Businesses struggling to support burned out employees

Despite worldwide exhaustion in 2020, the most optimistic for 2021 are those working in tech, according to a new report from Peakon.

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Image: iStock/AaronAmat

Is it over yet? With two weeks left to a year plagued with the virulent coronavirus, unrest, uncertainty, and a particularly problematic political season in the US, there's little surprise that employees are burned out. Employee software company Peakon surveyed 8,000 respondents worldwide—2,000 from the US—and the results were notable.

For as many months as it takes to produce a new human being, Americans have struggled, as they try, 16.6 million unsuccessfully, to fend off COVID-19. The unexpected large-scale shift of many businesses quickly moving employees from offices to working remotely from home was bound to take its toll: 82% of the global workforce expect their productivity to take a dip this holiday season and 1-in-2 US CEOs are positive about 2021, found the report.

"These findings are reflective of a workforce that has endured the pressures of an unprecedented year," said Phil Chambers, Peakon's CEO and co-founder, in a press release. "It's concerning, if not entirely surprising, that nearly a third of employees claim to be on the brink of burnout."

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Chambers expressed concern about the overreaching effects of this burnout: "Unless employers tackle this empathetically and head-on, organizations could suffer costly consequences in 2021. As for the decline in productivity in the run-up to the holidays, this isn't unique to 2020. It may be frustrating, but it's something that we all should be planning for annually. Once you accept that December is different, the final days of the year can become an opportunity to do something positive."

Something positive for the tech industry were the results of the poll on optimism for 2021: leading industries were those in IT.

Other key US poll results found 28% are concerned about what will happen in 2021, 26% are burned out and need a break, and 23% feel low that the holidays won't be quite the same this year, as travel and social advisories strongly recommend households to continue to isolate themselves to prevent an even further spread of COVID-19.

Only 11% of Americans feel energized and driven, and of that only 8% of women say they are energized now.

Still, it's important to remember Americans' resilience, the report concluded, and offered employers suggestions to make the transition into the new year smoother and more uplifting for staff.

"So at this time of year, prioritize the deadlines and targets you need to hit and set achievable goals within the limits of the season," Chambers said. 

"Take some time to come together as a company to evaluate the year: What worked well, and wasn't quite so successful?" he added. "Rather than piling on the pressure, reflect on the efforts your people have put in over the course of the year and give recognition for what they've achieved. Your people are your business, and the driving force behind your future success. A small gesture, such as a card or public congratulations, will help to ensure that everyone returns after the festive season feeling fresh and motivated to do their best work."

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