Fighting Burnout with Better Benefits
Workspan Daily
February 04, 2022
Key Takeaways

  • Beefing up the benefits. Google announced it is increasing its PTO and paid parental leave to combat employee burnout and improve retention.
  • More organizations offering paid parental leave. A WorldatWork survey found that 66% of organizations offered paid parental leave in 2021, up nearly 20% from 2017.
  • Employees crave flexibility. Pandemic research indicated many employees would leave a company that didn't provide flexible working options.
  • Remote work comes with burnout concerns. Despite its various benefits, blurred lines between home and work life as well as increased isolation are possible fallouts from remote work that employers should be cognizant of.
  • Beware of the signs of burnout. There are various signs employers should be aware of when it comes to burnout among their employee population.

Google recently announced that it is increasing its parental leave program and offering more vacation days to its employees in 2022.

The search engine giant said that it expanded its parental leave to 18 weeks for all parents, which was previously 12 weeks, and 24 weeks for parents who give birth, which was previously 18 weeks. Additionally, the company said it is increasing its employees’ paid vacation time to a minimum of 20 days a year, up from 15, starting on April 2.

Google is one of many organizations that has maintained a remote working environment as a result of the pandemic, which has brought forth challenges of employee burnout. While many employees prefer a flexible work environment because of the pandemic, burnout or disengagement has caused many to seek new opportunities during an especially tight labor market.

Google and others are hoping for better benefits, namely those that encourage taking more time off when it is needed, will keep employees engaged and stave off retention issues.

“Larger companies like Google and Netflix have found that benefits such as paid time off (PTO) and parental leave have positive impacts on retention and reduced need for additional assistance,” said Angela Phillips, Ph.D., telehealth director and mental health expert at AdvancedRecovery Systems + Nobu. “With trending data in support of work-life balance, family support, mental health and wellness, we should continue to see data that supports these long-term effects by offering more benefits support to employees.”

The pandemic saw many parents exit the workforce due to child care responsibilities, which has made paid parental leave an increasingly valuable benefits offering by organizations looking to attract and retain talent. To wit, WorldatWork’s “Total Rewards Inventory and Practices” survey found that 66% of organizations offered paid parental leave in 2021, up nearly 10% from its pre-pandemic levels and up nearly 20% from 2017.

Google’s chief people officer, Fiona Cicconi, noted that more than 40% of the company’s employees are in the “sandwich generation” where they might need to care for children and aging family members. 

“We want to support our employees at every stage of their lives,” said Cicconi, “and that means providing extraordinary benefits, so they can spend more time with their new baby, look after a sick loved one or take care of their own well-being.”

The Remote Work Environment

More generous paid leave and PTO are certainly connected to alleviating burnout, thus increasing the likelihood of retaining employees. Flexibility and remote work, however, are more of a mixed bag.

WorldatWork’s “COVID-19 Employer Plans and Employee Perceptions” survey, which was conducted in February 2021, found that 32% of employees said they would not return to work in person or would look for a new job if their employer decided that remote work would not be allowed after the pandemic. Thus, more organizations began offering full-time or part-time remote work opportunities as a part of their workforce talent strategy.

And while many employers reported that remote work during the pandemic was an overwhelming success in terms of productivity, organizations are encountering employee well-being and burnout issues upon maintaining a fully remote environment.

“Although remote work can diffuse some of the issues leading to employee burnout, it does not eliminate other challenges that can arise in any environment that remains inflexible or unrealistic with its workforce expectations,” Phillips said.

A contributing factor to this, she said, is the increasingly blurred lines between home life and work life, which can lead to added stress and eventually disengagement. Additionally, some employees who live alone might simply feel isolated over time without regular in-person interaction. For organizations that are planning to stay fully remote, Phillips said fostering a supportive workplace that includes well-communicated mental health and well-being resources is key.

“Ideally, this would allow for employers and support resources to identify signs of burnout before it progresses, while allowing for awareness, intervention and treatment to take place before it creates more significant challenges,” she said. “This could allow for a more supportive workplace culture, and as a result, greater employee wellness, trust, productivity and retention.”

Beyond great PTO and paid parental leave benefits, Phillips suggested organizations can combat burnout by showing employees they are valued and acknowledging leadership blind spots. A Dale Carnegie report that sampled over 6,500 employees found that many feel their employers don’t engage their employees, create an environment of support or welcome feedback toward improving processes.

“Many are simply yearning for positive reinforcement and learning opportunities as much as monetary rewards and haven’t seen any changes in how their voice is heard as a part of this process,” Phillips said.

Whether in an office or in a teleworking environment, Phillips said employers should be cognizant of these signs when it comes to employee burnout:

  • Decrease in ability to complete tasks on time,
  • Loss of ability to track tasks over time,
  • Mood swings (e.g. anger, sadness, irritability),
  • Reduced engagement in tasks, projects or social aspects of job,
  • Complaints of headaches, illness, dizziness, or loss of sleep, fatigue, and insomnia,Missing important meetings or more days without notice,
  • Increased social distancing from others, even if virtually,
  • Decrease in ability to take care of daily routine activities (e.g. showering, changing clothes, brushing hair, etc.).

“Just being cognizant of these signs and symptoms can allow employers, managers and supervisors to become more aware of how to better watch for and reach out to employees that are exhibiting concerning behaviors,” Phillips said. “By making time to connect and check in with employees more regularly, employers may also begin to see employees more directly opening up about concerns, creating greater opportunity for conversations about resources and support. This level of communication can vastly change workplace culture, employee satisfaction and retention rates.”

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