Any business leader worth their salt knows that employees are the most important part of any company. While entrepreneurs may bring incredible ideas to the table, it is employees who are instrumental in bringing them to fruition and pushing them to the next level. With the right workforce, we can do more than simply function; we can innovate and succeed.
Showing appreciation for our employees and making certain they have everything they need to thrive is vital. Employee appreciation needs to go further than providing them with raises or financial incentives. It has been at the core of everything we do. The current COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated that one of the only ways we can make certain that our enterprises can survive a crisis is by taking care of our employees first. Keeping them safe and helping them to cope. With that said, what actions can we put in place to prevent our hard-working staff from burning out?
Welfare and wellness
When looking at protecting employees from the detrimental effects of their work, we must focus on how the business prioritizes their welfare and wellness. There are mandatory protocols in place with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) enforcing measures that ensure basic safety standards in workplaces. But leaders need to go beyond the actions that are required of them to show that they genuinely care about their employees.
Setting up an official employee wellness program can not only reduce workplace illness and injury but can also result in more productive workers. This should include, including by not limited to, the following:
- Wellness Committee. Build a team of employees from each department and of varying levels of seniority. Task them with regularly monitoring and reviewing wellness in the workplace and suggesting measures and resources accordingly.
- Provider Partners. Work with agencies and other businesses to provide resources to employees. Complimentary mental health counseling, weight management courses, discounted gym memberships, and massage therapies can all boost employee health.
- Health Education. Part of ensuring employees remain healthy and productive is helping them to gain knowledge of their own wellness. Source literature on everything from quitting smoking to stress management and place them in areas for easy employee access such as break rooms. Invite guest speakers to provide presentations to help employees manage their health more effectively.
There will also be those employees who give a lot of their time to the company, but this can become dangerous when taken too far. While it can be tempting to accept that this is a display of commitment, there also needs to be a strict application of acceptable hours of service. For example, while the Department of Transportation has imposed legal limits on the amount of time truck drivers can be on the road, this type of legislation isn’t applicable to all industries. Make it clear that you value employees’ ability to balance their work and home lives and establish sufficient break and meal times outside of those required by the government.
While it can be a useful management strategy to assert the distinction between leadership and staff, if we push this too far, we risk building barriers. This can detrimentally affect communication, which can have a domino effect on employee welfare and the impact of ongoing safety campaigns. If employees don’t feel as though they’re able to openly talk to leadership about issues that can lead to burnout, this will affect the business’s ability to tackle issues before they become damaging to both the employee and the business.
Don’t just pay lip service to communication; we have to make it an integral aspect of company culture. This should include a focus on leaders cultivating relationships with staff of all levels. Encourage feedback in discussions with staff and demonstrate that this has a measurable impact upon decisions. Give employees the tools and opportunities to initiate contact with staff regardless of seniority level and make it clear that you value their input.
We have to apply this beyond positive scenarios. Leaders need to be open and communicative during times of struggle and talk about where issues lie and how they intend to approach them. This sets the example that employees can be open about aspects of their work that are challenging or stressful, and that their team, immediate management, and leadership, are available to support them and help find solutions.
Our current COVID-19 pandemic has served to highlight how important it is for businesses to be prepared. Disasters such as this put a strain on company finance and operations, but it can also place significant pressure on employees as well. Between the potential for unemployment, concerns about safety, and a world abruptly changing, it’s no wonder why some employees may be experiencing burnout.
This is also an ideal time to assess how we manage business during a crisis in a way that prioritizes employee welfare and allows them to contribute effectively to the company. Wherever possible, make it clear to employees that if it is safer for them to work from home, you will put measures into place to support this, Provide equipment and communications tools rather than expecting employees to provide their own. Set up support services and allocate project management software that ensures a smooth transition.
The workplace itself should also be designed to support employees during times of crisis. High sanitation standards should be implemented as part of daily operations rather than as a response to an emergency. Help employees feel they are confident and capable to handle emergency scenarios. Support first aid training and staff-led evacuation plans. When there is a clear framework in place to handle the unexpected, employees have one fewer source of potential stress.
It is important to both the success and ongoing health of a business to ensure that employees aren’t just treated as assets but as people. Business leaders must make it a priority to implement robust wellness programs, manage crises effectively, and ensure that there is a culture of communication that encourages employees to feel safe and secure in their roles.