With vaccines rolling out comes the hope that office spaces may safely return to their former glory. But seeing the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t mean COVID-related workplace problems will just up and disappear. Employee burnout, for one, won’t be going away on its own.
Throughout the past year or so, the pandemic has been an easy and understanding go-to excuse. Productivity isn’t what it used to be? That’s reasonable! There are a lot of exhausting emotions that come into play when living through a pandemic.
But when those concerns start easing off, that doesn’t mean productivity will bounce back and everyone’s mental health will be excellent. According to research from Spring Health, 76% of U.S. employees were experiencing burnout by late 2020. That’s not something that can get better overnight.
As an HR pro, you don’t directly impact team members’ workload as a manager would. But you should monitor warning signs of employee burnout and push for helpful strategies and policies in response.
Here are four questions you should ask yourself regularly to watch out for your medical sales team’s wellness:
1. How does the team feel about office arrangements?
Anything unknown can be frightening. Even if leadership has done a great job communicating what they expect from medical sales and what protocols they’ve put in place, nobody knows how it’ll feel to be back in the office full time.
And if you’ve all agreed that a hybrid model is the best way to go, will everyone feel content with adjusting to their work-life balance? How will dividing up time between home, the office, and the road affect reps’ sense of stability?
The hope is that any changes will improve their flexible work options. According to a recent study from FlexJobs, 54% of people with flexibility at work say they have the necessary emotional support at work to manage stress, and 57% can change stressful aspects of their job. Of those without work flexibility, only 45% and 37%, respectively, feel the same.
If those sentiments are absent, and the team is nervous about changing the current office arrangements, you need to step in. Have conversations one-on-one with reps to learn what they’re most concerned about. Amplify their voices by proposing additional measures to keep the office space safe, offer more support for their stress, and ensure the changes do not disrupt their work-life balance.
2. Is the current workload reasonable?
Your role has little to do with what overarching tasks need to be completed to keep the company running smoothly. But when you notice delegation is a mess, and reps are too overwhelmed by everyone they have to meet and everything they have to get done, it is your job to call it out.
In their research, Spring Health indicates that increased responsibilities at work directly connect to experiences of burnout.
If management doesn’t respond to your concerns, it may be necessary to propose an initiative with your solution. In that framework, you can position the adjustment as something that would meet the interests of leadership while simultaneously protecting the well-being of employees.
One solution could be reducing the number of hours spent working. The Spring Health survey found that about a third of U.S. workers say this would reduce their risk of employee burnout. This initiative would also boost productivity and morale. That may sound counterintuitive, given that there are fewer hours in the office. But keep in mind, team members who are healthy and motivated work better than those who are weary.
3. Are team members taking advantage of mental health days?
If your company doesn’t offer enough paid time off, that should be one of the first places you start to prevent employee burnout. The Spring Health data shows that 30% of workers say more vacation time would help them avoid or reduce their burnout.
Even when there is sufficient paid time off for reps to use, they might be hesitant to miss a whole day of work. If there’s a lot on their plate, it can be more stressful to fall behind. If team members are avoiding taking time away to care for themselves, that could be a sign that they are overworked.
It could also indicate they aren’t aware they can use the time for mental health. When the office doesn’t encourage open conversations about it, and there is no clear label that everyone can use those days for self-care, reps may not even realize it’s a choice.
Be sure to communicate with your medical sales reps about their options for taking mental health days. And don’t hesitate to make mental health a welcome topic in the workplace.
4. Is everyone in leadership actively contributing to a supportive atmosphere?
According to Spring Health, only 26% of U.S. employees say that having a supportive and understanding manager at work would help reduce or avoid burnout. This statistic is understandable. With so many factors contributing to employee burnout, a great manager alone isn’t enough to counteract it.
That being said, a distant manager can make things worse. Having so little communication from leadership can lead to employees feeling unappreciated and disconnected. Team members should never feel like they are on their own. If leadership isn’t willing to step in, hear their concerns, support them through the struggle, and do what you can to pick up the slack. For your own mental well-being, don’t take on more than necessary; you are not there to solve every problem. But being that listening ear and pat on the back from time to time can make a big difference.