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In 2020, 71% of workers in Australia experienced signs of burnout according to a recent report, which highlights concerns about employee health and wellbeing as many continue to work from home. The report cites the increased volume of virtual meetings and phone calls, heavy workload and chasing people for input, as the top three barriers to productivity.
It is hard to remember a time when we last experienced such disruption to our day-to-day lives. When you couple the stress of living through a pandemic with widespread shifts in the way we work, it is no surprise that things have reached a tipping point for many. This has all led to what has been labelled ‘pandemic fatigue’.
While many of us are keen to ‘return to normal,’ this is likely to look a little different for everyone. Rather than focus on things likely to be outside our control, business leaders should try these tips to help re-energise teams, boost morale, and help avoid burnout.
1. Put employees first
Employees want to feel that their wellbeing is being prioritised, making it crucial to ensure they feel supported. Whilst overseas holidays may be off the agenda, encourage employees to take time off to recharge their batteries, even if it’s just for a few days.
In 2020, the average workday lengthened by nearly an hour. It was also revealed that workers have struggled to book time off believing their work commitments came first. Yet, in the same way that athletes recognise the importance of taking time to rest and recover in order to perform at their best, the same applies for employees. This is a difficult time for everyone and having an empathetic manager goes a long way in boosting wellbeing, and ultimately, performance.
2. Communication is key
Previously, teams would have been used to impromptu ‘water-cooler chats’ that happen naturally in an office environment to connect with colleagues. Since this no longer happening, there’s a greater need to actively make time to weave these conversations into daily schedules. Taking the time for individual one-on-one meetings is incredibly important for business leaders to put on the calendar in today’s working environment.
Some psychologists have recommended using video-calling while remote working, as it allows teams to foster the feeling of being part of a community. After all, human beings are social animals who thrive on connections with each other. With this in mind, it’s important that not every call is purely about work. A huge part of team morale comes from managers that take the time to have light-hearted social chats as much as work-related discussions.
3. Staying on track
When we all began working remotely early last year, many managers and employees were unsure how best to keep projects on track with a new working environment. After nearly a year of working from home, most have eased into a style that works for them.
One of the biggest keys to productivity and a cohesive team is making sure people are aligned and working towards a common goal. For example, if each employee’s performance is tied directly with the organisation’s business objectives, this will naturally motivate teams to contribute to overall success.
Research on the effect of setting goals on overall productivity has found that having challenging goals in place led to higher performance. By being focused on the big picture, business leaders can ensure that wherever and whenever people are working, they understand the business vision and embrace the desired outcomes.
4. Adopt a hybrid work model
When business leaders had to get everyone set up to work remotely, it became apparent how important cloud technology tools were to support business operations. Fast-forward a year and many workers and business leaders have expressed a preference for a hybrid approach, where teams rotate between working on-site and working remotely.
Today, a hybrid approach seems to be a realistic way to offer flexible working practices while also maintaining a ‘home base.’ However, for this model to remain sustainable, leaders need to make sure their business is set up to enable this. A strong foundation of digital tools updated in real-time ensures employees can collaborate seamlessly and don’t fall out of the loop with siloed data.
The situation of the past year has created a real opportunity for companies and the leaders within those organisations to inspire their staff and keep teams moving forward towards the common goal. While we continue to adapt, the most important thing to remember is that we are all human and treating each other with understanding and empathy goes a long way.