Your Employees Are Feeling Burned Out: Here’s How to Help

5 real-life examples from small businesses on how they are promoting work/life balance

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You don't have to have a big budget to take care of your employees. These companies are getting creative, with employee-led fitness classes, wellness stipends, Zoom meetings to check in on mental heath, and more

After an exceptionally crazy year, employee burnout is on the rise. As we head into a second full year of remote work, employees are naturally feeling squeezed like never before. That’s why now is an important time to rethink and re-visit work/life balance.

Whether you’re revamping your current approach or you’re thinking about it for the first time, here are 5 ways that other small businesses are tackling the challenge.

1. Create a way to make time off stress-free

One of the biggest hurdles to a healthy work/life balance is the stress that vacation brings when you know that your inbox is mounting and your to-do list is growing every day that you’re away.

That’s why Mark Webster, co-founder of AuthorityHacker, has devised a way to make sure that work is completely covered while an employee is away.

“When employees take paid leave, we create a system whereby the vast majority of their work is covered,” Webster told Workest. “All emails will be redirected to another employee, their core tasks will be covered by other team members.

This way employees can truly relax and enjoy their time off, and “be sure that their first Monday back to work isn’t a stressful pile of work that’s accumulated.”

2. Set clear working hours and be transparent about expectations

Especially with people working from home, the temptation to let work seep into more and more time of the day is tempting, if not inevitable.

That’s why Marja Verbon, the COO of Jump, believes in the importance of creating set times for when her employees should be working.

“It’s easy to overwork. … If you see your employees working overtime too often, remind them that it’s not expected of them and that they should relax.”

“It’s easy to overwork,” she says. “If you see your employees working overtime too often, remind them that it’s not expected of them and that they should relax. Also make sure that your employees know that they can take time off when they need it, whether it’s due to stress or they just need to take a day to relax.”

Eropa Stein, founder of Hyre, agrees.

“Some team members need more encouragement than others to take a break,” she says.

Stein told a story of a team member who decided to stay up extremely late to finish a project and still attend a 9am meeting.

“She is so hard working I had to insist she rest and leave the meeting early,” Stein says. “Not all situations are as obvious. It’s one thing to welcome feedback, but it’s another to take the initiative and look for signs your team members may need a break.”

For Stein, making an effort to notice when team members are putting in too much and giving them a break is key.

3. Promote wellness in more than just one way

Jaime Yas, the senior vice president of HR at Brilliant Earth, promotes personal wellness in several ways.

“We send internal ‘Weekly Wellness’ emails that include helpful information around mental health, financial health, sleep health, physical health, and a range of resources such as meditations, recipes, and mood boosting playlists,” she says. “We also encourage physical fitness, both through regularly scheduled stretch breaks and ‘Fitness Fridays,’ where we do in-home workouts together as a team over Zoom.”

The best part? Employees have been so taken with the company’s various wellness initiatives that they’ve begun to lead them.

“Some team members are even leading 10-30 minute Zoom sessions including dance classes, mindfulness sessions, card making, art lessons, and more,” Yas says.

Ahmed Elnaggar, founder of Set The Record Player, has opted to promote wellness at his company by providing employees with a small monthly allowance for wellness expenditures that can’t carry over.

“It can be spent on anything from gym memberships, boxing or meditation sessions, knitting classes, personal development, a side hustle, professional accreditation,” he says. “We don’t have any measurable KPIs or fancy charts to show for it, but it works, our teams love it and I am forever proud of doing it.”

4. Put your employees in charge

It can be tough as a leader to figure out the best ways to help your diverse staff better achieve a work/life balance. If you’re especially unsure of where to start, consider going straight to the source like Mark Condon, the founder and owner of Shotkit, has done.

“With the cooperation of our HR executives, we have set up a Safety and Well-Being Committee that addresses the mental health issues faced by employees,” he says.

The committee holds “an unofficial Zoom meeting every Friday evening to ensure a space where everyone can discuss the problems they are facing and we take suggestions from the other team members.”

Even if you don’t go as far as setting up a committee, a simple anonymous survey can go a long way in uncovering what your employees need from you to achieve a better work/life balance in this new and challenging time for work.

5. Lead by example

At the end of the day, nothing you say or do about work/life balance at your company matters if it isn’t modeled by leadership.

“For us, modeling a good work/life balance starts with our managers,” says Dan Bailey, president of WikiLawn Lawn Care.

Managers shut down their work computer by a certain time unless there are extenuating circumstances. Then they don’t log back into work until the next morning.

“They don’t check work emails overnight, don’t respond to work texts, don’t engage with work at all. They spend time with their families, on their hobbies, or just rest up. We’ve found that when managers exercise good work/life habits, their reports follow suit.”


As you can see, there are a number of ways to promote work/life balance at your small business. The main thing is to be genuine about it — if you promote it, exemplify it. And remember: If you don’t know where to begin, start with a survey.

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