To curb ‘quiet quitting’, employers must address burnout

Supporting fatigued employees who don’t feel willing or able to go the extra mile should be high on HR’s list of priorities, says Prakash Solanki

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Exhausted workers no longer willing or able to go above and beyond in their work are reportedly ‘quiet quitting’ by working in a way that’s more present than productive. The trend has gained millions of followers, with employees sharing tips across social media on how to save their mental health by limiting tasks and not releasing discretionary effort.

Employers that want to re-energise and motivate their workforce need to respond by acknowledging that asking fatigued employees to dig deeper isn’t the answer, but supporting them to boost resilience and protect their mental health in more positive ways is.

Get managers to show they care

With less watercooler conversation available as a result of increased home working, it’s essential that managers schedule in time to show the caring face of the organisation. Managers need to regularly check in with people on a one-to-one basis to ask how they are, instead of just talking about work and deliverables.

It’s important that employees feel safe admitting when they feel overwhelmed so they can discuss ways to address this with their manager. Many managers aren’t aware of the pressure their people are under as they’re under a lot of pressure themselves, so it’s important they ask those they’re responsible for how they’re feeling and what would make the biggest difference to reducing their stress levels. Most people know which straw is breaking the camel’s back, but need permission to share this with their manager.

Normalise anxiety

A lot of overwhelm is caused by constant feelings of anxiety about what’s happening in the world, from the soaring cost of living to fears of a resurgence of the pandemic this winter. Keeping these feelings bottled up can make people feel emotionally overwhelmed and physically fatigued, so it’s important to normalise these feelings.

The world won’t be going back to normal anytime soon, so give employees the insights and tools they need to reduce intrusive thoughts. Inviting them to talk to each other about their daily concerns can help them realise they’re not alone in their worries. Encouraging them to limit consumption of negative news, and instead to listen to music, do things that give them joy, eat well, get enough sleep and take fresh air breaks have all been shown to reduce anxiety levels.

Help employees boost resilience

Employee resilience, the capacity of individuals to thrive in high-stress environments, isn’t about how much pressure they can take, but rather how well they can discharge that pressure. Self-care is incredibly important for boosting mental health. Often when we feel overwhelmed, we think we don’t have time to schedule in time with family and friends, exercise, take part in a hobby, or take a full lunch break away from our desk. Yet it’s more important than ever that we make that time for ourselves.

Encourage employees to think about what helps them to reduce stress levels and get managers to lead by example when it comes to talking about what they’re going to be doing this evening or weekend to unwind. Discourage the sending of work emails late at night, during the weekend or while people are meant to be on holiday. It’s essential that people have time to unwind and recharge. At the very least, if people working flexibly want to do this, make sure they add a note saying they don’t expect a response out of hours.

Signpost to support

According to recent research, nearly half (47 per cent) of employees who have access to wellbeing resources through work feel very productive at work. So make sure employees know about any support services in place. Also consider adding additional support services as needed, be this an employee assistance programme, or mental health fatigue assessments, which allow people to talk to a trained counsellor about symptoms of fatigue and practical things they can do to reduce this.

That way, managers can signpost people to appropriate support, instead of feeling like they have to counsel employees. Not only will this make people feel more cared for, but it will also make them more loyal. Half (51 per cent) of employees given proactive help to stay healthy said they were less likely to want to work elsewhere, compared to just six per cent of those given little or no support.

Prakash Solanki is a mental health counsellor at PAM Wellbeing