The average U.S. workday has increased by 40% during the COVID-19 pandemic. That means a normal American workday right now lasts 11 hours. It’s the largest increase in working hours in the world according to NordVPN.
While your employees who have weathered the COVID-19 storm with you thus far are no-doubt grateful to have their jobs, they’re burning out. By mid-April, more than 40% of workers reported being burned out, drained or exhausted from their work while 23% reported they feel depressed, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
Ignoring these issues can put the long-term health, productivity, and quality of work of your workforce at risk. It will also affect retention (yes, even now), because top talent will bolt for new opportunities as the dust settles.
Suggest and respect boundaries: A major problem with the work-from-home influx is that many employees are having a hard time fighting the need to appear “always on.” Asana’s Josh Zerkel shared these tips with the Ladders that can help workers regain their personal time. They include frequent breaks, email filters to weed out non-immediate requests, stepping away from social media, and re-establishing realistic office hours. But here’s the key: Many employees look for permission to set boundaries, especially when they’re working from home. Consider establishing guidelines and recommendations and share them with employees. AND THEN RESPECT THOSE BOUNDARIES. A manager who retaliates because they can’t get a hold of an employee on an established lunch break or during off hours can derail the entire effort.
Encourage time off: With vacations and trips cancelled this summer, many employees will be tempted to hold on to their PTO and vacation days and keep working. But time off is good for the soul (and for productivity). Still, in even the best of times, half of the U.S. workforce doesn’t take the time off work they’ve earned. Consider how you can help encourage time away from work. Some companies are going to a four-day workweek for the summer to give workers a more substantial break over the weekends. Turning time-off opportunities into a company-wide initiative takes the pressure off employees to ask for it themselves.
Normalize and promote mental health resources: It’s difficult to ask for help when you need it, especially when there’s a stigma attached (as there often is when it comes to mental health). Having resources like health coaching, counselors, and crisis lines available to employees is one thing. Normalizing, promoting and encouraging the use of those resources is an entirely different ballgame. Consider these suggestions from SHRM to show employees that you prioritize their mental health. Listening, communicating that you care, and reminding them often of resources available to them is the key.
How you support staff right now will affect your recruiting and retention later on. Recognize that your hard-working talent needs your support more than ever and take steps to meet them where they’re at so they can be focused and productive for the long haul.