Humanising performance management: helping your people with burnout and wellbeing

Many organisations boast a caring and open culture, or list mental health first aiders and other ‘perks’ as encouragement to apply for their vacancy. While mental health first aiders and access to professional help can be a great way increasing trust and help your people feel supported, there are things HR and line managers can do on a more personal level.

According to a report from National Statistics and Health and Safety Executive, 54% of missed work days in 2018/2019 in the UK were due to poor mental health and work-related stress. During the COVID-19 outbreak, with mass remote working and the lockdown extending for months, it is likely this figure has increased.

Caring for your people’s wellbeing and mental health impacts every area of an organisation, as ultimately your people are what make the work happen and the business function.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a case of running out of energy, mental space, and emotional capacity to cope with a given situation. Often leading to poor mental health, and a frequent first step towards taking time away from the workplace, burnout is often caused by a lack of boundaries and downtime.

What are the causes of burnout?

It’s important to note here that the onus for this burnout sometimes falls on an employee and sometimes on an employer and sometimes on both. For example:

  • Some employees may strive to over-achieve and may lack the discipline to switch off from work when they need to
  • Some employers don’t respect the boundaries of their people, pushing them too hard or creating a shaming culture around mental health and stress in the workplace
  • Alternatively, mental and emotional burnout may be taking place in the personal lives of your people, making it harder for them to function at full capacity in their role

All of these causes and issues need to be addressed when monitoring burnout and employee wellbeing in your organisation.

How does performance management come into monitoring burnout and wellbeing?

In our last post, we talked a little about the importance of managing and monitoring burnout among your people to understand which areas of your organisation may need a helping hand or some pressure taking off.

According to a Perkbox’s 2020 Workplace Stress Survey, flexible working policies and regular 1 on 1 meetings with management were the top relievers of work-related stress. While flexible working may need to be adopted on a larger scale, especially in unforeseen circumstances, what the performance management process can help with is open communication with line managers.

Improving communication between line managers and employees

1. Schedule regular 1 to 1s

Research has shown again and again how important communication between managers and employees is. One of the best ways to keep this open and consistent is through regular 1 to 1s. Leaving the chance for open discussion down to a yearly performance review isn’t enough, and it’s time to move away from that model.

If your working patterns make it hard to have weekly catch ups, even once a month will greatly accommodate communication and help your people feel supported.

2. Normalise the wellbeing conversation

When having a performance check in, or a 1 to 1, begin the conversation with a question, or questions, about how your employee is doing. Not in a polite small talk way, genuinely listen to their response.

Talking about feelings isn’t always the most comfortable subject for line managers or their employees. While there should never be pressure to share personal information, creating an environment where your employees feel safe to discuss negative experiences like stress, workload, or interpersonal relationships at work can greatly reduce the chances of hidden stress and eventual burnout.

3. Be understanding about workload

Whether you’re in the busiest time of the year, working through a pandemic, or in the run up to a big product launch, it’s always important to be mindful of the impact this will have on your people. Yes, sometimes workloads will be increased and capacity will be stretched, but this shouldn’t be an ongoing expectation.

Trust your people to set their own boundaries when it comes to workload, and if you can sense someone is taking too much on, be clear that support is in place and things can be done to ease the load if they need it. High workloads often lead to burnout when a culture of shame is created and employees fear losing their jobs due to not keeping up.

4. Expect their lives outside of work to have an impact

While it is not the business of a line manager to ask personal questions about their employees, it is vital to understand that people’s lives outside of work may impact their capacity to focus. Whether a bereavement, problems at home, or strange and straining circumstances like COVID-19, your employees are only human.

While some organisations may pride themselves on their “leave your personal life at the door” mentality, this may not be helpful for people who are struggling. Sure, people don’t want to be around colleagues who spend all day complaining about their lives, but shutting out that conversation altogether, and making people feel as though their lives outside of work don’t have an impact, can be damaging to the health of your employees and your business in the long term.

5. Use performance check ins to get honest feedback

Performance check ins and 1 to 1s however, shouldn’t be a one-way street. A great way to improve trust and help your people feel supported is to allow the conversation to flow both ways. This doesn’t mean line managers should be encouraged to open up about their personal lives to their employees, but creating a place for open feedback can be a great way to bring your people closer together.

Getting feedback from their direct reports is a great way to help your line managers develop as employees and leaders. And allowing this to happen in an open, judgement-free way can improve the wellbeing of your people as well as the performance of line managers.

Burnout and mental health are the leading causes of time away from work. Managing performance isn’t just about measuring output, it’s about understanding the environment and culture your organisation creates for its employees.

Want a hand structuring your check ins? Or perhaps a way to standardise them across your organisation?

Fill in the form below to download our performance and wellbeing check in template.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!