The World Health Organization recently classified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” and went on to define it as chronic workplace stress that is unsuccessfully managed. Burnout can cause mental exhaustion, negative feelings about your job and reduced productivity. Individuals suffering from burnout can also have more serious mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
Burnout affects one in five employees, according to Yale University. These employees who are highly engaged, professional and dedicated. But, at the same time, they are exhausted, cynical about their jobs and inefficient. They feel busy all the time, leave tasks undone and can feed other employees’ negative emotions.
A recent Gallup poll found that 67% of U.S employees reported feeling burned out at work at least “sometimes.” Another online survey of Canadian workers by staffing and consulting firm Accounttemps found that 95% said they were somewhat burned out.
The mistake many employers make, however, is assuming this is the employee’s issue – not theirs. If not dealt with, burnout can force your best employees to leave and increase turnover levels.
What causes burnout?
There are any number of reasons your employees are experiencing burnout.
- Digital culture: Almost everyone and everything is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As a result, employees feel they must be available nights, weekends and vacations. Work is increasingly interfering with our personal lives.
- Unmanageable workloads: Employees with too much work don’t have any opportunity to rest. They need the support of their colleagues and supervisors to get the job done. Without it, they cannot complete their tasks in a timely manner and fail to meet expectations.
- Lack of shared values: Making a trade-off between work you believe in and everyday tasks that just need to get done is something we all face. But for individuals whose values are consistently challenged in the workplace, it can be demoralizing.
Employees understand they can’t always control their schedule or the work assigned. But, without any influence over the decisions that affect them, they quickly lose sight of their goal, feel defeated and ultimately burn out.
How do you identify employee burnout?
To avoid employee burnout, it’s important to know the signs. Each employee is different, but some of the most common symptoms include:
- Diminished work performance
- Lack of excitement about job duties
- Inability to concentrate on work
- Increased absences
The Mayo Clinic also has a list of questions employees can ask themselves. If the answer is “yes,” the employee may be experiencing burnout.
- Have you become cynical or critical at work?
- Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
- Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
- Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
- Are you finding it hard to concentrate?
- Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
- Are you feel disillusioned about your job?
- Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
- Have your sleep habits changed?
- Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?
Can you prevent your team from burning out?
Let’s be honest. Keeping your team happy, on track and productive is a moving target. But there are plenty of ways to prevent them from burning out.
Support your employees
According to a recent Korn Ferry survey of 2,000 professionals, bosses are the largest source of stress. In contrast, a Gallup Poll found employees who feel supported by their manager are about 70% less likely to experience burnout. Give your employees access to the resources they need, both emotional and tangible. Offer more than basic employee benefits; consider providing access to errand runners, dry cleaning services, on-site child care options, etc.
Set realistic goals
Too many meetings and not enough time to complete tasks are common complaints among today’s employees. And while you may think reducing workload will eliminate stress, it may be only a temporary fix. Employees respond to a balanced workload and practical deadlines. Setting collective team goals encourages employees to work together at a reasonable pace.
Reward employees fairly
Recognize your employees’ hard work. You can offer increased compensation, formal recognition of success or tokens of appreciation. But, regardless of the award, it should be proportionate to the task. For example, if you constantly rely on this employee to get the hard jobs done, an increase in salary may be appropriate. If the team met a big deadline, a celebratory lunch and a few days off may be the best option.
Promote a positive work-life balance
Employees are hesitant to ask for time off to take care of themselves and their family. But they need this time to recover from every day stressors both at work and at home. Encouraging your employees to take vacations (while not monitoring emails or answering calls) and allowing flexible scheduling goes a long way in helping employees balance their life in and out of the office. You can also avoid emailing employees after hours and on weekends. Encourage lunch breaks and enable employees to leave the office on time.
Reducing burnout doesn’t require a formal policy. Supporting your employees and following a few simple guidelines can make a difference.
- Be positive
- Show appreciation
- Help employees connect to what is important to them
If you have questions about reducing and eliminating burnout for your team, talk to your broker or benefits adviser. They can help you put practices into place that provide employees with the resources they need to succeed, encourage your leadership team to support employees and ensure goals are realistic and achievable.