How to Stop Burnout in Its Tracks

How are you feeling?

When you close your eyes at night, do you feel the phantom buzzing of your phone? Are you tempted to check work email at midnight, just in case?

If so, it might be time to take a break. As we’ve become more connected and more prone to multitasking, we’ve also become prime candidates for burnout. Employee burnout is the reason behind up to half of overall workforce turnover. Many companies face this issue, and while some factors can’t be avoided, there are many within our control.

Dr. Jen Faber has been there before. After building a successful medical practice, she realized that she was overworked and unhappy. “We live in such a fast-paced culture that we actually forget the why behind it all and what makes us love the work that we do,” Faber says.

She built a new path as an entrepreneur, coaching leaders on wellness and healthy habits. We asked Dr. Faber what company and HR leaders can do to keep their teams in good health and high spirits.

Cut Down Distraction During the Work Day

“Every company needs a productive workforce,” Faber says. “But the truth is that if you have employees who are hyperconnected, it’s actually a productivity buzzkill.”

Each time employees are distracted by their email, it can take them up to 30 minutes to get back to their work, she says.

Companies can cut down on this lag by creating universal check-in times when employees respond to emails or communicate with their teams. For example, if everyone checks email at 8am and 4pm, everyone is communicating around the same time and can spend the rest of their day focused on work.

If you’re leading a team, it’s doubly important for you to limit your digital distractions. When employees see their leaders setting boundaries, they’ll learn to respect those boundaries and even set their own, Faber says.

And, instead of setting blanket rules for everyone, Faber suggests leaders ask their team for input. Ask for their perspectives on how you could all work more productively together. What’s best for the leader might not be best for everyone.

Disconnect After Hours

Adults dealing with high stress are less likely to get enough sleep — which can reduce productivity and cause faster burnout. Help your team get enough rest by encouraging everyone to disconnect after hours.

Faber suggests disconnecting from devices an hour before bedtime to give your brain time to shut down for easier sleep. She also suggests defining a sacred space at home where devices aren’t allowed, such as the bedroom. Doing so breaks the association of doing work in a space that’s meant for relaxation.

Reward Employees Who Disconnect

What can leaders really do to promote better work/life balance? Faber suggests implementing a program that provides incentives for disconnecting. “I think having a built-in incentive program can give companies the opportunity to create a solution that’s actually best for their culture and best for their employees as well,” Faber says.

And remember that when we talk about productivity, we’re really talking about employee health. Keep in mind that productivity is really about “how to get more work done purposefully, in less time, from a more positive place,” she says.

Falling Asleep at Work Increases Productivity

(Editor’s Note: This guest post is by our talented colleague, and friend Cathy Taylor. Cathy is a social media expert who helps businesses develop comprehensive communications strategies to achieve business goals and objectives. More of Cathy’s insightful articles can be found on her blog.)

Imagine going to work and finding the boss has roped off a section in the back of the office for the new sleep pods set to arrive next week.

Sleep pods? Are you serious?

A few minutes later you wander past the HR director’s office and she confirms an order was placed for ten new sleep pods. She adds that a new policy will go into effect next quarter. All employees who need a nap during the day will be encouraged to use the sleep pods for twenty minutes after lunch. As you walk back to your cubicle scratching your head you are reminded of that day last month when you locked yourself in the bathroom stall to catch some Z’s. It couldn’t be helped. It was either take a nap or startle your coworkers with a thud sound as your head hit the desk.

This sounds like a far-fetched idea but more companies are beginning to embrace the idea of sanctioned naps during day. Companies like British Airways, Google, Nike, Pizza Hut and Procter & Gamble have implemented policies that allow employees some downtime in the office.

The concept of workplace napping is attributed to former Harvard researcher Sara C. Mednick. She advanced the idea in her book, “Take a Nap! Change Your Life!” Feedback from employees who are afforded the opportunity to snooze at work say it’s so much better than a cup of coffee in the afternoon or a snickers bar.

However, there is no denying workplace napping is counterintuitive in the United States. It begs the question: How long before company leadership begins to view napping as a competitive advantage?

Here are some compelling arguments for workplace naps from Dr. Mednick’s research:

1) It results in increased memory and productivity among workforce.
2) Dr. Mednick cites epidemiological studies that show decreases in heart disease and stress.
Workplace naps restore proficiency in a variety of critical skills… and can produce improvements previously observed only after a full night of sleep.
3) 51% of the workforce report that sleepiness on the job interferes with the volume of work they can do.

At the moment, workplace napping is still a long way from becoming prevalent in the U.S. According to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, only five percent of employers allow their workers to take a nap during the day.

Scheduling nap time at work requires a huge shift in the way we think about work. And as more employers look for ways to fill job vacancies, enhance employee engagement and retain the best workers taking a nap might not be such a bad idea. Nap time at work may no longer be just for slackers!

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