June 18, 2020

Coronavirus Pandemic is Causing Major Stress, Employee Burnout

By: Andrew Lenderman   Comments: 0

The coronavirus pandemic is causing major stress for employees, and burnout is real. Company leaders can help by communicating well, acknowledging employee challenges and being flexible. And there likely won't be a COVID-19 vaccine ready by this fall.

AWB's Wednesday Employer Resources Webinar featured these takeaways and more from leading healthcare and human resources professionals.

"This has really impacted in so many ways our mental health," said Jennifer L. Christian-Herman, the executive director of Strategic Customer Engagement, Product and Innovation Evaluation at Kaiser Permanente Washington.

She pointed to changes in business location and practices, social interactions, health routines and stress over finances and health, among other challenges.

"So some folks are stressed because they're not working, and many individuals are stressed because they're working differently, and at a different pace, and, a lot," Christian-Herman said.

She also shared survey data that shows 51% of Americans believe the worst of the pandemic is yet to come, and that seven in 10 employees say the pandemic is the most stressful time of their entire professional career.

"Employees and companies are reporting that burnout is a serious problem and they may feel like there's no end in sight for many," she said.

So what can employers do? As businesses reopen, Christian-Herman encouraged employers to prioritize a psychologically healthy workforce in addition to taking care of physical needs for a healthy workplace.

Among practical steps for leaders, she encouraged managers to show empathy, address financial concerns, empower employees to prioritize health and family, and more. Check out Kaiser Permanente’s Return to Work Playbook here.

Wednesday's webinar also featured Kevin B. Dull, the chief human potential officer for MultiCare. He shared a simple message at the beginning of his presentation: A crisis makes necessary change inevitable.

"What we've learned at MultiCare Health System is that as we went through a change that was forced down upon us by the COVID-19 scenario…we discovered that we needed to make all kinds of unique and different changes as it related to taking care of our customers and the communities we serve," Dull said.

For example, MultiCare was able to train 400 primary care doctors in virtual care.

"That's probably something that we should have been doing before that," Dull said.

He encouraged employers to think of changes that can be made today to better prepare for the future, rather than waiting for a crisis.

Wednesday's webinar also featured Dr. Timothy H. Dellit, the chief medical officer of UW Medicine and president of UW Physicians.

He addressed a question that's on the mind of many: When will a vaccine be ready?

"This pandemic is going to be with us until we have either a vaccine or herd immunity within our population," Dellit said.

Current estimates show that only 3% of people within our community have been infected with COVID-19, he said. That means a large proportion of people are still at risk for infection, and an increase in infections is expected this fall.

"The good news is that phase three vaccine studies are beginning this summer, including two agents that will be tested here within the Seattle region," he said. "That is very encouraging, and hopefully that means that by early 2021 we may actually have a vaccine. But until we do, we really have to think about how do we create that safe environment, for our patients, for our staff."

UW Medicine has focused on two basic elements, he said: Creating an overall safe environment for patients, and responding to the emotional support for staff.

This includes enhanced communication between leaders and staff, including weekly town hall meetings.

"It's a way for our leaders to have transparent conversations and really answer the difficult questions and also acknowledge when we don't know the answer," Dellit said.

AWB's COVID-19 Employer Resources Webinar series is scheduled for each Wednesday at 9 a.m. Next week's topic is focused on how employers can acquire the personal protective equipment needed to safely reopen.

Click here to register.

For video of Wednesday's webinar, open the window below.

AWB COVID-19 Employer Resources Webinar Series: Health Care (6/17/2020) from Association of WA Business on Vimeo.