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Grin and Burn It: Employees are Burned Out but Happy, Research Reveals

Grin and Burn It: Employees are Burned Out but Happy, Research Reveals
Posted on Thursday, June 3, 2021 by Businessolver Team
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I’m going to tell you a secret.

Burned-out-but-happy

I’ve recently noticed something strange about my post-pandemic life: I don’t get “Sunday scaries” anymore.

Are “Sunday merries” a thing? If so, I get those.

With full transparency, I feel like a Zoom school principal, unpaid CDC intern, armchair psychologist, lunch lady, housekeeper, amateur veterinarian, part-time diversity officer, and tightrope-walking plate spinner—in addition to a “live at work, work at home” professional trying to perform each day at the top of my game.

I go to bed stressed, anxious, and exhausted every night.

And yet, I’m excited to get to work every morning.

I thought maybe I was experiencing some sort of employment-related Stockholm Syndrome—until I came across the Employee Well-Being Report, the latest in the data insights series from Glint. The report reveals that employee burnout reached a two-year high over the last year. The experts at Glint characterize burnout by “a sustained level of stress, anxiety, and provocation with no end in sight.”

Check, check, double check to all of those. If not for Schitt’s Creek and (virtual) spin classes, it could’ve gotten pretty dark over here in the last year.

However, over the same time frame, Glint finds that employee happiness also spiked 5.4%. Glint identifies employee happiness as “job satisfaction, motivation to go above and beyond, organizational pride, plans to stay, [and] desire to make an impact.”

Yes, yes, 110%, yes, and yes!

How is that possible? Well, it kind of makes sense, if you think about it. In the last year, we’ve all had to hold diverging feelings in our hearts and minds at once: wanting to stay safe and secure at home baking banana bread while also going stir-crazy and dreaming of travel, feeling helpless while still hopeful, protesting while being peaceful during times of social unrest, and extroverts finding more in common with introverts with every passing day of quarantine.

According to Glint People Science expert Jaime Gonzales, diagnosing the dichotomy in employees’ attitudes lies in the fact that during the pandemic, work helped give people a sense of support and safety. “While chaos reigned in the outside world, people asked themselves, ‘Where can I find support, focus, and even refuge?’ For many, that place was work,” Gonzales says. “In 2020, organizations also gave people a sense of security. The pandemic elevated basic human needs for safety and stability. The year-over-year rise in happiness at work reflects employees’ sense of gratitude for their job in turbulent times and, in many cases, the new resources and support their organizations made available.”

New resources, yes. But also, new responsibilities—ones that employees likely won’t be relieved of when the pandemic ends.

So, how can employers help maintain employee happiness while mitigating employee burnout? Keep the merries, but kill the scaries—so to speak. Interestingly enough, Glint recommends the same strategies for both:

Ask for frequent feedback. Seconded! I’ve found that giving and requesting 360-degree feedback is a great way to boost accountability and buy-in for performance improvement. And while I’m at it, I’d also emphasize that the feedback need not all be work-related. Asking someone, “How are you feeling?” and actively listening for the answer goes a long way to building bonds and refilling a colleague’s metaphorical well.

Reinforce shared culture and values. What unites us will always be stronger than what divides us. Acknowledging and accentuating all that we have in common—as coworkers, as professionals, as people—is undoubtedly a way to hype happiness at work.

Arm managers with feedback results. This is a biggie. When people start to disengage at work, the first crack in their armor is usually a communication breakdown with their manager. Statistics show we spend about a third of our lives at work; I’d venture that upwards of 80% of that time is day-to-day interaction with our manager. Making that time as constructive and results-focused as possible can help put marks in the W column when it comes to employee happiness.

I know managers and leaders are busy and stressed, now more than ever. But building these few simple strategies into our workday can help make sure we’re keeping employees less burned up, more turned up. In other words, here’s to more Sunday Funday with less Manic Monday.

For a more in-depth look at how empathy has played a major role in the workplace, read our white paper below. 

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