Burnout technology emerging to help flag employees at risk

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Image: fizkes, Getty Images/iStockphoto

Search “burnout” on Google, and you’ll get over three million results. Employee burnout has become a significant part of the workplace culture since the COVID-19 pandemic began and one of the key drivers for the Great Resignation.

People analytics firm Visier believes its new so-called “burnout technology” will provide greater transparency and insights about employees who are at risk of burning out.

“In the modern workplace, everything gets logged,’’ said Paul Rubenstein, chief people officer at Visier. He describes the software as “collaboration analytics, [which] combines data … sourced from corporate tools, such as Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack,” and email as well as other collaboration tools, and “enriches it with weekly sourced peer-to-peer feedback.”

The data that is automatically collected from collaboration systems is overlaid with insights from individuals, and the Visier platform aims to provide deeper insights into work and well-being to “provide a rich understanding of the hidden truths inside an organization,” Rubenstein said.

SEE: Hybrid work policy (TechRepublic Premium)

While organizations spent “a lot of time, money, and effort” on mental health during the pandemic, he said there may not have been enough uptake due to the stigma that continues around mental health. There’s also the issue of the “stress brag. You go into a company and say, ‘I’m so busy,’ because no one wants to tell their boss they’re not busy or overwhelmed,’’ Rubenstein said. “It becomes a badge of honor … I find myself doing it sometimes, too.”

Organizations can implement all kinds of programs to address mental health, but Rubenstein likens it to the adage in which you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

Employee burnout is bubbling to the surface more frequently as organizations are increasingly realizing they must be cognizant of the toll the past couple of years has taken.

SEE: Optimism vs. burnout: ADP research finds workers are equally hopeful and stressed out (TechRepublic)

“The best thing employers can do for their business right now is to stop thinking of the Great Attrition as a business problem and, instead, simply address it as a human problem,’’ said Adria Horn, executive vice president of workforce at Tilson, a national telecom provider, to McKinsey. Horn, who is also a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and an army veteran, added that her thesis is “employees don’t know why employees are leaving.”

Often, people may not even be aware that they’re burnt out, and it’s hard for managers to pick up full expressions and body language on a video call, Rubenstein said. That is one of the downsides of a highly digital, distributed work environment—and the hybrid workforce is here to stay, he said.

Indicators of burnout

The upside is all of these collaboration platforms “give us a rich digital footprint,” Rubenstein said. Collaboration analysis is an emerging class of technology that lets both employers and employees see patterns from those digital footprints.

“When I can see who’s connected to who and who’s isolated, that’s a good indicator of burnout,’’ said Rubenstein. “So is the ability to see connections to people change over time,’’ such as if someone becomes more withdrawn online.

According to Rubenstein, collaboration analytics can look at the frequency and strengths of connections between co-workers, as well as their tone, through natural language processing

“Just as marketing uses emails and social media and what you write to understand if you’re happy and have a propensity to buy certain things, employers can now sense if you’re having conflict at work,’’ and whether the tone of emails is positive or negative, Rubenstein said.

Up until now, there hasn’t been much of a digital footprint to mine this data, and it can also be beneficial to employees because it will “serve up a mirror’’ of indicators of burnout, he said. “We’ve now reached a level of maturity and accuracy with collaboration analytics or burnout technology and a relationship between employees and data.”

Besides the tone of emails, Rubenstein said the Visier platform will be able to show the strength, frequency and diversity of connections between coworkers.

“If you’re only talking to one person in the organization, you may not be creating resilient relationships,’’ he said. “If people are having lots of conflicts at work or if we’re picking up frustration in discussions and your emails … that will lead to burnout if people have too long of a digital day and are not taking a digital break.”

The software will let people see patterns and “a signal in the noise.”

The relationship between an employee and their manager is the best driver of whether an employee will stay or leave a company, according to Rubenstein. He added that “burnout technology is one of the most important people technologies we’ll see in the next five years because it helps managers see the deeper human truth about their employees.”

The Visier new platform will be available in the third quarter of 2022.

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