For most employees, the end of the year is an especially busy time, with many working longer hours to get things done before the holidays. That means that the coldest time of year is the time when burnout is the most likely.
This isn’t a new phenomenon, but there are some new elements to consider with burnout in 2022 that weren’t there when this earlier Tribe blog was posted in 2016 (though plenty has remained the same). Especially when it comes to younger employees, you’ll want to keep these factors in mind when addressing lack of interest in the workplace moving into next year:
1. The work follows them everywhere.
Whether they’re at the bar or at home on the couch, getting work emails at 9 or 10 p.m. sucks. While the verdict seems to be that most employees greatly prefer remote work, one of the prominent negatives is that there’s a constant expectation of availability. Many employees will get emails later at night and, when things are busy, there’s often pressure to answer.
That means employees are often responding to emails at all waking hours. Off days might be spent physically away from the laptop, but shutting down the work brain is a challenge. In busy periods, employees might be sending emails at all hours just to sufficiently pass the baton, but encourage them to try scheduling a delayed email delivery to spare others the stress associated with yet another notification. If scheduling after-hours emails instead of sending late at night becomes the standard etiquette for your company, everyone will get a little extra relief from burnout in 2022.
2. Background stress is high.
Young adults of every generation have a tendency to over dramatize their existential situations. Still, the last few years have been a unique perfect storm of overwhelming circumstances, with the ongoing pandemic, economic concerns, and a rapidly changing political landscape. This all contributes to a high level of stress even when work is slow, so tensions certainly increase when the pace of work picks up.
There might not be an easy resolution to this particular facet of burnout in 2022, but it’s important to keep in mind when trying to force assignments in before the deadline, as many of your employees may already be near their breaking points.
3. Burnout is relative.
Humans are exceptionally adaptable, but they don’t adjust to their circumstances overnight. The impacts of new environments, of course, also depend heavily on what employees were experiencing before.
For example, it might be helpful to think of an increase in hours worked in terms of percentages, not the total increase in hours, because five more hours of work for someone used to working 40 hours a week is a lot more than someone used to working 70 hours a week.
When possible, it’s better to adjust workloads gradually, but that’s of course not always easy to do — especially when you’re doing a good job of promoting your talented employees to increase retention. The second-best option is to account for this bout of burnout by planning for a dip in productivity shortly after the initial transition. Soon, the perceived burden of the new role will dissipate, and the process of growth and improvement will resume once again. Failing to leave room for this dip will only worsen the effect of burnout in 2022 by pushing employees further into the redline.
4. They see an alternative online.
This might seem silly to those who aren’t enamored with TikTok (I’m not a user myself), but many younger employees see career alternatives portrayed on social media that amplify their frustrations with more traditional work arrangements. There are countless social media influencers who talk about their high-paying move to day trading, freelance copywriting and design or social media content creation itself. When fatigue is high, they’re not just looking at other potential employers, who will likely also bring them to the brink of burnout, they’re looking at totally different situations altogether.
Some Gen-Z and younger Millennial employees are looking at freelance jobs or aggressive passive income as an alternative to working full time. These are the same kinds of opportunities that have been fuel for ads since at least the advent of the internet, but platforms like TikTok make them even more visible (and believable) than before.
Your employees might not be bold enough to commit to the switch, but the perception of other, more lucrative options will add to the stress and frustration when times are at their toughest. With this in mind, it’s important to be extra appreciative during the busiest times (which could be done with verbal gratitude, a bonus, a gift, or maybe an extra PTO day when things slow down).
Interested in shifting the culture around burnout in 2022? Tribe can help.