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People Managers, Here are Signs Your Employee Could be in Distress

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A year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus continues to wreak havoc in many parts of the world. In the Philippines, for example, the country records about 20,000 new cases daily driven by the Delta variant of the virus1.

With seemingly no end in sight, the pandemic continues to cause uncertainty among Filipinos. There is growing concern among individuals too as they see more people around their closest circle get infected.

Most organizations in the country have responded by continuing to maintain a work-from-home setup to help secure the health and safety of their employees. In Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, 84% of Filipino employees surveyed agree2. However, remote working also poses a tremendous challenge to the country’s people managers. In the same survey by Microsoft, 62% of the respondents said that they felt overworked, and 78 percent crave face-to-face interactions with their colleagues.

As a manager, you are most likely aware that your people are feeling stressed or burnt out. But how would you identify those who might need your help if you rarely see them in person?

5 Signs Your Employee Might be Burnt Out

With limited personal interaction, it can be difficult to know who in your team is feeling distressed. But there are signs that can help you identify them so you can immediately address the issue before it severely impacts your colleague’s well-being. These signs include:

Irritability

Misunderstandings and clashing personalities can happen in any team. But if you notice a typically cheerful colleague suddenly become consistently irritable, then chances are they are experiencing tremendous pressure at home, at work, or both.

Recurring Illness

Distress could reduce a person’s appetite and weaken their immune system, causing them to be more prone to getting sick. So, if you notice your colleague taking more sick leaves than usual, they could be burnt out.

Declining Productivity

With so many things running in your colleague’s mind, they are more likely to lose focus on their work or become demotivated, so it helps to look into their productivity levels too.

Disengagement and Isolation

A colleague who seems to have been suddenly pessimistic about working at your company or constantly showing dissatisfaction about working there could be feeling that they are being poorly treated there.

While these signs are not always apparent or may not always manifest themselves in distressed employees, they can serve as your guide to make sure your coworker still finds joy in their work.

How You Can Help Distressed Employees

We currently live in extraordinary times, with most of us dealing with extraordinary pressure at work and at home. As a manager, you are also expected to be empathetic toward the people you lead. Understandably, this can be difficult when you are new to this kind of role or are dealing with many other issues at work.

Our Philippines Best Workplaces™ 2021 Insights Report may offer you a blueprint for exemplary leadership in these difficult times. Here are some ways you can help your distressed employees:

Give Employees a Break

It may seem counterintuitive, but employees need more time off from work than ever to prevent burnout. For example, Atlassian gave employees additional 15 days of leave and a special monthly floating day off where they can choose one day a month to completely disconnect from emails and working applications. Naturally, these measures received an overwhelmingly positive response from employees.

Show Genuine Interest in Your People

We also found that managers in great workplaces are truly invested in their people. In our Philippines Best Workplaces 2021 study, 88% of surveyed employees in these organizations agreed that management showed real interest in them as people, not just as employees. It is also true even for companies that did not make it to the list as 78% of their employees shared the same sentiment.

While this does not necessarily translate to forming close friendships with them, small things like genuinely seeking and responding to their feedback and involving them in decisions that will directly impact them will go a long way in earning their trust and keeping them motivated.

Recognize the Importance of Mental and Emotional Health

In the best workplaces that made it to our 2021 list, nearly nine out of 10 of their employees say that their organization is a psychologically and emotionally healthy place to work. This emphasizes the importance of mental health at the workplace. This is where employees feel that management shows them a clear direction of where the company is going, supports their words with concrete actions, provides employees with resources they need to be productive and appreciates their employees’ good work.

Encourage Peer Learning

It also helps when managers speak with other people in leadership roles, like what they did at Synchrony Global Services. With their Front-Line Manager Series, managers from different hubs share best practices in handling employee concerns and providing everyone with more learning opportunities. Afterall, the topic of mental health is new to most of us and with some still learning to be at ease with the topic. Slowly opening up and creating a safe space to learn together with your colleagues is one of the best ways to manage holistic wellbeing at the workplace – not only for your team, but for yourselves as leaders as well.

You Can Make a Difference at Work

At the end of the day, working at a supportive organization can help prevent or reduce the possibility of burnout among your employees. Even simple programs designed to support them in these difficult times will certainly mean a lot to them.

Treating your employees well will also benefit you, their manager, as well as the company where you all work at. You will be surprised at what they will do to support you as their leader, with some even volunteering to help you. So, always look after your team because even an ounce of compassion will go a long way in helping us pull through this pandemic and beyond.

Antoniette Mendoza-Talosig

Antoniette Talosig is the Managing Partner of Great Place to Work® Philippines and the Lead Consultant for Singapore.  Driven by her passion to help people be the best that they can be, Toni started Great Place to Work® in the Philippines with a vision to create a high-trust workplace experience for every Filipino.  She has close to two decades of partnership with some government agencies, SMEs, MNCs and some Fortune 100 companies across industries and geographies. Toni believes being a mother is the greatest adventure of her life and she enjoys seeing the world with her family. 

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