As the world passed the milestone of one year in the pandemic, the business community has faced a new employee engagement challenge: pandemic burnout. In the last few months, the financial and professional services industries have reckoned with employee stories of overwork, exhaustion and even abuse. In response, companies are offering incentives like bonuses, trips, flexible hours and Peloton bikes.

Will measures like these help to mitigate the situation employees across these sectors are facing? Or, a year into the pandemic, is this a crisis that perks can’t fix?

Addressing COVID Burnout in Financial and Professional Services - Woman experiencing stress at work

Ketchum’s newest research study, “The New Essentials: Working Lessons from a Year in the Pandemic” indicates that financial and professional services employees are, indeed, feeling more burned out now than a year ago — even with expanded flexibility offered by employers.

But the findings are not all bleak. Industry employees say they’re now more resilient, and empathetic to their colleagues than they were a year ago. And many say they are actually receiving the right amount of communication from their employers.

As signs point to the U.S. entering a new phase of reopening, now is the time for employers to consider this past year’s lessons learned in order to create the employee experience their teams expect and need. Could financial and professional services employees’ preference for staggered start times (27% versus 19% overall) be a key insight when considering workplace flexibility policies? It’s a positive sign that employees feel they are receiving the right amount of communications, but is your organization tapping the right messengers to ensure that your communications resonate?

Here are four areas to watch for employers in the financial and professional services sectors.

Burnt out, But Staying Put

Believe it or not, 61% of financial and professional services industry employees say they’re less likely now to leave their current job for one at a different company than they were before the pandemic. But half (52%) feel more burned out in their job now than at the beginning of the pandemic, citing top causes of burnout as financial obligations (38%), being isolated from others (34%) and their job (30%).

Flexibility in the Return to Work

Priorities have shifted for financial and professional services industry employees, who are more likely than American workers overall to say flexible hours and working remotely have become more important to them in the past year. But what’s going to make them feel safe enough to return to the office? Forty-nine percent said socially distanced workspaces, 46% said access to sanitizing equipment, and 42% said frequent sanitization of shared spaces.

The Pandemic Silver Lining

Some good things came out of the last year: Financial and professional services employees are more likely than other American workers to say they’ve become more resilient, more empathetic to their colleagues, and now they feel more appreciated by their employers. And nearly three quarters (72%) of financial and professional services industry employees say a sense of connection to immediate coworkers has become more important to them because of the pandemic.

Communicating and Connecting

So, with no tangible end to the pandemic in sight, how should companies in the industries tackle burnout and continue to strengthen communications and connection with their employees effectively? Transparency and empathy are key. Workers in financial and professional services say they want open communication via email blasts (37%), direct manager conversations (36%), remote live streams/town halls (32%) or company-wide videos (32%). And they want it from the CEO or equivalent (41% versus 29% employed Americans overall), their manager (39%) or the company’s senior leadership (33%).

To dive deeper into our study findings, click here to access our full report.

Are you communicating to your employees effectively during this period of stress and burnout? Ketchum’s experts in financial and professional services and employee communications and engagement are here to help. Reach out to chat.

Becca Cooper is SVP and managing director of Ketchum’s Financial & Professional Services practice. Based in New York, she is responsible for leading Ketchum’s team of Financial & Professional Services consultants across North America to deliver creative integrated communications designed to meet clients’ continually evolving needs.