With Burnout on the Rise, Here’s the 1 Thing Managers Need to Do to Ensure Their Employees Feel Supported

In the weeks following the early outbreak of Covid-19 in the U.S., many companies were forced to shut down their offices. As a result, not only did most workers have to adjust to a new reality in which they spent much of their days working from home, they also found themselves battling another unexpected challenge: increased burnout. 
Over these months, the pandemic has exacerbated the stress that employees face at work. It has especially impacted millennials, 59% of whom reported burnout during the pandemic in an Indeed survey last month. In fact, the study revealed that, among millennials, baby boomers, Gen Xer and Gen Zers, 67% of respondents believed that burnout has gotten worse since last March. 
Related: How to Deal With Employee Burnout
At a time when workers are struggling to draw the line between work and home in a work-from-home setting, managers play a critical role in ensuring that their employees feel supported. According to Karin Borchert, CEO of Modern Hire, that begins with having one-on-one communication. 
“I would encourage every manager to make sure they’re doing [it] at least weekly, but, in some cases, more frequently depending on the nature of the [employee’s] role,” she says. “You know, how’s their mental well-being, their physical well-being, personal stresses? Without getting into people’s personal business.”
Checking in on employees is particularly important, considering that managers don’t often have an understanding of “all the things that people are juggling in their personal lives,” Borchert adds. Because so many employees now work in the confines/comforts of their homes, it can be difficult to keep their personal and work lives separate. In some cases, personal issues can “bleed into” their work lives, she says: "These are such challenging times, and you don’t just always know what’s [happening] behind somebody.”
As such, managers additionally need to be mindful of their tone when conducting those one-on-ones. As Borchert notes, every conversation between a manager and their employee needs to be built on trust. Otherwise, workers may feel uncomfortable about expressing their concerns. 
“You can’t help someone who’s not sharing what’s going on,” she says. “Then you’re just guessing at what it could be. I think[it’s just about putting people at ease that you’re really asking how are things going and how can I make you be more successful.”
More importantly, managers should be able to contextualize employee concerns. In other words, if a worker brings up an issue, a manager should see if it reflects a larger problem at hand that needs to be addressed. One easy way to determine this is to search for patterns throughout the company, Borchert says.
“A manager might be thinking this is just one employee who’s raised these things, when, in fact, there may be themes among the team or other people in the organization,” she says. “A manager has a responsibility to take those [issues] to their own manager too. This is why there are layers of management with additional expertise that can help raise common issues that might be in the organization — things that need to be addressed more broadly.”
Ultimately, a competent manager knows how to empathize. 
“I would say you need to build those relationships [with employees] to understand how people are doing,” Borchert says. “As the manager, you’re dependent on your team’s success … So if you’re not checking in to understand what people are facing, then that’s a mistake.” 

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