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Prevent Employee Burnout With These Five Tips

Stress kills. And sadly, this is not hyperbole. Job-related pressures are among the biggest sources of stress for American adults, and it’s getting progressively worse, year over year. Chronic, high levels of job stress can lead to increased rates of heart attack, hypertension, chronic pain, as well as other disorders.

Every industry has its unique stressors. But, whether you’re a doctor or a delivery person, work-related stress shares “across the board” common factors—a check list, if you will—of work related triggers. The World Health Organization describes it like this:

  • Work-related stress is the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures that are not matched to their knowledge and abilities and which challenge their ability to cope.
  • Stress occurs in a wide range of work circumstances but is often made worse when employees feel they have little support from supervisors and colleagues, as well as little control over work processes.
  • There is often confusion between pressure or challenge and stress and sometimes it is used to excuse bad management practice.

Employee Stress Leads to Employee Burnout

Beyond the potential for some serious health issues, unaddressed stress in the workplace can quickly lead to employee burnout, something you want to avoid, unless you enjoy being on the very expensive hiring and on-boarding hamster wheel. And I doubt you do.

Americans are known to be workaholics, and according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, American workers get, on average, fewer than eight paid vacation days a year, with only about three-quarters of U.S employees getting any paid time off at all. But there are things you can do as an employer, besides offering paid vacation time, to help your teams avoid employee burnout. Let’s take a look at five of my favorites.

Five Tips to Help Avoid Employee Burnout

Play fair. Like the classic “Mom always liked you best” line, as human beings, it’s okay to “have favorites.” The key here is to avoid showing that favoritism within the confines of the workplace. There’s nothing more demoralizing for a fellow team member than to watch an underperforming and under-qualified peer get that sweet promotion because they are buddies with the boss. Be conscious of any personal friendships you develop with staffers and make sure those connections don’t influence your decision making when it comes to pay scales or work assignments, either.

Don’t overload people. We all know the super-achiever who is so good at what they do that they inadvertently become the “go-to person” when extra work pops up, or emergencies occur. While this usually happens with the best of intentions, it can create problems in two ways: The overloaded person can become frustrated and fatigued, and their colleague can also feel frustrated if they haven’t been given a chance to shine. Employees who have been passed-over may never gain the experience they need to be able to rise if they aren’t allowed to shoulder some extra weight. Keep people challenged, but not panicked.

Let employees do what they do best. Nothing is more soul-destroying than being in a role you hate. Or aren’t even very good at! Your job as boss is to make sure your employees love what they do (most of the time). Talk to your staff, get to know them, find out where their strengths lie (and don’t), and then, if you find some people “mismatched,” be bold enough to switch things up and move people into roles they are most passionate about. If you can’t move someone, then consider adjusting their current workload to reflect what they love to do. Or consider retraining. The costs incurred will be far outweighed by the highly engaged, loyal, and productive employee you end up with in the end.

Provide the right resources, human and otherwise. It’s fantastic to have strategically hired the perfect teams, who are all highly skilled and work well together. But that’s only step one. “Do more with less!” has been the rallying cry of many an organization since the economy took a nose dive a few years ago. But by not providing the resources your teams need to do their jobs to the best of their abilities, you are paving the way for unmotivated, unhappy, and burnt-out employees. Where does that “way” lead? The door. If you can’t give staff with what they need, scale back your expectations.

Create guidelines and set working hours – and stick to them! I’ve written before about the benefits of a digital detox—and some of those same guidelines apply here. The most important one? Make sure your teams aren’t working 24/7. If your organization requires people to be reachable at all hours (in case of emergency, let’s say), consider creating a rotating “on-call” schedule, so the same people aren’t always being tasked with being available.

This past decade or so has seen a massive shift in the way Americans work. Virtual teams, job sharing, flex-time, freelance, work-from-home (or Starbucks!), and more are all slowly becoming mainstream choices when it comes to employment. And that’s a good thing: Research has found that workers who have control over their schedules report lower levels of stress, burnout, and higher job satisfaction.

But even if you can’t have remote staff, or if your industry requires your teams stick to set hours or work odd shifts, by putting processes like the above in place you will be well on your way toward reducing (or even avoiding altogether) the work-related stressors that lead to costly employee burnout.

What do you think? Do you agree that workplace stress is an issue that needs to be addressed? Have you seen movement to do so in your organization? Or are we just a bunch of whiners that need to toughen up and get back to work? I would love to hear your thoughts on this crucial topic.

A version of this was first posted on Huffington Post.

Photo Credit: Skley via Compfight cc

5 Ways To Reduce Workplace Stress

Earlier this year, CareerCast shared its list of the least and most stressful jobs for 2014, based on factors like physical demands, hazards encountered, deadlines, and environmental conditions.

Some of the least stressful jobs included seamstress, dietician, and multimedia artist. Unsurprisingly, professions like enlisted military personnel, fire-fighters and police officers were ranked as being some of the most stressful due to the unpredictable conditions and risks involved.

But although some jobs are certainly more harrowing than others, we all deal with work-related stress on a daily basis.

According to the annual Stress and Wellbeing Survey by the Australian Psychological Society, stress levels were significantly higher in 2013 than in previous years, with nearly half of working Australians rating issues in the workplace as a source of stress.

In the US, a work stress survey by Harris Interactive found that 83% of Americans were stressed at work. Unreasonable workload, poor compensation, and frustration with co-workers and commutes were cited as some of their top stressors.

Fortunately, over the years research has uncovered a number of strategies for tackling workplace stress. Here are some simple but effective ways to manage stress in the workplace.

1. Organize your workspace and schedule

Taking control of your environment and schedule can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and stressing unnecessarily.

A study from University College London found that when faced with a messy work environment, people immediately experience a rise in stress and anxiety levels. Before you start work each day, take a few minutes to tidy up your papers, remove any day-old coffee cups, empty waste paper baskets, and open a window to let in some fresh air.

When it comes to your schedule, figure out what you can control (such as when to take your lunch break or the order in which you’ll complete certain tasks) and what is set in stone (the meeting with your boss, for example). This will help you manage your time more efficiently and maintain as much control as possible over your everyday routines.

2. Step outside

Nature can help people respond better to disruptive events, and a study led by the University of Edinburgh shows that people’s stress levels are directly related to the amount of green space in their area. In fact, the researchers found that for every 1% increase in green space, there was a corresponding steeper decline in participants’ stress levels.

So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, try taking a quick stroll in the park. If there isn’t much green space near your workplace, you could make an effort to take a nature walk before heading to work each day.

3. Tune in to distractions

Noisy office environments can be difficult to cope with, but strangely enough, trying to block out the conversation that’s happening two desks over or ignore the sound of your colleague tapping their pen on the table may actually be more stressful than paying attention to it.

Mindfulness experts, like author and journalist Dr. Danny Penman, believe that tuning in to a distraction can prevent you from feeling stressed out. This is because being aware of a distraction and observing the effect it has on your body (tense muscles, clenched jaw, etc) tends to rob it of its power and helps you to relax.

4. Talk it out

Healthy and supportive relationships have been shown to reduce stress, and a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that chatting to your mum on the phone reduces a key stress hormone and causes oxytocin, a feel-good chemical, to be released.

Of course, you may not want to call your mother every time you’re having a difficult day at work, but chatting to a friend or close relative can lower your stress levels and also help you to see your situation from another perspective.

5. Adopt a more positive outlook on stress

Stress is bad, right? Well, not necessarily – according to a research study from Yale University, it all depends how you look at it.

The researchers presented some experiment subjects with information showing that stress can be beneficial, while others were told that it is debilitating. Those who had been exposed to positive information about stress reported improved psychological symptoms and better work performance.

So not only could adopting a more positive attitude toward stress can help you to deal with it more effectively, it could even transform your stress into something good that enhances your performance, health and personal growth.

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(About the Author: Marianne Stenger is a writer with Open Colleges. She covers educational psychology, career development and workplace productivity. You can connect with her on Twitter and Google+, or find her latest articles here.)

photo credit: Kerri Lee Smith via photopin cc

How to Build Your Network Without Burning Out

(Editor’s Note: All of us in the TalentCulture community mourn the loss of our dear friend, brilliant colleague and mindful mentor, Judy Martin, who passed away unexpectedly on January 31, 2014. The following is the last post she contributed to our blog, only 10 days earlier. Her message and her life are a lesson for us all.)

The unthinkable happened during the first week in January.

TalentCulture CEO Meghan M. Biro had gone missing. She hadn’t returned a tweet from me for more than three days. Unheard of, I tell you.

Naturally, I was concerned about her well-being. I actually considered contacting Boston area hospitals. But instead, I did what any good friend would do. Resorting to an antiquated strategy, I picked up the phone and called her.

“Seriously Judy, I’m taking a break. I don’t want to burn out,” Meghan told me.

“What? A break from your BFF?” I almost blurted. Then, a calm washed over me, and instead I said, “Good for you.”

This sparked a conversation about how busy professionals like us can continue growing and navigating our social networks without compromising our stress levels. Connection and communication have taken on new importance in today’s 24/7 world of work. Those who manage the energy and minimize the stress are able to stay ahead of the competition, and sustain high performance. But it’s not easy.

Everyone manages a social network differently. It’s an intimate and personal process. We all have close connections with whom we can exchange ideas and openly vent. That’s typically not a burden on our time and attention. But in this era of digital exuberance, our social circles are growing rapidly. We need to find the signal in our niche, while filtering out the noise of a much broader network. Keeping pace requires a strategy:

8 Tips to Reduce Stress In The Face of Digital Exuberance

1) Schedule Social Sessions: Timing is everything. And quality time counts. When does your network naturally buzz with activity? If you’re a rock star, you might be inclined to check Twitter in the late evening, but if you’re into talent management and business news like me, you’re probably trolling Twitter from 7-8 a.m. Instead of trying to pay attention 24/7, pick one or two intervals each a day to dip into the stream. Don’t just “fly by” with retweets — really dive in and engage in conversations that build relationships. But when your scheduled time is up, move on. Eventually, you’ll adjust to an established rhythm, and so will those in your inner circles.

2) Take Breathing Breaks: Twitter and Facebook interactions can become surprisingly intense. Periodically, take 5 minutes to literally sit back and just follow your breath. Close your eyes, or look away from the screen. Simply being aware of how you are breathing helps regulate cortisol, the “stress-producing” hormone. Count as you inhale – one, two, three. Then hold your breath for several seconds, and exhale to the count of three. Better managing stress “in the moment” gives you more energy later, when you may need to tap into your reserves.

3) Stand Up and Stretch: Once in a while just walk away. Yes, leave the computer behind. This is important to get blood circulating in your body, which delivers more oxygen to your brain. If you prefer not to stand, push your chair away from the desk. Inhale and raise your arms above your head, clasping your hands in a “steeple” position. Look up and gaze at your hands for several moments. Then exhale slowly while your hands float gradually back down to your sides. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to shift back into business gear.

4) Hum with Purpose: That’s right — make noise. Humming actually calms the mind and body. It’s an ancient yogic technique that helps focus attention prior to meditation. The sound reverberates in your skull, and helps your brain rewire your attention. Here’s how: Plug your ears with your fingers and inhale deeply. Pause. Then as you exhale, hum for the reminder of the “out breath.” Repeat two more times. If you feel dizzy, stop. But ideally, it will help release tension and help you focus.

5) Let Filtering Tools Work for You: Sometimes we need to look beyond human behavior for help. If we opened every link that came our way we’d never sleep. Aggregation tools help consolidate and organize the chaos — news sources, blog posts, and other information sources of interest. I’ve set up Google alerts to deliver breaking news on keywords that matter most to me. For less critical topics, I receive news feeds once a week. You can use Hootsuite, Buffer Tweetdeck and Aggregation tools and dashboards to identify relevant content and create a delivery schedule that works for you.

6) Harness Hashtags: Hashtags are the fastest way to share and find relevant information on Twitter. For example, professionals who participate in the TalentCulture community share HR and business leadership knowledge by adding the #TChat hashtag to their tweets. At any moment, anyone can search for #TChat, to see the community’s latest tweets. It’s like round-the-clock access to the most popular human resources conversation on the planet. If you follow a hashtag like #TChat in your Twitter dashboard, you’ll quickly and easily find helpful peers, ideas and advice. Also, when you schedule Twitter posts, be sure to add hashtags that reflect your area of expertise. Your posts will reach people in your niche, even when you’re offline.

7) Leverage Human Relationships: Sometimes, all of us need to unplug for several days or more. When you do, plan ahead. Just because you’ll be off the grid doesn’t mean your networking must come to a standstill. Reach out to several people in your immediate network. Let them know that you’re taking a break, and ask for a little extra support in sharing your work on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn — wherever you’re most active. You can even form ongoing support alliances and develop common “social back-up” guidelines. Just remember, you’re not alone.

8) Create a FOMO Free Zone: Perhaps the most important advice I can offer is to honor your social self. Competitive pressure shouldn’t drive your social brand development. Don’t let yourself become obsessed with how other people behave on social channels, or about whether volume or frequency of their activity trumps your own efforts. Whatever your message is, you’ll succeed when you deliver it through your own lens, with your own voice, to an audience that is naturally interested in you. Forget #FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)!

Of course, even with healthy habits, it often feels like we’re networking at the speed of light. But hopefully these tips help you slow the pace a bit, focus on what matters, and generate more energy to fuel your social success.

Do you have tips for reducing stress and improving productivity in the age of social networking? What techniques and tools work for you? Share your ideas in the comments below.

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Showing Workplace Competition Who's Boss

“How will I stand out in the crowd?”
“Do I really have what it takes to succeed?”

These classic workplace questions cross everyone’s mind from time to time. No matter where our profession leads us — sales, engineering, consulting, service — we must continually navigate through a sea of highly qualified talent. As our careers progress, so too, does the level of talent that we encounter. (We all experience secret moments of panic.)

Knowing this, I’d like to pause for a moment and pose a different question: “Is the way we traditionally view workplace competition getting in the way of our career progress?” For many individuals, this could be the case. So, let’s take a look at common barriers and consider how to deal with them.

Put Professional Competition In Its Place

Competition can be healthy. It does have the potential to drive us forward to excel. But if the very thought of competing derails us, we have a serious problem. Ultimately, we must face facts. We are likely to cross paths with individuals that seem more capable or successful than ourselves. (We may actually covet their role or career.) However, the very notion of competition doesn’t have to evoke debilitating stress and self-doubt. We need to remember that successful career journeys are built by capitalizing on our strengthswhile maximizing the opportunities that we encounter.

To master workplace competition, we ultimately must deal with our own feelings (and issues) with the concept of competition, itself. Here are some suggestions:

7 Ways To Deal With Workplace Competition

1) Accept its presence. Competition is ubiquitous. No matter where your career leads you, there will be ample competition to keep you on your toes — and it is ever present. Try to become comfortable and make peace with it.

2) Recognize it’s not a “zero sum” game. Opt for an “abundance mentality.” Don’t take the stance that if someone else succeeds, you are doomed to fail. Another individual’s promotion or good fortune doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be left out in the cold.

3) Identify your “comparison other.” How you gauge your career has much to do with those against whom you measure yourself. Who are your role models? Choose individuals that motivate you and possess skills that you wish to emulate. (This is one of my favorite techniques.) Learn from your competition. Ask yourself: What are they doing right?

4) Be the “best of you.” We’re not required to be all things to all people (and shouldn’t feel pressured to do so). Instead, find a way to acknowledge your strengths and create your own brand. Find a niche that makes you indispensable — create value and build on this strength. Take control of your own career and find paths to showcase your own talent. You’ll find that you focus less on the paths of others when your work aligns with the best of what you have to offer.

5) Build alliances and collaborate. Network without staying too close to the cuff (Use the 70-20-10 rule here.) Spread your wings to develop depth within your workplace relationships — be the “linking pin” between other departments or functions and solve problems.

6) Get a mentor or a sponsor. Many successful people speak of a mentor that has either inspired or guided them. However, you also need a sponsor. This is an individual that will help you gain exposure and facilitate “stretch assignments” that test your abilities.

7) Be aware. There is no greater confidence builder than becoming your own advocate. Of course, there is a dark side to workplace competition. Watch for individuals who “fight dirty” and have an unhealthy relationship with competition. (Remember, there is no shame in protecting your own interests.) Document your accomplishments, if you feel it is necessary — and take credit when it is owed to you. If an environment causes you troubling levels of stress, seek a change.

How do you handle the pressure of workplace competition? What has worked most effectively for you and why? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome. Learn more…)

(Also Note: This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post. It is republished with permission.)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Showing Workplace Competition Who’s Boss

“How will I stand out in the crowd?”
“Do I really have what it takes to succeed?”

These classic workplace questions cross everyone’s mind from time to time. No matter where our profession leads us — sales, engineering, consulting, service — we must continually navigate through a sea of highly qualified talent. As our careers progress, so too, does the level of talent that we encounter. (We all experience secret moments of panic.)

Knowing this, I’d like to pause for a moment and pose a different question: “Is the way we traditionally view workplace competition getting in the way of our career progress?” For many individuals, this could be the case. So, let’s take a look at common barriers and consider how to deal with them.

Put Professional Competition In Its Place

Competition can be healthy. It does have the potential to drive us forward to excel. But if the very thought of competing derails us, we have a serious problem. Ultimately, we must face facts. We are likely to cross paths with individuals that seem more capable or successful than ourselves. (We may actually covet their role or career.) However, the very notion of competition doesn’t have to evoke debilitating stress and self-doubt. We need to remember that successful career journeys are built by capitalizing on our strengthswhile maximizing the opportunities that we encounter.

To master workplace competition, we ultimately must deal with our own feelings (and issues) with the concept of competition, itself. Here are some suggestions:

7 Ways To Deal With Workplace Competition

1) Accept its presence. Competition is ubiquitous. No matter where your career leads you, there will be ample competition to keep you on your toes — and it is ever present. Try to become comfortable and make peace with it.

2) Recognize it’s not a “zero sum” game. Opt for an “abundance mentality.” Don’t take the stance that if someone else succeeds, you are doomed to fail. Another individual’s promotion or good fortune doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be left out in the cold.

3) Identify your “comparison other.” How you gauge your career has much to do with those against whom you measure yourself. Who are your role models? Choose individuals that motivate you and possess skills that you wish to emulate. (This is one of my favorite techniques.) Learn from your competition. Ask yourself: What are they doing right?

4) Be the “best of you.” We’re not required to be all things to all people (and shouldn’t feel pressured to do so). Instead, find a way to acknowledge your strengths and create your own brand. Find a niche that makes you indispensable — create value and build on this strength. Take control of your own career and find paths to showcase your own talent. You’ll find that you focus less on the paths of others when your work aligns with the best of what you have to offer.

5) Build alliances and collaborate. Network without staying too close to the cuff (Use the 70-20-10 rule here.) Spread your wings to develop depth within your workplace relationships — be the “linking pin” between other departments or functions and solve problems.

6) Get a mentor or a sponsor. Many successful people speak of a mentor that has either inspired or guided them. However, you also need a sponsor. This is an individual that will help you gain exposure and facilitate “stretch assignments” that test your abilities.

7) Be aware. There is no greater confidence builder than becoming your own advocate. Of course, there is a dark side to workplace competition. Watch for individuals who “fight dirty” and have an unhealthy relationship with competition. (Remember, there is no shame in protecting your own interests.) Document your accomplishments, if you feel it is necessary — and take credit when it is owed to you. If an environment causes you troubling levels of stress, seek a change.

How do you handle the pressure of workplace competition? What has worked most effectively for you and why? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

(Editor’s Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome. Learn more…)

(Also Note: This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post. It is republished with permission.)

Image Credit: Pixabay

Balance: Reconciling Work and Life: #TChat Preview

Originally posted by Matt Charneyone of #TChat’s moderators, on Monster Thinking Blog

It’s interesting that the genesis of work-life balance really started, with, well, Genesis: somewhere, between creating the heaven, the earth and all things in between, even God needed a day off to rest.

We’ll leave interpretations up to the theologians, but there’s a pretty firm, historical precedent that’s been followed for millennia: everyone deserves a break now and then.

In our increasingly interconnected age, however, omniscience and omnipresence aren’t Biblical constructs, but the burden of having a Blackberry.

The real price of real business in real time is that real time is rarely one’s own. The movie 9-5 (“It’s a way to make a livin“) seems a historical anachronism for more than its polyester pant-suits. In a blink of an eye, the 8 hour day that the title (and oh so catchy theme song) suggest seem to have all but disappeared.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Increasingly, employers are realizing that the key to attracting and retaining top talent, and getting the most out of employees, requires creating a work-life balance that’s actually balanced. And workers are starting to realize meaningful work, and by extension, a meaningful career, aren’t mutually exclusive from having a life outside the office.

Tonight’s #TChat will explore work-life balance and it’s far ranging implications on the world of work (and life). Join the conversation at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT as we look at ways that work and life can coexist, and even thrive, in today’s business environment.

#TChat Questions and Recommended Reading (5.10.11)

Here are tonight’s #TChat questions as well as some recommended reading designed to inform, and inspire, tonight’s conversation about work-life balance:

1. Who’s ultimately responsible for managing work-life balance: the employer or the employee?

Read: The Case for Work/Life Programs by Freek Vernermeulen.

2. What are the benefits/drawbacks of being salaried/exempt vs. hourly/non-exempt? Which would you prefer?

Read: Family Friendly Employee Benefits: Create A Win-Win For Hourly Workers by Donna Fenn.

3. How does company culture effect work-life balance?

Read: 5 Great Ways To Create A Winning Company Culture by Carmine Gallo.

4. What role does technology and social media play in the work-life mix? Is connectivity a blessing or a curse?

Read: Technology at Work: The Creation of the Anywhere Worker by Connie Blaszczyk.

5. What are some things employers and managers can do to improve work-life balance?

Read: 5 Keys to Staying Civil When Work Calls On Your Off Time by Judy Martin.

6. How important is work life balance to top talent when assessing new opportunities?

Read: It’s All About Engagement by Jayson Saba.

7. What are some of the most effective or creative “perks” your company offers for work-life balance? Which do you wish they’d offer?

Read: Do You Have Work Life Balance? by Thad Peterson.

NOTE: We’ll be extending this conversation at Care.com’s Care@Work event series, Focus Forward at the Times Center in New York City on June 1st and we want you to join us. Tonight after #TChat, we’ll be giving away one ticket to this invitation and innovation only event focused on shaping the future of work. We will randomly select someone from tonight’s #TChat to attend.

Tune in tonight to find out how and learn more about the Care@Work event at http://www.icareatwork.com/

Our Monster social media team supports the effort behind #TChat and its mission of sharing “ideas to help your business and your career accelerate – the right people, the right ideas, at the right time.”

We’ll be joining the conversation live every Tuesday night as co-hosts with Kevin Grossman and Meghan M. Biro from 8-9 PM E.T. via @monster_works and @MonsterWW. Hope to see you tonight at 8 PM ET for #TChat!