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Another Dangerous Epidemic Is Creeping Into Your Workforce: Burnout

BY: Stella Grizont, MAPP • Positive Psychology Expert & Founder, WOOPAAH

Last week my friend Sarah called and exclaimed, “I’m at my edge. I can’t do this anymore! Give me your therapist’s number, please!” Quite frankly I was surprised. I thought of Sarah as living a fantasy COVID lifestyle. She got to visit the beach safely several times a week. Sarah’s parents would sweep in to help with the kids. She baked the most amazing desserts that I’d drool over on Instagram. And she had a social pod with access to a pool. You couldn’t ask for a sweeter situation during the pandemic. And meanwhile, here she was… at her edge, despite her resources, completely fried, unable to function and unable to relax.

There are lots of Sarah’s out there and in your organization, many less fortunate than her. On the outside they present as having it all together, but on the inside, they’re hanging onto a thread. Some of them are wondering how they’ll be able to sustain this pace, manage homeschooling, and continue to build the strong careers they’ve worked so hard for. Some of them are calculating what part-time would be like. Some of them are even thinking about quitting.

Meanwhile, Sarah’s boss has no clue that she’s struggling.

I want you to have a clue. Since many organizations are still working remotely, checking in on your employees is more critical than ever. I’m not talking about a casual “how are you?” I’m talking about a caring and authentic check in to get to what’s really going on. Each employee is different, but all employees want to feel like they matter.

Now it’s true, many managers don’t want to to know. Some don’t feel comfortable holding the space for such dialogue. But it’s going to feel even worse when one of your star performers just suddenly, out of the blue says, “I can’t do it. I’ve got to stop.”

Gallup Panel data from June 2020 show that U.S. employees and managers are about 20 percent less likely than they were in May 2020 to strongly agree that their organization cares about their overall well-being.

It’s imperative to know what’s really going on because otherwise we risk allowing for conditions that lead to burnout. Before COVID at least 76 percent1 of employees experienced burnout on the job at least sometimes. I’d wager that number has most likely not improved since March. Employees who say they very often or always experience burnout at work are 63 percent more likely to take a sick day, 23 percent more likely to visit the emergency room, and 260 percent more likely to quit2.

We know that burnout is more than just stress, it’s a chronic experience of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy that results from having more job demands than job resources. So how do you improve job resources? One way is to develop your employee’s inner skills – their ability to be self aware: to know their strengths, values, boundaries, and needs. By supporting employees in developing inner skills, you’re empowering them to be resources unto themselves and to lead themselves towards an energized and restorative state.

As well-being practitioners, it’s our time to rise and raise awareness of the need to address the inner experience of our employees and to get them the support they need. For all the Sarah’s out there, let’s start having real conversations about what’s really going on.


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Mari Ryan
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR Stella Grizont, MAPP // Positive Psychology Expert & Founder, WOOPAAH
Stella Grizont is a Positive Psychology expert, executive coach, and the creator of The Work Happiness Method™. She helps leaders reignite from within to work happier and live better. Stella partners with organizations like Dow Jones, Google, and Johnson & Johnson to elevate employee well-being and engagement. Her work has been featured on MSNBC, The Today Show, and Fox.