Protecting Your Workforce from the Burnout Epidemic

Protecting Your Workforce from the Burnout Epidemic

Employee burnout is a problem that is affecting many businesses today. In our always-on, always-connected world, employees are reaching their breaking points quickly. In fact, according to the study in Employment Engagement Series by Kronos Incorporated, 95 percent of human resource leaders say that the employee burnout is sabotaging their workforce. It’s not only just mid level staff feeling overworked – the study shows that nearly half of HR leaders blame burnout for up to half of their aggregated staff quitting each year. Burnout costs companies millions a year in turnover, low productivity and healthcare costs. Even so, companies tend to treat burnout as a personal issue rather than recognizing it as a workplace cultural issue. Unless leaders advocate preventive measures, burnout will continue to be an epidemic that threatens the workforce. So what can you when you sense burnout? Here are some tips.

Limit Collaboration

Collaboration isn’t often cited as one of the underlying causes of burnout. However, feeling like every tiny movement at work is being monitored is a surefire way to stress out employees, leading to quick burnout. Millennials, who make up a large part of the workforce, think differently from previous generations. They are increasingly concerned with a workplace culture and environment when searching for jobs. They like to have some control and autonomy, especially when it comes to completing tasks. Automation is one way to run things in a smoother fashion, especially when it comes to employee scheduling and task assignment. By granting autonomy in scheduling, stress levels of both leaders and employees can be reduced. Excessive collaboration also leads to many meetings, conferences and more to make sure everyone is on the same page. This ends up taking away from working hours, and created a fragmented schedule that reduces productivity, forcing employees to work overtime to make up for lost time. It is thus important for leaders to recognize this, and limit unnecessary collaboration. Giving people back the time to do the actual work that drives the company will result in a healthier and happier workforce, as well as greater dividends.

Spread out responsibilities

Sometimes, due to hiring not matching company growth, employee workload tends to increase. Companies tend to overestimate the impact of digital technology in productivity. In turn the most capable employees are overloaded with work to meet deadlines and get things done. This cycle leads to burnout, often resulting in the loss of a company’s best talent. In one study the average manager was losing one day a week to email and other electronic communications and two days a week to meetings. It stands to reason that a highly talented manager would lose even more. This, companies must give bank this time by reducing workload so that managers can cope without overloading. Alongside this, instead of solely relying on the most capable, it helps to spread out responsibilities and leave some aspects of decision making to others, so as to balance workload.

Define communication expectations

Today, employees are always on. Studies show that Eighty-two percent of employees have responded to work-related emails while on vacation and 87 percent of employees think it is acceptable to call or text coworkers and clients regarding work-related matters outside the standard work hours. This continuous connectivity doesn’t allow for employees to ever feel like they aren’t at work, carving the path for burnout. Management can avoid burnout by utilizing resources effectively and thoughtfully putting together teams. As a part of this, it is prudent to develop a “communications” policy and set acceptable expectations when it comes to communicating. Employees’ freedom to disconnect should be respected, and even encouraged by leaders.

Encourage Breaks and Time Off

Even though most organizations give a set number of paid holidays every year, many employees don’t end up using them. Often, employees will let these add up with the intention of taking a long vacation at the end of the year, but when that time comes, something or the other prevents them from doing so and their leave lapses. Some employees even save up their leave in the eventuality they will need it if they fall ill or have a family emergency. While it makes sense to so with some amount of paid leave, employees should feel as though they are able to take time off even if it’s for a holiday, utilizing their paid time off the same. Going on a short vacation or simply having a little time away from work allows for much needed rejuvenation of the mind and body. Leaders should encourage breaks and utilizing time off, especially if they notice particular employees on the verge of burnout. Taking a step back may seem contrary to work ethic and instinct, but in the long term, it will keep employees more grounded and less likely to fall prey to anxiety.

Practice What You Preach

A company’s tone is set from top down. No matter the type of employees you hire, company culture is in part dictated by managerial decisions and behavior. With this in mind, leaders should encourage team members to communicate with one another, especially when it comes to setting expectations about personal boundaries and work availability. It’s important to promote activities that encourage team bonding, and provide personal development. Leaders need to take part in these activities too, not just watch from a distance. Similarly, when it comes to taking time off, employees should be able to see management taking breaks or going on vacation, so that they are encouraged to do the same. Leaders need to be the ones to constantly motivate employees to be more productive, whether this means sometimes working remotely, or taking walks through the day. The higher-ups must set the tone, so that employees feel comfortable enough to do what they need to do to maintain a good personal and work-life balance, thus avoiding frustrations.

Ultimately, managers should lead by example and inculcate a set of anti-burnout measures within the workplace. Yes, it’s easier said than done, especially when they are multiple deadlines to be met and external stakeholders to please. But with a few rules, transparent and reasonable expectation and an efficient division of labor, these changes will quickly become ingrained into company culture, extinguishing the tendencies towards employee burnout.

Photo Credit: WernerKappler Flickr via Compfight cc

This article was first published on FOW Media.