Modern, fast-paced workplaces can sometimes contribute to employee burnout, causing problems for both employees (in the form of anxiety, insomnia, headaches, irritability, and more) and the firm (in terms of poor productivity, high turnover, problems collaborating between employees, and more) [source]. Thus, organizations and their managers must find ways to prevent burnout in the workplace and how to reduce burnout that already exists for the benefit of their organizations and their employees. Read on to learn how you can make minor changes that can improve your organization by reducing burnout.
Causes of employee burnout
One of the biggest factors that contribute to employee burnout is an imbalance in people’s work and personal life, especially when they lack control over their work life. Employees also burn out because of an excessive workload and negativity in their work environment. Role ambiguity, unrealistic expectations, and unfair treatment similarly contribute to job burnout. Importantly the poor attitudes and low morale that result from burnout spread through an organization like cancer to contribute to burnout from those who work with employees who feel burned out. The pandemic escalated burnout as workers forced into isolation lacked the support infrastructure to help them manage these factors and working from home meant simultaneously handling work, childcare, schooling children, and household chores that were harder to ignore when surrounding the worker.
In the survey results shown below, we see a high rate of employee burnout and distress (a precursor to burnout) reported in a third to half of the employees in all countries surveyed with only a half to three-quarters of HR professionals recognizing the role of mental health in their decisions. When you consider that HR commitments and manager actions don’t necessarily exist as a cohesive management effort, this data suggests burnout will continue as a problem in the future.
According to the study, toxic workplace behavior was the signal biggest factor contributing to burnout by a large margin in all countries. The study defined toxic workplace behavior as:
interpersonal behavior that leads to employees feeling unvalued, belittled, or unsafe, such as unfair or demeaning treatment, non-inclusive behavior, sabotaging, cutthroat competition, abusive management, and unethical behavior from leaders or coworkers. Selected questions from this dimension include agreement with the statements “My manager ridicules me,” “I work with people who belittle my ideas,” and “My manager puts me down in front of others.”
As stated earlier, burnout leads to a host of negative consequences for the employee and the organization. So, let’s turn our attention to ways to prevent burnout.
How to prevent employee burnout?
In the following discussion, we present 10 ways an organization and its managers can prevent employee burnout as a way to improve the company’s bottom line while improving employees’ mental and physical health at the same time. A win-win proposition.
1. Promote a healthy work-life balance
Managers must ensure that their employees have a healthy work-life balance. They should allow their employees “me time” or family time. Working through lunch on a regular basis means employees don’t have a break to decompress and use the time for personal tasks, such as running errands or working out, which means they shift these tasks to after work or on weekends.
Expecting employees to answer the phone or respond to email during their private time is so intrusive, that some countries now ban such efforts to exploit employees when they’re off the clock.
2. Encourage them to go on vacation
Managers should encourage their employees to utilize their vacation time, parental leave, and other forms of paid time off provided by the organization. Women even return to work soon after giving birth. Managers should also mention to their employees that their vacations will not affect their work life and that they should not feel guilty for taking some off time. Most employees refrain from going on vacations because they think taking vacation time shows weakness, lack of commitment to the organization, and dedication to their peers who must shoulder their work during vacation. They also fear they sacrifice promotions and salary increases by taking a break.
In 2019, Americans set a record by leaving 768 million unused vacation days on the books, up 9% from 2015. It’s almost a badge of honor to expound on the number of unused vacation days a worker earned.
3. Hybrid workforce
Constantly working on-site can be detrimental to employee well-being initiatives. Transportation takes up a large chunk of employees’ time that they could otherwise spend more efficiently and the frustrations caused by the commute are compounded by today’s high gas prices.
A hybrid workplace can take care of this issue by providing a flexible routine where employees can work on-site and from home as they see fit. This technique increases employees’ interest in their jobs and boosts their productivity.
4. Employee wellbeing initiative
A positive environment is necessary for employees to work properly for their well-being. Negativity between managers and employees is detrimental to employee productivity, making it harder for them to perform better is exacerbated by burnout, which also interferes with good relationships between peers that reduces productivity. Employers can help in managing stress and support their workers by instituting well-being initiatives like:
- providing healthy snacks and lunches
- enforcing lunchbreaks
- celebrate success not only with pay increases but by pats on the back
- offer opportunities for personal and professional growth such as training and clear promotional pathways
- encourage physical fitness with a gym membership or sponsoring a company team, which also promotes collaboration
- offer meditation or quiet rooms for those who need a little break. For instance, Google’s philosophy of work hard/ play hard is supported by their nap pods that allow employees to recharge during the day (see below), resulting in improved performance during work hours.
5. Assist them where they are lacking
Managers should keep track of where their employees are lacking and train them accordingly. Training old employees with new skills is better than hiring new employees. It takes more time to train a new employee than helping an old one improve. Therefore, it is the preferable way to work for employee wellbeing initiatives.
6. Create Career Paths
If managers create paths for employees’ career growth, it helps both parties in the long run. There is always room for improvement; employers should help their employees learn new skills for advanced opportunities in the future. Skilled workers are good for an organizations’ growth, and if they ever leave, it benefits the employees in their careers.
Employees’ interest in an organization grows when they see that their job helps them develop their careers for future opportunities either within the company or for a future employer. It enhances their relationship with their organization, they feel more responsible for their work, are more committed to the organization, and are more productive.
Many organizations temper their training opportunities by asking for a minimum time committement after the employee finishes training to avoid the wasting resources of the organization.
7. Communicate with employees openly
Communication is necessary to improve the relationship between managers and employees, as they are one of the most important employee wellbeing initiatives. Employers should openly communicate to their employees to ensure they perform tasks accurately, feel a part of the organization, and can anticipate their future.
Communication between employees is also essential to boost productivity. It motivates employees and fosters a work environment that promotes problem-solving. Employee engagement and communication may not be easy for your staff but the improvements and results are worth seeing.
8. Foster a friendly environment
A friendly working environment is essential for improved communication between employees and management, since it allows for better collaboration and increases workers’ productivity. It’s not important that workers associate outside of work, but a friendly atmosphere at work is essential for collaboration. A friendly environment allows decentralized decision-making where employees can make creative suggestions and feel involved in the decision making process. It gives employees a better understanding of the workplace and their company’s projects.
Workplaces are supposed to be friendly so workers do not feel exhausted due to the workload. The friendly chit-chat keeps them feeling fresh. Knowing each other at the workplace creates a healthier working environment where people can better support each other when needed.
9. Create equitable workloads
Lack of support from managers and unfair workloads lead to employee burnout, where they stress over unfair treatment from their managers. Smart managers include their in suggestions before assigning them projects, so they feel included and can make improvements in projects that benefit everyone. Having input not only contributes to an employee’s commitment to the success of the project, it helps them understand the equal benefits received by peers when they can see how the work is distributed.
If managers assign more projects to better-performing employees, it could lead to the top performers burning out. To avoid this, they should assign projects to everyone equally.
10. Treat everyone fairly
Managers do not want to be known as unfair to their employees, which is why they should treat everyone fairly.
Employees notice every little detail, you on the top may not realize it, but people working under your supervision tend to be more sensitive towards your remarks.
To prevent your employees from burning out, you should use a decentralized approach where your employees feel supported and included in the decision-making process. Managers must promote a balanced work-life where employees can focus on their careers and family. Companies should work on employee wellbeing initiatives to help their employees grow in their respective fields. Fair and equal workloads motivate employees as they see their manager is fair and treat them equally.
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