If there’s one complaint that I’m hearing lately, it’s that people are feeling exhausted. This is typical of the mid-year when winter has kicked in, and so has a touch of boredom. However, this year it’s different. The complaints about tiredness and burnout are widespread from new employees to seasoned leaders.
It has been a tough year so far, and 2020 was no better. In fact, research by Hays found 74 per cent of people surveyed said they plan to look for a new job in 2021. Now imagine how those people are feeling after the experiences of 2021 so far. They are stuck in their current role with nowhere to go because many employers aren’t hiring. Even worse, many people are working remotely which adds to the feeling of ‘stuckness.’
Research by Deloitte found the pandemic has hit women hard, with 76% of Australian women reporting their workload has increased since the COVID-19 crisis. 57% plan to leave their employer within two years and 25% are thinking of leaving the workforce completely.
Those are tough figures to accept, but they paint a clear picture of the struggles your workforce is facing. People are mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted.
How do you lead an exhausted team?
Holidays aren’t the answer. Normally, you’d probably recommend people take leave when they hit the wall like this, but with no changes in sight, that’s only a temporary solution. There are more fundamental changes workplaces need to address if they want those figures to change for the positive.
The emphasis should be on increasing job satisfaction to improve talent retention.
Key focus points for HR and leaders.
Build your talent
Give your people somewhere to go and they’ll stay with you. Shift the focus from “stuckness” and boredom to career path and future development. Not only will your company benefit from having a continual supply of talent on hand, but your people will also respond to your interest and investment in their futures. I’ve previously shared some advice on how to build a talent pipeline and keep it filled. Now is the time to develop or improve the opportunities for your people.
We know the pandemic has impacted greatly on women so start thinking about options and opportunities to help women achieve the balance they need. Don’t be limited by your company’s present policies. It’s inevitable that they will need to adapt to the ‘new normal’ of our lives. Think out of the box because that’s where the life-changing (and business-boosting) ideas come from. Companies are already seeing the end of the 9-5 workday, so what else might have to change? Trading old-fashioned time tracking for work output? Introducing workplace childcare? Revolutionising the idea of annual leave by providing leave as needed around project deadlines or deliverables? The cost of making these changes will be balanced by the benefits of talent and experience retention.
While ongoing monitoring is needed here in Australia to fully understand the longer-term impact of the pandemic, Pew Research found over one-third of US employees have experienced depression and anxiety since the pandemic took hold. More than that, a global survey by Mercer found that most insurance companies they spoke to rate mental health as posing as much risk as smoking. Although it might ease post-COVID, the pace of change means mental health will be a permanent health issue.
How can you handle it?
Apart from providing in-house support and counselling, it’s time leaders learned to give emotional comfort to their people when they need it. That must come from the top, with senior management demonstrating that listening is as valuable as ‘getting the job done’. Why? Because the job won’t be done if their people are struggling. An investment in the so-called soft skills is now a business non-negotiable.
2015 research from HubSpot found 69% of people would work harder if they felt more appreciated. There are two aspects to this. First, formal workplace appreciation and acknowledgement of a job well done. The second and most important is a personal acknowledgement for the individual as they do the work. Workplaces need to encourage leaders and team members to show recognition of a good effort or to people who do something they didn’t have to do. It’s not about acknowledging the best people in the team; it’s about acknowledging everyone who puts in the effort.
Give your people the help they need. Don’t reinvent the wheel. It takes too long, and your people need help right now. Look for existing support and development processes and have them tailored for the needs of your business and your people. Athena’s Leadership Academy is an award-winning program that is flexible and designed around your specific needs. It can be helping your people within just days.
While some of these key points will need a policy or process change within the organisation – and I know that takes time – some of them can be initiated by leaders and HR teams. Modelling the behaviours and normalising them will go a long way towards embedding the changes into the company.
Don’t wait until you start seeing people leave your organisation and team. Start making some of the changes now.
Show your support and show your people are positive future. Call Linda today to see how the Athena Leadership Academy can help you shape the future of your teams.