Worried that they won’t meet their next deadline, they sit at their desks with grim faces. Tired, they yawn and stretch, because overwork has caused sleep loss or insomnia. They may lash out at colleagues, as their fatigue and stress grow, and resentment begins to build.
“They” might include your coworkers, your boss, or even yourself. We have all been there at least once…feeling burned out at our job. In fact, one study indicates that 95 percent of HR leaders say burnout is sabotaging their workplace, and many HR leaders attribute up to half of their employee turnover to employee burnout. Burnout, characterized by emotional exhaustion, disengagement, and ineffectiveness in the workplace, is an almost universal issue in today’s busy work world. While not fully considered an illness, burnout certainly can be considered a mental health issue.
Job burnout is experienced when employees expect too much of themselves; never feel that the work they are doing is good enough; feel inadequate or incompetent; and/or feel unappreciated for their work efforts. For whatever reason, the majority of employees experiencing burnout will simply keep working, believing that they are just struggling to keep up during stressful times. However, stress generally results in feelings of anxiety and a sense of urgency, while burnout is more commonly experienced as having feelings of apathy, helplessness, or even hopelessness.
Because it can be chronic in nature, affecting both the health and performance of employees at all levels of organizations, prevention strategies are considered the most effective approach for addressing workplace burnout. Some strategies that can help reduce workplace stressors and prevent burnout include:
- Providing clear expectations for employees and obtaining confirmation from them.
- Making sure that employees have the necessary resources to meet expectations.
- Investing in your employees by providing ongoing training to maintain competency.
- Helping employees understand their roles and value to the organization and business goals.
- Enforcing reasonable work hours, which may mean sending employees home at the end of the workday.
- Helping assess workload for employees who may feel pressured to work before and/or after normal business hours.
- Supporting physical activity throughout the workday through breaks, walking meetings, or gym memberships.
- Strongly encouraging employees to take breaks away from their work environment.
- Management walking the floor often and visiting the employee break room.
- Developing meaningful interpersonal relationships among colleagues.
- Developing job rotations, enrichment opportunities and methods for streamlining positions’ tasks.
- Unless your business model requires it, don’t force all employees to come in at the same time. Some individuals work best at 8 a.m., while others are most productive at 10 a.m.
- Promoting work/life balance, and really living it. Try shutting down early the day before holidays, and have “unplugged” initiatives company-wide.
- Encouraging employees to use their allotted vacation time or paid time off (PTO). Run a report every year to ensure there aren’t excessive balances of unused PTO, especially if your company has a use-it-or-lose-it policy.
Burnout is very common in today’s demanding workplace. Employees may seek relief through a new job, rather than addressing the issues causing burnout at their current workplace and never really knowing the root cause of their unhappiness.
However widespread, burnout doesn’t have to be a problem at your workplace. Call a Staff One HR Manager at 1.800.771.7823 for prevention assistance, or contact the author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.