Many workers are exhausted after two years of challenging conditions, often with isolation and stress, as they reconcile personal and professional lives by working from home due to the coronavirus lockdowns, despite the positive spin being put on a more remote future.
But there may be some reprieve if accommodation providers offer vacations to companies that help staff recover from burnout, or as a way to recharge if signs of exhaustion appear. But will companies accept liability if they have pushed staff too hard and offer so-called burnout breaks as an employee benefit?
A New Jersey entrepreneur thinks so, launching a network of properties in the south of France this summer, harnessing the healing powers of nature and, of course, good food and wine.
French-American Serge Lescouarnec is well-qualified for the venture – he has run a concierge service for busy managers for 10 years and has been able to identify first hand the signs of burnout in clients. He himself suffered as well. “I’m burned out,” he said. “I had a few episodes where my brain was a bit fried and I had to rest for a week. I could feel it, the body is there, but the brain isn’t there.”
Lescouarnec has now started work on Mediterranean Work & Play, contracting several “gites” and rental properties near cities such as Perpignan and Carcassonne. The properties will be large enough for guests to invite friends or family, while he will compile a list of activities, including hiking and wine tours. “As part of that burnout prevention, I also want to focus on wellness. There are many places that have hot springs or offer massages,” he added.
Stays from 30 to 90 days are offered and guests can check in at several properties in the network. Lescouarnec currently focuses on businesses in New York, where he hopes the healing properties of the Mediterranean lifestyle can influence overworked executives.
“Just like companies offer health benefits, I don’t think they want to wait for people to collapse on their computers and have a nervous breakdown,” he said. “Companies are going to offer these kinds of services and buy themselves a lot of goodwill. If they give someone a month to take care of themselves, I’m sure those people will be ready to give back.”
Burnout is real
Covid-19 has put significant strain on mental wellbeing, according to the mental wellbeing platform Modern Health. A June 2020 survey found that 47 percent of respondents had felt more stress and anxiety during Covid-19 than at any other time in their lives. More than half (53 percent) feared their lives would “never return to normal” and 34 percent said they felt the pandemic would negatively impact their careers and income.
But instead of eschewing responsibility for staff mental health, companies are taking more action. Modern Health told Skift that more companies were now recognizing burnout and were eager to see them proactively provide resources to prevent it due to the “major layoff” and competition for talent.
Another Modern Health report, Shifting Tides: A Report on the Changing Attitudes About Mental Health Care and the Workplace, published in September 2021, found that 87 percent of workers wanted their employer to care about their mental health, but only 66 percent actually felt supported. And 64 percent of managers and non-managers thought a flexible and supportive culture was more important than a higher salary – and were willing to change jobs to find it.
Meanwhile, 52 percent of C-level respondents said they plan to help managers identify signs and symptoms of burnout, stress or other mental health needs within the next two years. Offering burnout breaks can become an important differentiator in talent retention and discovery as the next generation of employees enter the workplace expecting mental health support.
A new project in Zadar, Croatia called Digital Nomad Valley has just welcomed its first cohort of remote workers and sees clear benefits in providing a change of scenery. Activities include hiking, swimming, and skill-sharing events. “This happens almost every day, something a typical office can’t compete with, and it boosts employee morale,” said founder Mario Mrksa.
“The valley is perfect for remote workers at risk of burnout as we offer wellness facilities and a remote working community,” says founder Mario Mrksa. “People have a choice when they work alone, when they collaborate with others in a co-working space, when they relax, and when they participate in activities organized by the community manager.”
Although Mrksa was originally aimed at individuals, Mrksa is developing packages for companies to offer employees.
European apartment provider Zoku has also teamed up with human resources specialists to launch three new programs for businesses, and plans to integrate a burnout recovery program by partnering with outside experts. Topics covered include finding balance in your life, learning to take real breaks, setting boundaries, connecting with other people, nurturing your creativity and finding value in what you do, says Hans Meyer, co-founder and director. at Zoku.
It published a white paper late last year to help organizations discover how to keep their individual talent and teams engaged, aligned and productive in the age of hybrid work.
“Remote work can certainly lead to employee burnout, as we are now always ‘in the office’,” added Steve Black, co-founder and chief strategy officer at talent mobility platform Topia. “A working holiday can be a great way to recharge the batteries and get some free time, as well as get some work done with a new environment.”
Sure, the metaverse is great. But have you tried email yet?
Despite technological advances in recent years, including virtual reality and a bewildering array of new travel apps, business travelers still prefer old-fashioned email when it comes to communication.
That’s according to a new study commissioned by the Global Business Travel Association, which looked into the communication preferences of employees and travelers in a rapidly changing world.
Four in five (81 percent) consider email to be one of the top five communication methods they want their business to use (out of 13 methods tested), which is much higher than the share for any other method. This is based on a poll of 508 business travelers in the US
Platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams were also not widely used. Only a third (32 percent) of respondents said their company used an internal messaging or collaboration platform to communicate about travel.
“Despite the availability of new communication channels and platforms, business travelers still prefer proven communication channels,” the report said.
And about a third of respondents (36 percent) said their company communicates about travel via SMS and nearly a quarter (21 percent) said it communicates via push notifications via a mobile app. However, 51 percent said their company intranet or employee portal was one of their top five preferred communication methods.
“The survey shows that companies may be doing (travel) policies right, but there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to making sure their employees understand the latest changes,” said Alison Galik, CEO of Business Dining Solution Dinova, who conducted the poll for the travel association. “We believe there is a great opportunity to address this by providing more information about local Covid requirements and leveraging mobile channels.”
The full findings of the report “Communicating Travel Programs During Covid-19: What Business Travelers Want to Know and How They Want to Hear” are available to association members only. The poll was conducted from August 20 to September 8, 2021.
10-second business catch-up
Who and what has Skift covered in the past week: CitizenM, Heathrow Airport, LinkedIn, Marriott, Microsoft, Pfizer, TravelPerk, Travel Policy, United Airlines, W Hotels.
Hotel bookings in the US continue to lead in Europe
Hotel bookings in the US are showing a particularly strong recovery, reaching 91 percent of pre-pandemic volumes in December 2021, compared to the same month in 2019. In January 2021, volumes amounted to 22 percent of transactions in 2019, according to hotel technology solution provider. Hotel Hub, which is used by business travel agents and their corporate clients. In Europe, however, it is a different picture. While hotel transactions rose in the last quarter of 2021, they still have some way to go to reach 2019 levels. Volumes in December 2021 reached 53 percent of pre-pandemic volumes for the same month in 2019. Overall, the HotelHub Index reveals that monthly transactions worldwide have increased to 61 percent of pre-pandemic volumes. The company predicts that bookings made through its platform will reach pre-pandemic levels before the end of this year.
Jordan’s flagship targets a larger share of business travelers
Royal Jordanian has launched a business program called Fly High as part of its five-year plan. It targets businesses of all sizes, as well as corporate travel agencies, non-profits and family businesses, in Jordan and abroad. The program is split into two parts: Tiara, which is designed to offer fare discounts to companies that have already organized travel programs and travel budgets, while also allowing them to keep their preferred travel management company; and Lionize, which offers benefits such as extra baggage, more flexibility when changing ticket dates, and a more flexible refund policy. Customers in the program will receive “substantial cost-effective and budget-saving service for long-haul trips, with no commitment,” said Karime Makhlouf, the airline’s chief commercial officer.