Employee Burnout and Psychological Safety Must Be Addressed in the Future of Work, Says McLean & Company

Global HR research and advisory firm McLean & Company advises that future-focused organizations need to evaluate their efforts to manage employee burnout and create psychological safety in the workplace to improve the employee experience and better compete for talent in a challenging labor market.

Amid widespread talent acquisition (TA) and retention challenges, the employee experience continues to be deeply impacted by high levels of burnout and fragile psychological safety. As the issue of workplace fatigue requires investment and action at the organizational level, research from McLean & Company, one of the world’s leading HR research and advisory firms, suggests that equipping people leaders with the right tools will assist in addressing employee burnout. The firm has assembled a collection of its research to support employers in their efforts to improve the employee experience by addressing employee burnout and building psychological safety in work environments.

“The infinite cycle of employees experiencing, semi-recovering, then reexperiencing burnout is a pervasive one,” says Kelly Berte, director of HR Research & Advisory at McLean & Company. “To escape this loop, the responsibility of addressing burnout must shift from the employees to the organization. At the organizational level, root causes can be properly addressed and approaches that support employee health and wellbeing effectively put into practice.”

People leaders are often in a unique position, with a frontline perspective on their team members’ individual experiences, which allows them to adopt a critical role in reducing burnout across their teams and departments.

However, as addressed in the firm’s research, employee burnout is not the only responsibility that rests with organizations. Psychological safety must also be fostered and built at the organizational level, as employers are increasingly expected to provide a holistic approach to employee wellness.

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“Psychological safety is a point of popular discussion, but there are many misconceptions around what it is and how to implement it within organizations,” explains Grace Ewles, director of HR Research & Advisory at McLean & Company. “For example, it isn’t as simple as a checklist item on a to-do list. Building and maintaining psychological safety in the workplace requires commitment from key players, solid alignment between the organization’s culture, processes, and modeled leadership behaviors, as well as consistent and ongoing effort.”

The research collection from McLean & Company includes a blueprint to help employers use a systems approach to evaluate, address, and minimize employee burnout; a guide to help managers effectively identify and extinguish burnout; and a guide to building psychological safety at work. Each is highlighted below:

  • The Plan to Extinguish Organizational Burnout blueprint indicates six critical domains that are common causes of employee burnout: workload, role clarity & autonomy, supervisor & coworker relationships, rewards & recognition, fairness & equity, and employee & organizational value alignment. The research also includes a three-step plan to address these domains, as outlined below:
  1. Identify root causes of burnout.
  2. Tailor solutions to address root causes of burnout.
  3. Create a future with minimal burnout.

A full breakdown of tactics and strategies for HR and organizational leaders is available in the blueprint.

  • The Managers Guide: Effectively Identify and Extinguish Burnout research features guidance that will help managers and people leaders to:
  1. Familiarize themselves with burnout and its causes, signs, and symptoms.
  2. Clarify their role in identifying and addressing burnout within the organization.
  3. Reflect on and combat their own burnout experiences.
  4. Take action in identifying and addressing individual employee experiences of burnout.
  • The Introduction to Psychological Safety for HR guide identifies the three pillars of psychological safety, as outlined below:
  1. Prevent harm.
  2. Promote health.
  3. Resolve incidents and concerns.

The guide also highlights the elements of psychological safety, which organizations must align with to be successful in the pursuit of a holistically safe workplace.

As the trusted partner of HR leaders around the world, McLean & Company’s mission is to enable workplaces where everyone thrives. The research collection provided by the firm is available to guide HR and organizational leaders through the important processes of addressing employee burnout and building psychological safety to improve the employee experience and, by extension, TA, retention, and the employer brand.

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