January employee burnout spike caused by added Covid-19 stress could be on the way. January could see a ‘burnout spike’ among workers, as people struggle to cope with continued remote working and Covid-19 restrictions. Experts are predicting a rise in employee burnout in the new year after research revealed that online searches for “burnout symptoms” have increased by 24% in 2020 alone. In August, research found that 47% of managers were concerned that employee burnout may be on the increase, and it now looks as though many workers are assessing whether they are being affected. Google search data collated by Vape Club has found that there is a strong year-on-year increase in searches for the symptoms of burnout. January saw the highest number of searches, with 12,100 people searching for burnout symptoms during the month. However, the year so far has resulted in a huge rise in internet searches, with a 41% increase since 2017. Global online searches for the phrase ‘occupational burnout’ have also risen by over 2500% since 2015, suggesting that things could continue to get worse for workers. ` With people’s professional and personal lives being heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, companies are being warned that the spike in searches is likely to be worse in January 2021. This suggests that organisations need to look at what additional support they can put in place to help employees deal with stress and enable them to maintain their mental health and productivity. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) formally recognised burnout as a syndrome. According to WHO, employee burnout is caused by “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. It is characterised by feelings of exhaustion, increased mental distance from a person’s job or increased negative feelings towards a job, and a reduction in professional efficacy. Richard Holmes, director of wellbeing at Westfield Health, said: “Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. Pressure at work is usually the main culprit and when budgets are tight and teams are small, people often find themselves with multiple roles and heavy workloads, piling on the stress. “Policies like turning off email servers outside of working hours helps ring-fence valuable recovery time. Mental health first aid training can also help managers spot the signs or triggers and put preventions in place. “Contractors or freelancers who don’t have the support of HR might need to adopt their own strategies such as setting working hours, turning off email alerts out of these hours and separating work and living space if working from home.” In order to ensure employees are able to access the help required, organisations are being advised to ensure all workers understand what systems and policies are in place and how they can access help if it is required. One-to-ones, employee surveys and regular team catch-ups are just some of the ways managers and those in HR can ensure they don’t miss signs that someone is struggling.