Burnout at the workplace appears to be acquiring pandemic proportions in a post-covid world. The reasons are many. But unless businesses resolve to adopt solutions that put out this burnout blaze, we are staring at a dramatic loss in employee engagement - and output.
Assessing burnout is not a one-time effort but an ongoing process. Triggers and signs of burnout will continuously surface across the workforce, creating the need for continuous re-evaluation and iteration of solutions.
To help business and HR leaders implement a multilevel approach to address and minimise burnout across their organisations, with the goal of creating a post-pandemic future without burnout, human resources research firm McLean & Company has released its newest blueprint, Plan to Extinguish Organisational Burnout.
"Common approaches to remedying burnout focus primarily on the individual's responsibility to solve the issue of feeling burnt out, like practicing yoga or taking additional time off. While these approaches have value, they're only a temporary coping method. Today, 60% of HR professionals indicate they are experiencing higher levels of work stress compared to three years ago, as highlighted in McLean and Company's 2022 HR Trends Report," says Kelly Berte, director of HR Research & Advisory at McLean & Company.
The findings are particularly concerning taking into account that employees who consider their work stress levels to be manageable are 3.7 times more likely to be engaged at work (McLean & Company Engagement Survey Database, 2022).
As per the research, the common causes of burnout, adapted from Maslach & Leiter, fall under six core domains:
- Workload – The number and complexity of work-related tasks or processes that require physical, mental, or emotional effort and are influenced by time pressures.
- Role Clarity & Autonomy – The degree to which employees understand their job responsibilities, have control over how their work is completed, and feel they have adequate resources or training to succeed
- Supervisor & Coworker Relationships – Internal relationships and the extent to which they promote mutual support, bidirectional communication, and cooperation.
- Rewards & Recognition – Monetary and non-monetary rewards that result in employees feeling valued and recognized for their personal contributions to the organisation.
- Fairness & Equity – The perceived fairness of organisational processes and policies, such as work assignments, promotions, and pay increases.
- Employee & Organisational Values – The perceived connection between an employee's work responsibilities and goals and the organisation's mission/vision/values.
"To escape the infinite cycle of employees re-experiencing burnout, organisations need to shift the focus of burnout solutions from individual responsibility to the organisational level. It's here that root causes are addressed and norms that promote employee health and wellbeing are fostered," explains Berte.
To address these domains of burnout, McLean & Company suggests following its three-step plan:
- Identify root causes of burnout: Identify key roles and responsibilities in evaluating and addressing burnout. This includes gathering existing internal data to assess the current state of burnout and using McLean & Company's Burnout Questionnaire, then considering the data by employee segment to identify high-priority groups. Conducting focus groups to capture employee voice and identifying priority root causes of burnout and their associated goals and metrics are also critical.
- Tailor solutions to address root causes of burnout: Explore solutions across the six burnout domains and create a shortlist based on employee needs and organisational resourcing constraints. Consult with stakeholders to finalise a list of solutions and, finally, create a roadmap to outline solution implementation and plan for the change management process.
- Create a future with minimal burnout: Revise organisational policies and programmes to identify gaps and opportunities for minimising burnout. Equip managers with the tools and training they need to identify and minimise burnout within their teams and develop a communication plan to promote solution uptake. Then create a plan to re-evaluate and monitor organisational burnout.