Combatting Employee Burnout with Internal Comms

18 December 2023

Around this time of year, many are setting New Year’s resolutions in the spirit of ringing in 2024 on an optimistic note. Traditionally, people are keen on prioritising self-improvement goals, and imagine more productive, efficient versions of themselves, promising to exercise regularly, drink kale smoothies, or wake up early to maximise their output. But what if the secret to self-optimisation and increasing productivity… is doing less, not more?  

As the team at 106 closes out another year, I’ve been reflecting on a common sentiment I seem to be hearing annually in December… “I’m so drained.” “I’m ready for a break.” “I need this holiday to recharge.”  

According to the World Health Organisation, burnout is classified as an occupational phenomenon – not an official medical condition. Therefore, the responsibility falls on employers to manage the conditions and culture of their work environment to support the mental health and stress loads of their people. And more and more, it’s becoming apparent that the functions of internal communications can play a bigger role than one may think in addressing what may be the biggest threat to organisational resilience.  


Cultivating a Culture of Open Communication  

Open communication is the lifeblood of a healthy culture. And the biggest buzzwords of the internal comms world, authenticity and transparency, may be overstated but they are not overrated. When an internal communications strategy is strong, it promotes employees’ rights to freely share their feedback, feelings, and personal challenges to support both individual and collective psychological safety. This can look like regular requests for feedback and constructive criticism, mental health support groups, or leading by example through communicating with vulnerability from leadership. We all know that no matter one’s role in a workplace, no one is completely immune to feelings of stress and overwhelm. When we create an atmosphere of trust, people will feel more comfortable expressing themselves and asking for support when they need it.  


Streamlining the workload, alleviating the mental load 

As internal communicators, we are constantly reassessing the tools we are using to streamline processes and maximise productivity. When we are considering whether to implement a new tool or practice, such as an employee experience platform or newsletter, we can always be considering whether these additions will add or subtract to overall workload. More work does not always equate to more stress, but with new technologies and capabilities popping up seemingly every day, the engagement landscape is becoming increasingly congested… so how do we reduce the pressure? Let’s focus on choosing tools that lighten up the amount of automatable tasks that we perform every day. On a more basic level, we can also always be reclarifying concrete expectations from our people, to ensure that employees are not taking on more than is necessary. We can all be high-performing and high-achieving workers, even without pushing our capacity to the brink. All it takes is the magic of prioritisation.  


Failure is not a bad word 

It’s no secret, the rise of burnout developed as a result of an increase in company cultures that value productivity and results over personal wellbeing. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for employees to experience the ‘Sunday Scaries’, a recent phenomenon describing the dread one might feel as the weekend ends and an anxiety-driving Monday morning pile of work approaches. With more pressure than ever to be perfectionistic (self-improvement books have been selling with record numbers), perhaps the solution to rising anxiety levels is encouraging an atmosphere of acceptance and imperfection.  


More than ever, we have the capabilities to express our support for those who are managing high stress levels. Employers can equip their people for success by leveraging their internal comms strategies to support the health of their organisational culture, and naturally drive creativity, productivity, and innovation. Going into the new year, let’s all consider that a workplace that values wellness and mental health is one that embraces learning and growth… and ultimately, leads to success. It’s a win-win.  

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