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Remaking the Association Workplace
Staff Well-Being

Finding Remedies for Employee Burnout

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It’s not enough to know your staff is burned out—you need to fix it. The Endocrine Society’s new CEO put in the work to find out what the organization’s employees were experiencing and why, and to find holistic solutions that would help them flourish.

When a staff engagement survey revealed that employees at the Endocrine Society were feeling burned out, CEO Kate Fryer and her senior leadership team set out to delve deeper into what was driving the trend—and remedy it.

Survey responses showed that employees were under strain both from a heavy workload and from digital overexposure during the pandemic. Fryer and her team followed up with an environmental scan, examining research from national and global surveys that showed that radical increases in virtual meetings and bloated workloads were contributing to employee burnout on a much larger scale. It became clear that addressing employee burnout had to be a top priority for the association.

In addition to this issue, the society was grappling with several challenges simultaneously. Like many organizations, it wanted to make sure it was an attractive employer to better retain employees amid the Great Resignation. And Fryer is a new CEO who arrived a year ago, filling a yearlong leadership gap. It was time to look at the society’s whole landscape and culture and to set the organization up for innovation, she said.

By outlining the problems the society was facing, the leadership team could then test various solutions. It had become clear that it was more than workloads and digital fatigue that employees were dealing with: It was their whole selves.

“We needed to make sure we were doing it holistically across the board,” Fryer said. “That has been a core value of ours.”

“It was so impactful for the staff to collectively have time off, we decided to figure out a way to replicate that in a sustainable way.” — Kate Fryer, Endocrine Society

A Holistic Approach

One strategy was to provide employees with new tools to help them manage their physical and mental well-being, including Journey Live, a preventive mental health app; CloseKnit, a virtual primary care app; and 7 Cups of Tea, an online therapy and support app. To encourage employees’ professional development, the society offers staff access to LinkedIn Learning, which provides personalized content that matches skills gaps with professional goals.

These offerings immediately resonated with staff. Hannah Andrews, the Endocrine Society’s director of digital learning, said she uses the Journey Live app every day, answering a one-question survey highlighting a different approach to balancing stress. “Just by nature of receiving an email every morning, it is a reminder from our employer that they want you to take care of yourself,” she said. She also does a five- to 10-minute meditation in the morning with the app.

“It’s a matter of finding work-life balance. I get to make time for myself, whether it’s taking a class through LinkedIn Learning or a longer meditation session with Journey Live in the morning,” she said.

The society also asks staff not to schedule internal or external meetings on Fridays. Andrews manages a large team, and having one day a week where she doesn’t have scheduled meetings means she has more time to focus on detail-oriented tasks like reviewing contracts and proposals. She can also use the day to participate in professional development, she says.

Meanwhile, Fryer and her senior team learned a useful lesson about fighting burnout early on: that reducing workloads isn’t effective unless it’s experienced across the whole organization. In the summer of 2021, in recognition of a stressful pandemic year, the group gave all employees the entire week of the Fourth of July off.

“It was so impactful for the staff to collectively have time off, we decided to figure out a way to replicate that in a sustainable way,” Fryer said.

Hybrid Model

Pre-pandemic, most of the staff went to the office every day, but now the entire staff works together two days a week in the office. Employees may choose to work at home the other three days. The two in-office days are not mandatory but “strongly encouraged,” Fryer said, recognizing that there are times when working at home is more convenient.

The society is also mindful about which kinds of meetings should be in-person or virtual. “You shouldn’t be having eight one-to-one meetings when you’re in the office,” Fryer said. “That space is meant for collaboration and learning.”

Gathering staff feedback was critical in effectively getting ahead of morale issues—especially in advance of going back into the office in person. Fryer and the society’s senior leadership carefully assessed what they needed to provide to staff so they could be better employees.

“Once you are feeling better personally, you are in a better space,” Andrews said. “You feel more comfortable and can be more productive professionally and in other aspects of your life.”

Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now.

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