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Preventing employee burnout and supporting mental health in the workplace

Preventing employee burnout and supporting mental health in the workplace

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Among the mental health concerns that were exacerbated by COVID-19, one that impacts employers of all types and sizes shows no signs of slowing: employee burnout.

According to an online survey of human capital leaders conducted by The Conference Board in March 2022, “the number of employees identified as being burned out almost doubled in 18 months from 42 percent in September 2020 to 77 percent in March 2022.” A survey conducted by Indeed in March of 2021 reflected the steadily increasing trend attributed to the COVID-19 environment. More than half (52%) of respondents stated they were feeling burned out, with 67% saying the feeling had worsened over the course of the pandemic.

Many experts believe the mental health repercussions of the global pandemic will continue to impact employees for the foreseeable future, making it incumbent upon employers to help prevent employee burnout and otherwise provide mental health support for a workforce under tremendous stress. The process begins by understanding the issue of employee burnout.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), characteristics of burnout include feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy. The growing prevalence of these dimensions led the WHO to include burnout as an occupational phenomenon in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) in 2019.

While the WHO clearly stated that burnout is not classified as a medical condition, it’s fair to say that it may contribute to more serious illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders or chronic fatigue syndrome. Symptoms of employee burnout may include fatigue, lack of energy and focus, sleeplessness, cynicism, irritability, headaches, and stomach problems.

Employee burnout has many causes. According to Indeed, reasons may include overworking, unrealistic expectations or goals, lack of clarity or communication regarding role responsibilities, and/or unfair or biased treatment while at work.

An important way that companies can help employees avoid burnout is by offering benefits that provide people the time, flexibility, and resources they need to achieve work-life balance, relaxation, and positive mental health. Here are several programs we’ve found success with that you might consider for your business.

Unlimited paid time off (PTO)

This policy is among our most popular because it gives employees the flexibility they need to maintain a healthy work-life balance, combined with the peace of mind that comes from not having to prioritize or keep track of PTO hours.

Half-day summer Fridays

Over a decade ago, we implemented half-day Summer Fridays to support and encourage well-deserved time off. Our offices close at Noon each Friday from Memorial Day to Labor Day, which allows our people to enjoy a jumpstart to the weekend and time to unwind.

Flexible work model

A flexible work model is designed to encourage and support flexibility and work-life balance, making it easier for employees to be able to spend time focusing on the priorities they have outside of work. This model also empowers employees to collaborate with the Firm’s leaders to create a work schedule that meets both the Firm’s objectives and the employee’s expectations.

Employee assistance program (EAP)

A comprehensive employee assistance program (EAP) for employees and members of their households provides support and resources for a range of issues at no cost. All services are private and confidential and may include assistance with caregiver or personal stress, child or elder care solutions, anxiety, and more.

“Mental health Mondays”

During our busiest times, we host a segment on our intranet called “Mental Health Mondays” that features topics and resources dedicated to mental health. Topics have included the power of positivity, self-care tips at your desk, the benefits of meditation, and more.


We subscribe to Wellbeats, a virtual fitness, mindfulness, and nutrition resource center that gives employees unlimited access to various resources such as yoga and meditation classes.

Burnout impacts everyone and can happen to employees regardless of age or experience level. Offering programs, benefits, and resources that emphasize the mental health and wellbeing of your people will distinguish and differentiate your company as one that focuses on and emphasizes what matters the most.

Heather Rudes is Chief Human Resources Officer at The Bonadio Group.

Disclaimer: The summary information presented in this article should not be considered legal advice or counsel and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. If the reader of this has legal questions, it is recommended they consult with their attorney.