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Leveraging tech to support employees and prevent burnout

Article by Jason Romanosky, Senior Director of Product Marketing - LumApps

Employees often feel like they have to burn the candle at both ends – and as a result, are more burned-out today than ever before. While remote work kept businesses going during the COVID-19 pandemic, it also created a pressure cooker-like atmosphere for employees. They became digitally tethered to work, and the changes lasted so long that they’ve become new expectations.

The digital/hybrid work environment isn’t going anywhere, but employees need support to avoid burnout. A recent LumApps study found that 89 percent of employees have experienced burnout in the past two years, likely leading to the Great Resignation. By February 2022, 4.4 million Americans had quit their jobs. Productivity levels rose when companies switched to remote work, but at what cost?

The Double-Edged Technology Sword
When COVID-19 struck, companies quickly sent office employees home with laptops and set up Zoom meetings and online collaboration tools to keep the business running. Anxious at the thought of losing their jobs during a global pandemic, employees set out to prove they could be productive while working from home, even in less-than-ideal conditions. 

Now, 41 percent of employees report a lack of work/life balance and overworking as a significant contributor to feelings of burnout. Nearly one-third (32 percent) say meeting overload and Zoom fatigue are the culprits. Employees are struggling, and the technology that kept them gainfully employed during the pandemic has turned on them. They’re still quitting their jobs at a high rate, hoping to find workplaces that provide an ever-elusive work/life balance. “Quiet quitting” has also gained attention recently, popularized by TikToker @zkchillin’s viral video. Burnout and disengagement after working through the stresses of the pandemic have led some, particularly Gen Zers, to “quiet quit,” where workers perform their basic duties but no longer go the extra mile of working additional hours or going above and beyond their duties.

How Technology Can Support Employees
While technology is contributing to burnout, it can also be used to combat burnout. When companies take a deliberate, purposeful approach to their tech stacks, they can improve both the employee experience and overall work/life balance. Employees need technology to do their jobs, and many of them want to keep working remotely – 78 percent, according to a Pew Research study

But to facilitate a happy, satisfied remote workforce, companies need to prioritize implementing technology that makes their lives easier. That technology can take on many forms. In the LumApps survey, employees said they need technology to improve productivity (84 percent), share knowledge (83 percent), aid communication and customer service (81 percent), conduct planning and time management activities (81 percent), and collaborate (80 percent). Additionally, 92 percent of employees say it’s important that their employers invest in tools that give employees a voice and allow for bottom-up communication.

Technology Needs to Be Integrated
Now is the time to evaluate existing technology, especially tools that were hastily spun up at the beginning of the pandemic. It’s likely that companies have tools that don’t integrate with each other, which can cause more challenges, choke points, and productivity pitfalls. For example, a company may have implemented a communications tool like Slack and a project management system, but employees have to log in to both when they’re assigned a new task or complete work to let their team know when the next step needs to be taken. Additionally, different departments may be using different tools and different forms of communication. This only adds to department siloes and brings workflows to a halt when employees try to get work done cross-functionally. 

Ideally, employees should only have to log in to one workspace to get their jobs done, whether they’re in the office or working remotely. Barring that, digital workspaces need to seamlessly integrate as many functions as possible: video calls, text chats, notifications and reminders, and file sharing, for instance. 

Use Technology to Streamline Communications
On a typical day, the average employee receives 121 emails per day. That includes important communications with coworkers, clients, and management. After reading an email, it can take them up to 20 minutes to get back on task. While companies can’t reduce the number of emails sent by outside parties, they can use technology to streamline the communications they send to employees. For example, employees who have been with the company for three months or less are the only ones to receive messages asking for onboarding feedback.

Analyze Employee Sentiment
When employees were in the office, it was easier to spot the telltale signs of burnout, whether it was slumped posture or just “going through the motions” to get the job done. With a remote workforce, employers can’t detect body language and facial expressions the same way through a Zoom call. However, the same technology that can pick up product issues on social media can also be used to analyze employee communications for signs of burnout. It looks for keywords and phrases, or even sentence construction, that could indicate employees are working toward their breaking point, and lets employers course-correct before it’s too late.

Of course, sometimes the easiest way to take the pulse of employees is just to ask. Anonymized surveys can provide valuable feedback and help companies make changes, whether that’s more flex time, shorter work days, or hiring more employees to shoulder the workload. However, companies need to go a step further  and actually put the valuable data to use. Just asking employees isn’t enough – and could lead to greater frustration if employees confide their frustrations but then nothing is done. Companies should use feedback to inform new policies, programs, benefits, and so on to help improve the workplace environment and avoid attrition.

Ultimately, the purpose of technology is to make employees’ lives easier, not harder. By streamlining technology, and using it to improve communications and gather feedback, employers can support their employees and spot burnout before it happens, leading to better employee retention and morale.

    As the Senior Director of Product Marketing at LumApps, Jason is responsible for helping our customers and employees understand the value and the power of the Employee Experience Platform. Prior to LumApps, Jason was Director of Product Marketing at Blackbaud where he drove a simplification of the Data Intelligence and Services portfolios by focusing on key plays and customer delight. Jason has also held numerous roles in Product and Marketing at Cisco Systems in the Collaboration Software space where he helped pioneer flexible software buying models and introduced preferred architectures.

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