How to Prevent Employee Burnout

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( — November 23, 2018) — Gone are the days when a professional enters the workforce at 22, spends 40 years with the same company, and retires with a pension. Today’s employees are restless and less loyal to their employers. And one of the ill-effects is the high propensity for burnout.

What is Burnout?

It plays out in different ways for different people, but job burnout is essentially a state of exhaustion and fatigue – mentally, physically, or emotionally – that typically occurs in environments where there’s prolonged stress, frustration, or repetitiveness. According to a survey from Kronos Inc., 95 percent of HR leaders believe employee burnout is sabotaging workforce retention.

“Employee burnout has reached epidemic proportions,” says Charlie DeWitt, vice president for business development at Kronos. “While many organizations take steps to manage employee [burnout], there are far fewer efforts to proactively manage burnout. Not only can employee burnout sap productivity and fuel absenteeism, but, as this survey shows, it will undermine engagement and cause an organization’s top performers to leave the business altogether.”

How Businesses Can Prevent Burnout

Burnout can manifest itself in numerous ways, including: frustration, indifference towards work, chronic irritability, high absenteeism, exhaustion, sarcasm, and even anger. Not only does it impact individual employees, but it also poisons company culture and impacts others in both direct and indirect ways.

It’s imperative that you deal with employee burnout within your own company before it has a negative impact on your organizational health. Here are some smart steps you can take:

1. Give Room for Work-Life Balance

Employee burnout is almost always tied to some level of physical and mental exhaustion. Either employees are required to work brutal hours, or they feel pressured into doing so in order to “keep up” or climb the ranks.

While there are certain times when employees have no other choice but to put in the time, there’s also something to be said for facilitating greater work-life balance. Encourage employees to use their paid time off. Send employees home early every now and then. Offer three-day weekends on occasion. The more space you create for employees to tend to their personal lives, the more they’ll give you on the job.

2. Help Employees Feel Valuable

“Burnout isn’t solely born out of exhaustion. More often than not, it occurs in individuals who are tasked with items and projects that they perceive as contributing little or no value to their teams, their departments, or the larger organization,” says Curt Cronin, former Navy SEAL and current CEO of Ridgeline Partners. “Providing context to those individuals, however, really changes the game. If someone sees his role as simply a bricklayer, for example, it’s management’s responsibility to help him visualize the bigger picture — the large and magnificent cathedral.”

In other words, employees need to feel like they play a role in the company’s success – even if it’s just a supporting role. Helping employees feel valuable is something that must be dealt with on an individual basis, but don’t miss this. It’s one of the only ways to fully engage your team.

3. Kill the Repetitive

There’s something to be said for setting up processes and repeatable routines to promote quality and consistency in the end product, but you should avoid exposing employees to too much repetitiveness over long periods of time.

In order to break up the monotony of repetition, try:

  • Have employees within the same department trade off tasks and responsibilities on a rotating basis.
  • Encourage employees to work from home once per week.
  • Switch up offices and cubicles or rearrange furniture.
  • Give employees the option of flex scheduling, which allows them to set their hours (within reason). For example, one employee might choose to work 6-to-2, while another prefers to work 10-to-6.

You know your employees best. If you find something that you believe will appeal to your team, test it out. You won’t know until you try.

Adopting a Proactive Approach

You absolutely can’t afford to be reactive in your approach to employee burnout. By the time it hits, it’s often too late to save an employee.

Your only chance is to be proactive and address the underlying conditions that cause burnout before they have a chance to penetrate your company culture. Hopefully this article has provided you with some food for thought.