their involvement is a second (or third) job, they may experience burnout. Engage with members to find any challenges they face and offer training and assistance. Some members participate out of obligation and may need a “vacation” from their role. To help, encourage a co-leader to learn the role and share the load.
Provide Support Programs
For both members and employees, provide support programs to help with self-care and stress management. Provide quiet space for employees to unplug for a few minutes to help manage stress, encourage lunch breaks, and, if possible, allow for a flexible schedule. For members, incorporate a wellness program, such as a “Walk and Talk” during a conference to get members moving, or abandon the typical meeting set up and provide something unique with relaxation tools (think stress balls and candles).
Managers are one of the biggest factors in employee retention. By training them to recognize or prevent EBO in employees, they also can learn to manage EBO in themselves. Organizations need to ensure leaders are given proper management skills that include appropriate ways to provide feedback, support, and assign tasks to employees.
Overall, communication is key. Creating a safe space for employees or members to openly share the way they feel and what they are thinking, that makes them feel heard and supported, and is another step to prevent EBO.
EBO is a real problem for employers and associations. By learning what it is, leadership can prevent it in their employees and members through various support and program changes. We, Easter Associates, pride ourselves on constantly evaluating our programs, systems, and member needs and adapting current functions and adopting new ones to keep both our members and Easter employees engaged. If you need some assistance in providing the right tools and tactics for your organization to prevent employee and member burnout, contact us today!