WHAT: 45-minute webinar recorded on April 15, 2020
WHO: Melissa Jezior, Eagle Hill Consulting’s President and CEO joined by
Binita Amin, Ph.D., PLLC, Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Good afternoon, and welcome to the webinar hosted by Eagle Hill Consulting, “COVID-19 and Employee Burnout: Maintaining Focus, Productivity an Engagement.” Just a few words on logistics for today’s session. All of our attendees are in listen only mode, but we do want your questions. Throughout the presentation if you have any questions, just type them into the question or the chat function and we’ll be sure to respond to those. You will receive an email with a link to a replay of the session. We are recording it.
Information regarding this report and other information from Eagle Hill is available at www.EagleHillConsulting.com. We encourage you to share information on social media about the information we’re about to provide. You can find us on Twitter @WeAreEagleHill. If you have any audio or technical issues during the session please call GoToWebinar at 1-800-263-6317.
Our agenda for today is introductions, a review of recent survey findings, some recommendations on employee burnout issues, and then we’ll take your questions. And with that I’ll turn it over to Melissa and Binita. They’ll introduce themselves and then run through the presentation.
Wonderful. Thank you, Kelly. Hello, everybody. Happy Wednesday. My name is Melissa Jezior. I am the President and CEO of Eagle Hill and have spent a good portion of my career focused on culture and employee experience, so I’m very excited to be here today to talk to you about this really important issue. I think employees have been navigating such a ton of change and disruption because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I mean, it’s changed how we work, where we work, resulted in clashes between our work and home lives like we’ve never had before, and really has become a big stressor.
So I’m looking forward to talking to you today and hopefully giving you some practical ideas on how to help your own employees. All right, with that I’ll turn it over to my colleague to introduce herself.
Thank you, Melissa. Hi, everybody. My name is Binita Amin. I’m glad to be here today. I’m a licensed clinical psychologist. I have a private practice in Washington, D.C. And the majority of my work focuses more on the mental wellness end of the continuum, so working with adult professionals in the area on things like anxiety, depression, work stress, life stress, and stress management, burnout, self-care. Those are all things that come up quite a bit, so it’s a topic I’m passionate about and I’m excited to be here to share my thoughts.
Wonderful. So before we get into our survey findings we thought hat… So let’s level set here and talk about what is burnout. So what is burnout? So burnout is the result of stress that is more prolonged and intense in nature. [That’s a lot], but Binita might be able to help shed a little bit more light on some of its causes and its symptoms. So maybe you could help enlighten us a little bit, Binita.
Sure thing, Melissa. So yeah, it’s helpful to think about burnout in the context of stress. And when we think of stress it’s really just an adaptive response that helps us rise to a challenge and meet what’s in front of us. So typically speaking, stress is something that is resolved and has some sort of closure, and with burnout there’s no real end in sight, so it’s significant and chronic in nature. And what happens over time is you start to see that a person’s mental, physical and emotional resources are exhausted and depleted, so whatever healthy coping mechanisms a person might have are now pretty much down.
In terms of symptoms you might see that play out in ways like anxiety, depression, anger, irritability. Physically speaking you might see a weakened immune response, trouble sleeping, low energy, cardiovascular impacts. And in the work context you can see that in terms of decreased productivity, difficulties concentrating, and certainly feelings of disillusionment or cynicism.
Great. So do you think burnout then Binita is something that organizations can even help with or do you think it’s really more of an individual focus thing?
Yeah, that’s a great question. So sure, certainly burnout is something that’s experienced individually. But that said, it does occur within context, right?
So if we think about managing stress it’s helpful to take a step back and look at what are the things that are within our realm of control and influence and what are the things that we do not control. So organizations have the ability to really step in and help shape and influence the type of variables that are inherent to burnout, especially within the organizational context. So there’s real opportunity to empower your employees to feel more sense of control over things like schedules, workload and types of work assignments, and even influencing things like difficult dynamics or meaningful connection.
So historically I think I’ve always thought of burnout to be more of a challenge at the individual level, so I think as we’ve been getting into this I think it’s actually comforting to know that organizations can actually do something about it.
So our plan, yes, so our plan here is to talk a little bit more about that. We are going to present our survey here in a moment and we’ll briefly share those results. And then Binita and I would love to dive into a couple more recommendations that unpack on burnout. All right, so a quick overview of our methodology.
The 2020 Eagle Hill COVID-19 Workforce Burnout Survey was conducted online last week between April 6th and April 10th. We had over 1,000 respondents participate from a random sample of employees. In it we wanted to learn how burned out employees are feeling today, given COVID-19, and what, if anything, can be done to support employees through this.
Okay, our first data point. So our first finding was as a result of COVID-19 employees are less engaged, less productive, and less positive about their careers.
So if you look at the top three data points, 50% feel less connected to colleagues, 36% feel less positive about their careers, and 45% feel less productive overall. I think none of that is probably a huge surprise to us.
But one data point I did want to highlight is if you look at the data point second from the bottom, 37% feel more attentive to customer needs and requests. I think that was one that, that surprised us. And so we spent some time kind of digging into that and trying to reflect on it and figure out what it could mean.
And one hypothesis could be that it’s really about people getting back to the fundamentals. Perhaps people are working to find meaning in their work or prioritizing what’s important, or maybe even customers are struggling, right? A lot of people are struggling right now, and maybe on a human level people are responding. It’s hard to say, but we definitely found that interesting and something that we’ll kind of connect back to as we get into our recommendations. I don’t know if you have anything to add, Binita.
No, that’s said pretty well. I would say certainly looking at the attentive to customer needs and requests I know folks I work with are, you know, maybe they were already dealing with whatever work dynamics they had or upcoming deliverables, and then suddenly the focus has shifted to rapidly adapting to whatever COVID has thrown at us. And that’s often in the space of supporting their clients and customers, too, while [directly] in it.
Excellent. So if we go to the next slide. Nearly half of U.S. employees, that’s 45%, are feeling burned out, with one in four of them feeling that way due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So if you think about it for a second, regardless of coronavirus being the driver of burnout, it’s a big deal. And I think right now more than ever we need our employees to help us stay afloat in this economic climate, and burnout makes that even harder to do to keep them engaged and keep them productive.
So if you look at this next finding, workload, juggling personal life, and lack of communication and support are the top reasons employees are feeling burnout at work. Now I actually think there’s some good news in this. The good news is these are all things within an organization’s control and things that we can help jump in and fix quickly.
I think the bad news is that I think unfortunately organizations aren’t doing enough right now to support employees with burnout. You’ll see here over one-third of respondents said that organizations are not doing anything to help their employees with burnout, and of those who said their organizations are taking action to help address burnout the numbers are still really low, as you can see there at the bottom of the page. So employees, and a large number of them, are feeling burned out today, and I don’t think that organizations are necessarily stepping up to really help them.
And really, in reality, it’s in our best interest as leaders to do so for our people’s mental and physical wellness, but also for the bottom line. According to one estimate, employee burnout translates into a loss anywhere from $150 to $350 billion annually for U.S. businesses. So I think what this says is there’s not only a human imperative to address this, but a business one as well.
So with that said, we want to spend some time talking about how do we battle burnout, and how do we help employees not go at this alone. So we’re first going to share some organizational strategies, and then we’re going to share some individual strategies on how you can hopefully prevent burnout from happening and help employees maintain the focus, energy, and productivity at work. So first we’re going to take a look at organizational solutions.
Okay, so our first umbrella recommendation is about creating a culture that supports psychological wellbeing. And our first point underneath that is give employees control, right? So you just heard from Binita how control factors a lot into the concept of burnout. And right now there is a lot outside of all of our control these days. But I think one way we can help ground employees is to give them the autonomy and the ownership over how and when they complete their work. And in my mind this has always been about choice and flexibility.
Now here’s what I want to challenge each of you. You may be thinking oh, we already do that, or I already told my team I’m fine with them being flexible, or my people are working from home, doesn’t that mean there’s automatic built-in flexibility with that? But I think we as leaders right now need to examine our own actions and ask ourselves if we really indeed are creating an environment that promotes flexibility outside the traditional 9:00 to 5:00 setting. So are we giving employees the freedom without having to have them ask for permission?
Like I’ve been thinking about it in terms of that old adage are we—what do they say? They say do as I say, not as I do. We want to make sure that we as leaders are creating an environment that makes it okay. Like work looks different right now, and it’s okay then, therefore, for us to work differently.
So something that we’ve been doing at Eagle Hill is we’ve been trying to set the tone from the top. So, for example, our chief people officer has visibly blocked off three or four hours of her calendar every day between the hours of 9:00 to 5:00 where she’s not available to work. Or we’ve got our D.C. office lead and our Seattle lead have sent out videos kind of documenting what a typical quarantine day looks like for them. And they both highlighted how for them it means blocking off time to play basketball with their kids or to go on long walks with loved ones.
So I think for us this is already kind of a part of our culture, but if it’s not a part of your culture, there’s no reason why you can’t start right now and really start reflecting on how you can make it that environment, an environment where it’s okay and it’s okay to talk about it, and it’s okay to do it and really set the stage for people to be taking that action. I don’t know if you have anything to add, Binita.
Yeah. I would say, you know, I love that idea and I think it’s incredibly consistent with what we’ve been talking about. With so much that is out of our control, even just something as simple as having that to check off in your day, this is one thing I can count on, even if there’s a lot around me that is just spinning. So one thing I would like to add to that is absolutely it’s really helpful when it comes down from the top and is being modeled. And even just being able to take one step further and formally embed that into the culture.
So if it was to be something like okay, each of you just take an hour and block that off on your calendar, no questions asked, so folks can then do what they want with that time, whether that’s working without interruption—at least I don’t have to feel like I have to answer any emails right now. Or I know sometimes the hesitancy is if I’m not a parent and don’t have kids, or if I’m not leadership is it still okay for me to just block time off. So I think it could be really meaningful, especially right now, just to have an hour, no questions asked. Maybe you can take a walk outside while it’s still nice out instead of when it’s gotten dark, you know, just to get some sunlight.
A dream of mine as a therapist on the other side of things is even if we’re saying hey, we support psychological wellbeing, there still can feel some stigma in terms of taking time out of your day to take care of yourself. So again, even when we’re back to our regular work-life habits, is it okay, no questions asked, if somebody’s stepping out for an hour, you know, whether that’s to see a therapist, or get a workout or a walk in, or take care of other life things. It could be a nice thing to add.
Excellent. I like that. Okay, our second point is about communicating frequently. Now again, you may read this and say of course we’re communicating and of course we’re communicating frequently. But when I say frequently, I mean, frequently. I think during times of crisis, communication frequency needs to be dramatically increased.
Employees are nervous. They’re starving for information. They’re worried about their families, they’re worried about their jobs. And so I think the increase in communication can help level set and help calm some of the nerves and frustrations of employees. So one thing we’re doing at Eagle Hill that has been, I think, incredibly successful is we’ve taken to doing—most of our company has taken to doing 15 minute huddles on a daily basis. And it’s something I’m personally doing.
I’m meeting with my team every day for 15 minutes from 8:15 to 8:30. And not only has it helped us be communicating almost real time, because we are meeting at such a frequent clip, but it’s also helped build a sense of, or even greater sense of team. And it’s something actually I’ve even found from a connection standpoint has helped me personally see, you know, smiling faces on the screen, and hear about a funny story the day before.
We’re also taking a look at communication more broadly to say what does communication need to look like and how often do we need to be communicating, to who, by who, and how often. But there’s just that small little thing that we’ve been doing that has been really impactful, and I would advise anybody to consider doing it because it’s made such a big impact on our own communication.
And then the third point is about building social belonging through affinity groups. So social cohesion and the ability to connect with others and be a part of a group is critical to combating feelings of loneliness that contribute to burnout.
And if I even think about how we’ve been thinking about this pandemic, at the beginning of the pandemic the population of employees that we were immediately most concerned about was the parents. They were immediately thrown into this extreme teleworking situation with kids around them. But as this pandemic has been playing out we’ve now moved some of our concern to our singles. They are people who are living along and sometimes quarantining alone, which means that they can be really prone to some of that loneliness that we’ve been talking about.
So something that employers can do that is easy, and it can either be grassroots or it can be more formal, is create ways for communities to come together around common interests or where people they feel like can understand them. I think something that we’ve been doing at Eagle Hill is, from more of an overarching perspective we’ve been doing, like a more formal perspective we’ve been doing things like we have a quarterly theme that we follow every year, or every quarter, and this year we’re doing Connect 4 around the game of Connect 4, where everybody, we’re challenging everyone to play games of Connect 4.
And we just launched this today and we’re hoping it really helps kind of combat some of that loneliness. But it could also be something just that happens grassroots, where, you know, I’ve heard of people hosting or having—I heard tomorrow someone’s having a virtual cooking event where everybody’s getting online to Zoom at the same time to make the same recipe. It can be simple. But I think creating those spaces for people to come together can really make a difference. Binita, I don’t know if you have anything else to add.
Yeah. I would just love to say I love what I’m hearing. Just again to echo what I’m seeing on my side of things. As you touched on, Melissa, there’s that economic uncertainty, so I think everybody is a little bit worried about stability in the future, right? So even with that communication and the communicating frequently it’s helpful for employees to know and be reminded of their worth—we value you, you’re doing a good job.
Because it’s extra scary right now, and everybody’s been thrown out of their routine. So even if a manager is like juggling their three kids, we know everybody’s adjusting, but if that can plant a seed just to remind folks hey, you’re doing a great job. And the other thing I really like about connection and social belonging, I’ve definitely heard people say I miss my coworkers, it’s not the same, so it’s just a nice way to keep folks together.
Awesome. All right, our next recommendation area is around building resiliency in your teams. So our first point is around empowering team leads to recognize and battle burnout. So employees’ day-to-day experience really happens at the team lead level. We can’t stress enough how important it is to get your team leads and managers engaged in these strategies to help prevent burnout and keep employees focused and productive.
I think hand-in-hand with empowering team leads is also helping people understand the importance of predictability and stability in their day-to-day work. So much has been changing that the more you can remind people that there are still many, many things that are staying the same I think it can help ground employees in with everything that’s happening around them.
One of the things that we’ve been doing as a leadership team at Eagle Hill is we have been trying to keep our business rhythm as close to normal as absolutely possible, so we’re only making changes where we absolutely have to right now and as a way to, again, to just continually ground people in that familiarity. The other thing we’re doing in terms of empowering team leads is in making sure that our team leads have ownership over employee engagement.
We regularly pulse employees on their engagement, and team leads get that information, and we ask them to sit down with their team members once every other week to review the engagement data, to talk about how things are going, and really create that safe platform for being able to identify where an employee might need help and assistance. So those are just a couple of things that we’re doing.
The second point is around maintaining transparency and a hopeful outlook. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what I think has made Eagle Hill as resilient as it has been. And one of the things I think I have arrived at that I think is really important is maintaining transparency and a hopeful outlook. I think you have to believe and have to remain optimistic. You have to believe that this too shall pass and that you will make it through. And I think holding onto that is so, so important.
And then at the same time making sure that you’re transparent, and as transparent as almost makes you feel uncomfortable, I think, because if you have bad news, you have to share it and you have to share it fast. And I think making sure that if you do that employees know that they will get it straight from you. And it gives them, I think, the ability to focus where they need to be focused knowing that you’ve got it, right, you’ve got it. So I think it’s that relentless focus on being hopeful on your outlook, but at the same time being transparent in all the realities of what’s happening.
And then last but not least is doubling down on small wins. And Binita actually started to talk about this already a little bit. But I think more than ever employees need to see the impact of their work and feel they’re valued. And they might just need a reminder of what they’re doing actually does matter and is important to the team. So one thing we’ve been doing, or we just actually did at Eagle Hill, on Monday I asked everyone to think of the one Eagle Hill employee that they were grateful for during this pandemic.
You know, maybe they sent them a meme and cheered them up when they were having a bad day, or maybe they just did a last minute review of something that you needed done, whatever it might be. And I asked folks to think about who that was and then just take two minutes to reach out and thank that person and say look, I’m grateful for you and here’s why. So I think it’s continuing to encourage situations like that that can also really help decrease people’s stress.
All right, with that said I’m going to turn it over to Binita to spend some—oh, actually, no, before I do that I almost forgot. I wanted to actually ask the audience. I’m sure you all have seen some great ideas out there as well, things organizations can do to help tackle burnout. So we’d love to hear and have you all share some things that you’ve seen that you think work well.
So if anyone has comments or questions or suggestions at this point just go to the control panel and type in the question box and I’ll read them aloud.
The first one, Melissa, is what do you suggest to do to reduce/prevent burnout when an organizational culture was not strong prior to the pandemic?
I’m sorry, Kelly, could you read that one more time?
Sure. What do you suggest that we do to reduce/prevent burnout when our organization culture was not strong to begin with before the pandemic?
Got it. I think I would say there’s nothing like the present, right? And there’s no reason why you can’t start right now employing some of these strategies right now that will in turn help strengthen your culture today. I think that would be my recommendation, is don’t let that stop you.
And just some comments that are coming in on things that their organizations are doing. We’re holding online exercise classes is one comment. We’re having options to see a virtual therapist. And we are having one-on-one conversations with team leads focused on just the individual and how they’re holding up during [these times].
Awesome. I think the online—oh, go ahead.
No, go ahead, Melissa.
I was going to say I think the online exercise thing is a great idea. Speaking of grassroots, myself, I just participated this week. We found there are nine or ten people at Eagle Hill who love their Peloton bike. I don’t have a Peloton, but I have an exercise bike, and I downloaded the app, and I have been taking Peloton classes now almost obsessively. And we as a group got together and did a group ride together. And I couldn’t believe how motivating it was. It was much more motivating and energizing than I even anticipated it would, so I can endorse that personally.
Great. A couple more comments coming in. We have two meetings a week with the executives. One is informational and transparent and one is just flat out social.
I like that.
Another comment coming in. Our company is offering a lot of webinars to help people transition to working remotely, tips for working remotely with kids, and tips on how to say connected with employees. Also we offer virtual meditation and book clubs.
Another comment. Our organization has half days on Fridays. At 12:30 we all step away from our work completely and take the rest of the day to ourselves.
Oh, I love that.
Another comment. Virtual happy hours. My organization is providing weekly professional development and wellness. Seminars available: meditation, self-hypnosis, psychotherapists and e-learning. And one last comment. The clarity and frequent communication does help address the transparency issues in our organization.
Can I join some of these organizations?
[Laughs.] Cool. All right, over to you, Binita, for a focus on the individual.
Okay, great. So thank you, Melissa. This first set of recommendations is really about thinking about how we can use the power of our thoughts to help navigate burnout. So as some helpful context just to ground ourselves, from an evolutionary perspective as humans we’re actually prewired for a negativity bias. So from a survival perspective it’s much more meaningful and important to notice the saber tooth tiger in the background versus the lovely ocean view in our front view.
In modern times that can look like we may notice nine good things that happen in our day and that one piece of feedback that is less positive in nature is going to be the one that really sticks to us. So we actually have the opportunity to really rewire our neural pathways to be able to flex that muscle and focus more on filtering in the positive events that do happen in our world as well.
And it’s really the way we interpret information that leads to the thoughts we have, which then fire the chemical response and the emotional experience we’re having, so pretty powerful stuff. And that first step is under the realm of embracing optimism.
So a really easy hack is gratitude practice. It doesn’t take a lot of time and it’s free. So those are two things I always love about the exercises we can use. I think of it as being able to do mini bench presses for your brain and kind of creating the Teflon so things can bounce off us just a little easier. And it can look like doing that maybe at the end of your day, just reviewing what happened in my immediate world and the broader world, what are three things I’m grateful for, or habit stacking that into your morning routine the next day and just take inventory of the day before.
And I usually give people a 30 day challenge if they want to try that because that’s about how long it takes for habit formation. The next one is something that therapists love to say, which is lean into the discomfort. We’re certainly all experiencing that right now. And it’s all about, you know, as you hear tuning into what we’re thinking, tuning into what we’re feeling.
And some of the things I’m noticing that I hear from folks currently is I’m getting—you know, some folks are saying I’m able to get through my day okay and then at night it all kind of hits me. I feel more anxious or I’m just, my thoughts are, you know, my brain is firing. So if we can try to just tune in a little more at the moments we’re noticing a particularly strong emotion, just take a mental Polaroid of what’s happening just to register, because we’re getting a lot that’s hitting at us, whether it’s from the news or other things, and it’s pretty jarring in nature.
So just a note on this more big picture is our tendency, our natural tendency is to want to make the unpleasant emotions go away, so we’re kind of quick to distract or ostrich or hope that it resolves on its own. But really, all our emotions are trying to speak to us and they’re trying to communicate to us, so until they’re really met with we can’t resolve it or move into problem-solving.
And just to ground some of that in research, there’s really interesting work with PET scan studies where they put images in front of folks that are meant to evoke a certain emotion. So if you see an image and it’s meant to activate love, they’ll see that part of your brain light up. And the same with something like excitement, or anger, or disgust. And then when you ask folks can you label this emotion, you start to see that same area of the brain calm. So this can be a really helpful grounding tool when you’re feeling emotionally overwhelmed or just again building that ability to tolerate the stress.
And I think there’s one more on here about managing expectations. So a note on this is most of us actually tend to be our own worst critic. We’re harder on ourselves than anyone else might expect of us. In the D.C. metro area I find this especially true. We have a lot of high functioning, high performing individuals who are all about knocking it out of the park.
So I’ve been working on this a lot with folks, especially as we’re going through this transition, just starting to look at things one week at a time. And it’s an opportunity to not just look at failures as failures, but reframing that as an opportunity for what can I do different leading into the next week, so each week being an opportunity to build on the other. Or even generally speaking there’s good weeks and bad weeks, so each week being its own opportunity for a reset.
Something that we want to maybe think about is in Week 1 of abruptly moving into an extreme telehealth and telework situation—sorry, I use the word telehealth a lot—are we still expected to perform the same way professionally and personally than we were two weeks earlier.
And so we just want to sort of make sure we’re checking on that. And another tool for that is an exercise we call self-compassion. A lot of times it’s easier to give advice when we’re objectively removed from it. You can think about maybe a relatable peer, or colleague, or a friend, or loved one, and if they were describing a situation to you, what would be the advice you would give them? And then just take a beat and turn that advice back on yourself and say is there any reason that wouldn’t apply to me? So it’s a good way to, again, when we’re having trouble deciding do I really need to respond to this email right now, it’s 11:00, just things that we can do to sort of be kind to ourselves.
And finally a last note on expectations—no, self-care. So you can’t really—that’s okay, we can move on. We can move to self-care. So self-care, you can’t really do that with—you can’t talk about burnout without having self-care as part of the conversation. And that’s something that ultimately is going to be very individual in nature. It’s not a one-size-fits-all type of thing.
For many of us there’s things that are already working, and this is certainly the time to grab from our tool box and use the things that work for us. It might take some adapting and adjusting. But it can also be a time where we’re starting to try out new things that we’ve maybe wondered about and haven’t had a chance to do. So I really like the analogy of thinking of things in terms of a cell phone battery. Within a given day there are going to be things like a 20 second text message. It’s not going to take a lot out of your battery. A two hour FaceTime call is going to drain a lot.
Similarly speaking, different types of self-care, a vacation is going to boost—at least for me it’s going to take me to the top, but not always feasible. So in essence we just want to mind that. Ideally we’re operating in the green. When it’s yellow we want to shore up, and certainly in the red we want to make our world small and pay attention and do what we can in our control.
But if we can, just plugging in in little ways throughout the day. If we’re noticing at 9:00 in the morning every Tuesday I’m in a bad mood, is it because I just came off a standing meeting with somebody that I don’t have the greatest dynamic with? Maybe we can swap that out a little bit by just venting to a colleague, or taking a walk to charge ourselves up just a little bit, to offset the different detractors in our day.
We’ve talked a lot about the theme of predictability and control, and taking any opportunity to just own a small part of your day that’s for you is a way that we can feel like we’ve at least checked one box that is something we set out to do and we’re able to accomplish. And one of the things I like to talk about doing is just scheduling or think about having, incorporating one pleasurable activity into your day, no matter how small. Because whatever emotional state you’re creating, whether that’s more of a relaxed feeling state or a pleasurable feeling, there’s opportunity to generalize from that so a state can eventually become a trait.
And other things we want to think about are—you probably have heard about this a lot if you’re reading up on self-care—is keeping to routines and schedules because—Melissa, you probably touched on this as well—just that familiarity, some things being the same.
A structure any time we’re feeling a loss of predictability or control can be really comforting. And just as a third note, something I’ve talked to folks about right now is it’s easy for our day to bleed into night or our work to just take over the entirety of our day if we let it. So maybe identifying a ritual that you can incorporate that helps you to transition from work mode to personal mode. It can be something like I’m going to take a walk and that’s going to signify me moving into my personal time.
The next one is just thinking about how we can ground ourselves in the present. Anxiety is future oriented and depression is past oriented, it’s rooted in the past. And it can be helpful to think ahead so we can be strategic and prepare for things to come. I know organizations do that a lot. And as well as gather lessons learned. But ultimately we want to be in the moment so we can deal with what’s happening at the time.
So that’s why you hear a lot about mindfulness and meditation. It’s really about noticing what’s happening without judgment. And that goes back to the prior slide where we’re just trying to even interact with even the uncomfortable things so we can move into problem-solving.
Another really good grounding technique is using deep breathing. Again, that’s one that I like to do as a 30 day challenge. And what happens is if you’re doing deep breathing you activate your vagal nerve. And that can start to calm your fight or flight response. You can pick any kind of rhythm. I like four-seven-eight. These are things that can be easily Googled or found in an app.
But again, if you’re busy counting your breath you can’t be thinking about the thoughts that are causing you to feel anxious and depressed—or sorry, stressed. So when you’re feeling a little more, you’re owning that moment to [feel the last] and it’s also a way to counteract the buildup of stressors in your day so maybe you’re operating here versus here if you can incorporate that throughout. And there’s one more.
So connecting socially. I caveat this one by saying with intention. If you think about all the different—and this is by no means an exhaustive list that I’ve presented—but if you think about all the different resources and tools out there for building resilience, social support is the hugest predictor of success with building resilience and maintaining resilience.
I like to say all it takes is one. But if we’re lucky enough to have more than one person in our life and we have a vaster social network, we also want to think about the fact that all relationships are not created equal. So there’s those people in our lives who are our hugest supporters, and they know exactly the right thing to say, and we feel better after talking about something really tough with them.
There’s people who mean really well, but despite their best efforts, we’re not really feeling better. And then there’s sometimes we might notice patterns where more times than not we’re actually not liking the way we feel around certain people, and surprisingly enough that can sometimes be people we call friends. So again, we want to think about what’s the emotional prescription for that particular situation, and it’s just putting us a little bit more at the control panel in terms of how we’re choosing our responses.
And as a final note, just to flip on that, it’s also important, more so than ever, to think about incorporating boundaries. Right now we feel maybe more compelled to answer a phone call or a message, respond to a message in real time. And it’s okay, even if they know you’re home, to say hey, I’m just unplugging and I’m taking some time away from any kind of electronics or media.
And even if we’re not in a home sharing space with other people, you know, even in a regular time when we’re just transitioning from our day it’s nice to spend time, just have a few minutes with your own thoughts before engaging in a different way with others. I think that pretty much covers it.
Excellent. So I think we were also going to ask, again, ask you all what are some strategies you all use to get unstuck when you’re experiencing negative thinking or feeling mentally or physically exhausted.
And just as a reminder, if you have any comments just type them into the question box and we can read those out loud. Okay, it looks like some responses we have coming in. I’m getting outside to a local park and going for a walk or run every day. Another comment. I’m taking a mental breathing break, especially if I’ve just been in a meeting that didn’t go my way.
Another comment. I’m talking to my team/coworkers so they know that I’m struggling and may need a bit of help.
Kelly, can I just add something to the one about nature?
Oh, yes, absolutely.
So there’s actually research that says that being around nature can actually help to soothe feelings of anxiety and stress, so if we’re able to find any—I know it can be hard if you live in the city—but finding any green is really good. And if there is a silver lining, we’re going through this in the spring so we get to see some flowers—
I have thought that myself. [Laughs.]
Just another comment that came in. I’m putting my phone down! Exclamation point. Another comment. I take a break to do something around the house that I know will at least help me accomplish something, for example, doing a load of laundry, starting the dishwasher, or helping the kids with an art project.
Is it just me or does anybody have the most organized closets right now that they’ve ever had in their whole lives? [Laughs.]
Here’s another comment—
…and some people are saying there’s no place to put it.
I did read that, yes. I think it was in Fairfax County, Virginia. One of the officials was going on record to say please resist your inner Marie Kondo. We have no more places to store everything. So I think we were also planning on turning it over as well to Q&A to see if there’s any questions either Binita and I could answer for anybody.
Terrific. So again, along those lines, if anyone has questions for Melissa or Binita, please just type those into the question box and we’ll read those out loud. Here’s one question. Burnout is even more prevalent in certain industries. Examples are healthcare, banking and finance, public safety and the grocery industry. What do you suggest we do to help employees in these areas?
That’s a great question. And yes, burnout is definitely more prevalent, I think, in certain industries more so than others. Maybe we can answer this on two levels. Maybe Binita you could take a shot at the individual level and then I could take a shot at the organizational level.
Sure. Do you want me to start?
You can go ahead, Melissa.
Sorry. I think there’s a lag.
Okay, so the organizational level my thought would be I think many of the best practices that we talked about today can be applied to these industries.
I think we can’t always provide the flexibility, I think, given the demands put on some of these professionals. But I think there are opportunities to create outlets for expression and communication. My husband, for example, is a healthcare professional and he’s actually instituted the 15 minute huddle with his whole department. And he says sometimes the meeting is only five minutes because there are no updates in communication, and they’ll just spend five minutes on the phone kind of just connecting and chitchatting. But he said even that’s been very energizing. So I think there’s lots of different ways to take these things and make them applicable to wherever you are.
I think boosting morale, some of the things we talked about with thank yous, or the gratitude thought is also a nice way to be able to communicate and help boost morale. And then the last thing I think I would say is listen to what your employees—ask them. Ask them what they think might help, be helpful in terms of tackling turnout.
For sure. I like the idea of being able to have a say in feeling heard and understood when you’re in the front line with that. And these really are our front line workers and our heroes right now, so there’s a lot that’s probably different than some of—there’s a lot that could be applicable and the same and then there’s a lot that might be hitting in a different way, right?
So I would definitely say there’s something to be said for having a space for shared understanding, other people around you who get it. So I like the idea of the 15 minute huddle. Depending on some of the types of work setups and scenarios, it might be nice just to have an opportunity, whether that’s built in at the end of a shift, maybe an informal debrief where people can trade war stories a little bit or just process that stress.
I know there’s mental health professionals out there who might be willing to even, you know, so it could be as informal as a self-facilitated dialogue. It could be a chance to process maybe even just once if you wanted to find a mental health professional to help facilitate. Organizations I know have EAP services, which is just a short-term, solution focused thing that comes with employee benefits if folks wanted a space individually to just process what’s happening so it’s not built up at the end. The same with therapists like myself in private practice.
And I believe there’s a resource list that might be going out after this webinar maybe on mental health resources. If there is it should have just ways of finding solutions. But just in adding to some of the self-care things, there’s also as a personal share. I’ve been listening a lot more to Enya.
And I think there’s power in music. I’ve found that I’m enjoying incorporating that into my morning to set the tone. But it could be a nice way, again, to transition the day. It’s a lot less active trying to process and it’s just the sensory soothing can be really nice. Scents can be helpful. Just things that I would imagine our professionals are busy and want to come home and just get to their other parts of life. So using scented candles or flowers or things like that might also help the environment.
And sorry, I’m talking a lot. I get excited. But exercise is probably a huge one. There’s a reason they call it the magic pill. And I think if there’s opportunity to burn that stress that could be a really nice outlet as well as you’re boosting the chemicals that are the same chemicals we use for antidepressants and antianxieties.
Terrific. And we’re mindful of the time. We’ve just about surpassed our time that we had allotted today. But we have one last question maybe Melissa can take quickly and then I’ll turn it over to Melissa to close things out.
Do you have any tools or tactics that you recommend for managers to use to actually gauge employees’ relative level of burnout, how best to trust reported results, given the people might be hesitant to reveal their vulnerability?
I think that the simplest thing I could say would be—my recommendation, it’s not fancy. But I think having a regular meeting set up. Like in our case we recommend team leads set up a biweekly meeting with their employee. So it’s already scheduled, it’s already on the calendar, and it’s kind of leaning on what Binita said, it’s part of the routine, right, it’s part of the predictability. But I think that predictability enables the conversation and enables that space where you can sit down and ask people how they’re doing. You’re right, it does require someone to be vulnerable to be able to have those conversations.
But I think the onus is on the team lead at least in creating the environment that makes it okay to be vulnerable. So sometimes maybe that’s being vulnerable yourself and maybe it’s sharing some of your own experiences. Maybe it’s asking more—not pointed, that sounds like it’s a negative—but asking probing questions. And then being empathetic in terms of what your responses are. So I think that would be my best suggestion, is to create a regular cadence on that meeting and really care. Show up as a human and care about your colleagues.
All right, I think that’s time. If anyone has any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to email us. We are more than happy to answer them. But in the meantime we thank you so much for your time and attention today and we wish you all have a wonderful rest of the day.
0:50:00 [End of recording.]