While an unexpectedly strong return on the June jobs report shows 372,000 new jobs added last month, many employers are still dealing with worker shortages in several industries.
Managers who struggle to recruit and retain workers are trying to address burnout and workplace happiness. But employees are still jumping companies, changing fields or retiring early at record rates, and managers in many fields struggle to hire. So why are so many employees quitting — and how do you stop it?
Organizations need to realize that burnout is systemic, and solutions that only focus on the individual won’t work, according to Jennifer Moss, author of “The Burnout Epidemic.”
NewsNation spoke to Moss about potential solutions for employers to lower turnover and increase workplace efficiency. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
NewsNation: What actually is burnout?
Moss: Burnout is really just the result of chronic (workplace) stress, auto-managed, and it can happen to anyone in any sector. We feel symptoms of burnout over time, and some people can withstand those symptoms for longer than others. But it’s when we hit the wall that the results are potentially catastrophic.
NewsNation: What should employers be doing?
Moss: In the pandemic, we found that 67% of people could not talk about mental health at work — and of that 67%, they were always or often burned out. We should be making sure that we have mental health first aid, that we have teletherapy options. We’re seeing organizations, for the first time ever, creating a hybrid, more flexible environment for people, companies creating peer supports and employee resource groups on burnout and wellness
We want the silver bullet solutions, but it’s hard. There are root causes of burnout that are systemic and societal, and we’re not going to fix them overnight. It just has to be (a) commitment to it being a lifestyle change in an organization.
NewsNation: What do companies do wrong when trying to help employees with burnout?
Moss: What I kept finding is (organizations) were just constantly giving people ice cream, when most people really needed water. We were dealing with people who were chronically stressed, and forever, we’re telling people that burnout is solved by individuals, that it’s on them to manage their own self-care.
We see organizations checking for well-being, but the only tools in the toolbox that they’re using are these downstream perks. Like, “Let’s give our burned-out employees a week off of work to solve their burnout,” and everyone thinks that’s a really great thing. And, meanwhile, they’re not changing workload. … We’re just sort of pulling people out of the river downstream instead of preventing them from falling in in the first place.
NewsNation: Are there other ways to reduce burnout?
Moss: (Companies) need to be much better at giving direct managers the ability to assess what’s going on and react. It’s about asking and iterating and trying and then maybe failing and then trying something new. We’re seeing companies create Right to Disconnect guidelines, guidelines around how many meetings you have per week. But it requires a lot more openness — and managers, direct managers and leaders being open to actively listening and talking much, much less.
NewsNation: How should employers be measuring whether their burnout prevention programs are working?
Moss: You measure how everyone’s feeling from their job satisfaction levels to their self-reported well-being. It can be anonymous, it can be done through a Survey Monkey, it does not have to be a big lift. Then test it. After a quarter, say, “OK, we reduced our meetings by this percentage of time, and how are people feeling?”
And if it works, keep doing it, add another thing, add another intervention, until you have sort of the culture that you want.
NewsNation: What if I’m a manager, but I don’t have my boss’ buy-in?
Moss: If you’re a direct manager that doesn’t have a lot of charge over the culture — measure it according to metrics that matter to your boss. Is it attrition? Is it revenue, or are salespeople making more money? Then track that and share that up upwards. It makes a huge impact on whether they’re going to promote your pilot project or your idea across other parts of the organization.
NewsNation: Do you have advice for burned-out employees already looking for new jobs?
Moss: Don’t just leave for another burnout situation. Because if you don’t take time to actually assess — What are the things that I need to prevent my burnout? What are the things that I was missing? — you’ll just kind of go into repeat mode. So we have to really assess right now: What is it that I need in this next job?