Have you ever seen someone snap in the workplace? Maybe you’ve watched a coworker stay late for an entire week, shortly before disappearing to Hawaii without warning. Maybe a manager has chewed out an employee with such fervor that you, several rooms away, have feared for your life and your job. While unemployment has fallen drastically in recent years, job dissatisfaction has unfortunately grown due to an increase in work and a lack of increase in wages, directly leading to breaks like these.
Employee attrition has grown—and much of it is due to burnout, a term that refers to a degradation of productivity and happiness due to stressors in the workplace. It is not simply due to being overworked; it is a combination of this and the attitude that one’s work isn’t making a difference. With enough failure, even with hard work, an employee can gradually adopt a defeatist outlook that hurts productivity. Once someone has become burnt out, it can be hard to get them out of the rut they are in.
One of the biggest problems with burnout is how it is often perceived as a fault of employees rather than the fault of the company. Companies can lose thousands of dollars to replace employees lost but still refuse to acknowledge that spending money to address burnout can increase retention in the long run. Burnout also accounts for up to 8% of healthcare spending in the United States.
Even the obvious remedy to burnout—improved vacation time—has less of an impact as you might imagine. The problem lies with employees that neglect to take vacations because they feel that they will fall behind on their work if they do so. On a smaller scale, many employees take work home on weekends, depriving themselves of any time to recharge, and more still feel discouraged to take breaks at work.
Therefore, if a company wishes to take steps to prevent employee burnout, they must change their own culture, among other things. A few of the less obvious factors that lead to employee burnout include unequal workloads, lack of belonging, poor time management, and excess collaboration.
The latter of these may sound odd. One would think that collaboration is good for an organization, and for the most part, it is. However, too much can drastically slow down the business’s decision making process and tie down employees in a mire of meetings and emails that hinders their ability to complete their work. This can be attributed in part to the nature of the digital workplace; communication over the internet is so effortless that email and other channels can be filled to excess relatively quickly. Companies can combat this by adjusting the number of decision makers; too many can slow down projects. Give employees the leeway to make their own decisions and allow strong employees the oversight to tackle problems.
Speaking of high-performing employees, make sure that work is distributed fairly and that your most competent workers are not overburdened. Since their knowledge is in demand, they can get caught up in the aforementioned mire of decision making. Redesigning workflows can be crucial to ensure that employees have the time to do crucial work and are not weighed down by demands that others are placing on them.
Of course, redesigning workflows is a complicated process. Fortunately, there are data tools such as Microsoft Workplace Analytics that allow a discerning business to accurately measure time spent on certain tasks. Company leaders have a responsibility to their employees to make sure that time management practices are implemented and that every team member has the knowledge that they need to plan their schedules in an intelligent way. A sense of autonomy is important to preventing burnout, and providing employees with the tools to succeed is one of the best ways to give them back control.
All of this is part of what should be an overarching initiative to improve company culture. Efforts to bring employees together and create a sense of camaraderie can go a long way, and feelings of isolation can contribute to burnout. Given the increasing popularity of good workplace culture practices, it would be worth dedicating an entire blog to its finer points. Improving communications between employees and management can also help anybody that feels that their job would be improved by taking longer breaks or time off.
Burnout may be a highly destructive force in the business world, but there are ways that business leaders can work to prevent and counteract it. By working to make changes that improve employee scheduling and workload, companies can drastically improve retention. Cutting down on burnout is crucial to managing mental and physical health, and even saves companies money in the long term. Consider making some of these changes in your business and being a force for good for your employees.