Empathetic leadership and internal communications can help mitigate burnout—here’s how

It’s now been just over a year since everything changed about the way work gets done. After all of the safety protocols, operational updates and remote work transitions, we have one question we’d like to ask: how are you doing?

Frayed rope about to break

If you’re already feeling the effects of burnout, you’re not alone. Right now, burnout is especially potent for frontline workers who don’t have the luxury of working from home even while they deal with worrying about their loved ones, their health and their security. But happiness expert and The 80 Percent podcast guest Jennifer Moss knows that it’s not too late to turn things around. 

Here are three ways using empathy in your internal communication employee engagement strategy can mitigate the impact of workplace burnout on the frontlines.

1. It opens the floor for better employee communication.

How do frontline employees know their workplace is a safe space to share how they’re feeling? The answer: they won’t unless you tell them. 

In a safe and empathetic workplace, everyone has the chance to speak up—not just dominating voices. More chances to actively listen to other people gives more opportunities to feel comfortable talking about mental health and other personal issues. If your frontline managers  let their guards down around what they’re going through, employees learn that they’re not the only ones struggling which can make all the difference.

According to Moss, empathy is at the root of the most successful organizations. If you can fit into someone else’s shoes, you can understand what they’re going through and talk openly about next steps to improve their situation. It really changes the dynamic between employee and employer by flattening the workplace hierarchy a bit more with transparency and communication.

Crystal-clear internal communications help your team stay connected—no matter where they’re located.

2. It builds mutual trust.

Trust plays an essential role in boosting employee engagement to reach business outcomes. The fact is, frontline employees are counting on you to communicate new updates, job aids, FAQs and procedures they need to do their best work every day. At the same time, you need them to know when to go beyond the checklist and deliver standout service. To do so, they need to feel good about their jobs.

When leadership trusts their team to get things done while also using social collaboration time to talk about things that are outside of work discussions, it’s a win-win. For managers, this means trusting employees will get their tasks done without having to monitor or timestamp their work. For employees, this gives them some freedom to foster workplace friendships and community—another strategy for mitigating burnout.

Employees get much more social support. And if your team can’t deliver or if they make mistakes, you might have a different attitude around those mistakes. It isn’t just black or white. Open conversation will help both managers play that middle role and employees to have more compassion for their management.

3. It’ll help your business hit its KPIs.

Managers are in the middle of a very difficult balancing act. On one side, they’re trying to take care of people and make sure they can focus on providing them with the right resources and the right support, especially during difficult times. But on the other side, there are metrics the company needs to reach to achieve goals for revenue and profitability. 

So, how can managers find a better balance? Moss says that “a big part of the story is making sure that managers are prioritized correctly and have enough capacity to focus on supporting people and not just managing work”. When they have the room to do so, managers can put the right amount of emphasis and effort into supporting people on the frontline through the challenges of burnout without sacrificing holding people accountable to their goals. 

Preventing burnout is really about proactively creating systems and processes to tackle it—because it’s not just a personal challenge, it’s a workplace challenge. See how you can use crystal-clear communication in your burnout prevention toolbox to help build a high-trust, empathetic culture. 

Maliyah Bernard is an academic writer turned content writer. As a former frontline worker, she loves writing about all the ways organizations can support these essential workers smarter.

Let’s work together to drive frontline performance in all the right ways.