December 1st, 2021

Commentary From Crisis Management Expert Edward Segal, Author of Crisis Ahead: 101 Ways to Prepare for and Bounce Back from Disasters, Scandals, and Other Emergencies (Nicholas Brealey)

A sure-fire way to help bring about a crisis is to ignore the problems that can create it. The results of a new research project are focusing a spotlight on a serious problem faced by millions of employees that could create a crisis for their organizations: burnout. Unfortunately, only one-in- ten managers who were asked (11%) said they are worried about the problem.

The results are part of the State Of Remote Work 2021 report from Owl Labs. They, in collaboration with Global Workplace Analytics, surveyed 2,050 full-time workers in the United States between the of ages 21 and 65 at companies with 10 or more employees and a 50/50 gender split. The data was collected in September 2021.

Cause And Effect

Janice Litvin, the author of the Banish Burnout Toolkit, said that, “unreasonable workloads and deadlines eventually cause burnout. True burnout is defined by the World Health Organization as chronic stress that is not successfully managed.

“This appears as exhaustion—mental, physical and emotional. When someone has reached that point, taking a day off is not going to heal them. They would need many weeks to recover and a possible re-assignment. Asking them what needs to change is one step towards helping them when they are preparing to return,” she recommended,

Litvin noted that, “You can see the obvious financial and productivity consequences [with] workers going out on disability. Plus, the company will earn a poor reputation as a burnout zone and recruiting efforts will be hampered more than they already are.”

Other Survey Results

Weishaupt said that in the current Great Resignation, “managers need to ensure that employees feel supported. People are putting in more hours, as 55% of people say they work more hours working remotely than at the physical office.”

He noted that, according to the survey:

  • 42% of workers are feeling stressed about uncertainty around their employer’s in-office requirements, which adds to their burnout risk. Employers should make sure they’re listening to employees’ concerns and addressing their needs.
  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of respondents who worked from home during the pandemic also had to care for children or dependents, with these caregivers facing additional mental health challenges. Employers should ensure they are giving employees the flexibility to maintain a work life balance and the support they need to get through these challenging times.
  • 1 in 4 workers (25%) changed jobs during the pandemic’s Great Resignation; 87% of them did so to decrease their stress.
  • Women changed jobs 47% more than men.
  • 82% of employees say having a remote work option at least part-time post-pandemic would improve their mental health; 75% said it would make them less likely to leave their employers.

Advice: Improve How Workers Are Treated

Litvin said that, “Many company leaders have on blinders when it comes to managing people. Without the workers there is no work. When people have a good relationship with their manager and care about the work they are doing, it is less likely that they [will] feel burned out.”

To help address employee burnout, she shared the following advice:

Workloads And Deadlines

Find ways to make the work that is done by employees—and when that work is due— more reasonable.


Employees want to be heard. They want to be acknowledged. They want to be asked what they think.

Make Them Feel Valued

Bring employees to the table when discussing strategy. Why? Because workers are in the field and know how customers (both internal and external) react to specific changes. Further, this is how to make them feel valued, important, like their opinion matters.

When you use a command and control management approach, you are indicating that you’re the boss and what you say, goes, just like a parent responding to a recalcitrant child with a “what I say, goes” attitude. That is the fastest way to turn an employee off and cause a rift between you and your staff.


Another element that needs to be addressed is that workers want meaning in their work. That is what motivates them and will drive them toward the end goal. So align their work with a clear mission. They want to know that what they do drives the overall value of the company and truly helps the community that the company serves.

Treat With Respect

While to some degree everyone is motivated by money and other perks, such as free food and a fitness center, at some point money is not the only motivator.

So ask them what they need. For example, rather than free food, they might want Wednesday afternoons off to be with their kids when there is an “early dismissal” day. It may be important to them to attend some of their kids’ mid-week sporting activities. There should be enough trust established to know that they will finish their work later.

Guide your managers to bond with their team by getting to know them on a personal level. This means weekly interactions. Go for walks together, [whether] in person or virtual. Ask them non-work related questions about their favorite books, movies, activities, kids’ activities, etc. The manager should know the names of the two or three most important people in their workers’ lives and should ask about them. That is how to build strong bonds, which lead to loyalty and trust.

Show Appreciation

A $5 gift card at holiday time is not going to cut it this year. The quickest way to an employee’s heart is your connection and true showing of appreciation. Ask them what they want and then do your best to give it to them.