The modern work environment has given rise to a culture of being connected seven days a week, twenty hours a day. This is leading to unmanaged workplace stress, leading to psychological and physical problems resulting in employee burnout.
Employee burnout is a state where a person feels physically, mentally, and emotionally drained. The result is reduced personal productivity and therein reduced organizational productivity. Despite this, employee burnout is often treated as a personal or employee-level issue and seldom addressed as a broader organizational problem. This is slowly changing, as organizations wake up to the impact of burnout, organizations today are treating employee burnout as a core talent management challenge.
Reasons for employee burnout
The reasons for employee burnout are manifold.
Work issues: Excessive workload is a prime factor leading to burnout. According to one Report, nearly 70% of employees feel that they are unable to get all their work done on time. Work that is monotonous and repetitive as unwelcoming and drab work environment can be the culprit of bad physical and mental health.
People issues: The supervisor-employee relationship is critical for meaningful employee engagement. Managers who micromanage their teams are likely to see high-stress levels in their teams. Lack of rewards and recognition, one-dimensional directive communication are other triggers for employee burnout.
Organizational factors: Employees expect fair pay for work done well. Unfair compensation leads to bitterness due to the perceived effort-reward inequity. Another stressor is the lack of job security in today’s cut-throat competition.
How to recognize symptoms of employee burnout
The first step to addressing burnout is to recognize the symptoms and accept that burnout is for real. Supervisors and HR should look out for the following signs:
Emotional, mental and physical exhaustion: Physical signs include a drained-out appearance, dark circles, expressionless faces and employees neglecting the way they dress to work.
Disengagement: An employee who used to be enthusiastic and energetic suddenly becoming listless and disinterested is a red flag. Look for performance plummets as a sign of disengagement and signals pointing to lack of concentration, such as mistakes in work.
Increased absenteeism: Employees who are on the brink of burnout tend to take more sick days off because they are unable to cope. Scout leave records and talk to supervisors to note such schedule changes.
High sensitivity: Taking criticism personally is often a sign that a person is feeling victimized. Employees who face burnout exhibit highly volatile and emotional moods.
Isolation: If an employee who is very social suddenly distances himself or herself and prefers isolation, take note.
Anger: Employee burn out leads to a person becoming angry, irritable and argumentative, is often cryptic and sarcastic.
How to prevent employee burnout
Many of the employee burnout triggers are within the purview of HR and business managers. Here is what to do once you recognize that employee burnout is for real.
1. Aid productivity: Managers must move away from the notion that more hours worked means more productivity. HR must carry out proper resource planning, staffing and work allocation to foster a healthy employee life. Encourage time-off by designing policies that complement work-life balance.
2. Enable clear two-way communication: Employees expect their voices to be heard, acknowledged and appreciated. Build systems and processes to help people express their thoughts and opinions, for example, an internal social media platform or interactive application. Communicate performance goals to employees. Provide clear career paths and carry out interactive career discussions to know your employees’ professional needs and help them achieve them. Openness and transparency are the keys to engaged employees.
3. Build relationships: Build a congenial culture and promote healthy competition. Get to know your people well, at a personal level; leverage social data to understand the needs, wants and aspirations of different employee groups.
4. Leverage technology: Ensure your employees have the right resources- knowledge, skills, systems, and tools, etc. to do their work efficiently and effectively. Implement user-friendly and intuitive software that will reduce frustration. Automate repetitive work so that people can focus on more value-adding agendas.
5. Ensure fairness: Whether it is fair pay for work, or fair allocation of work, creating a fair and just working environment is the responsibility of every supervisor and leader. A sense of being victimized leads to burn out very fast, so ensure you define organizational values and build a culture based on fairness.
6. Focus on health and wellbeing: Turn to technology to motivate physical, emotional, financial wellbeing. For example, organize fitness contests using wearables such as step counters. Celebrate mental health days, offer counseling services and financial planning support.
7. Reward and Rejoice: Rejoice in wins, even the small ones. Recognize and reward people for their contributions. Every employee wants to feel needed, and even a small encouragement can go a long way in boosting morale and productivity. Create a fun culture where people work hard as well as have fun.
Tackling employee burnout requires much more than a health and wellbeing focus. It requires leadership to undertake an ongoing commitment. Leaders must first accept that employee burnout is not a personal problem of the affected employees, but it is as much the responsibility of the organization.