The star employee walks into your office. She sits down and focuses a 1,000-yard stare at the picture on your wall. Without saying anything, she hands you an envelope. She then smiles nervously, before standing to shake your hand, and leaving. Her letter of resignation is left with you.
This employee made huge bonuses and had won the respect of her peers and management. She was a happy, dedicated worker.
What happened? Burnout happened. She could no longer handle the combination of pressure and emotional turmoil so she took the only way out.
You have to learn to recognize the signs and do something about employee burnout before the rest of them follow her out your door.
What Is Employee Burnout?
Employee burnout is the loss of mental or physical strength and stamina. It makes you feel unnecessary, worthless, and apathetic. People who are burned out need rest to recuperate and recharge.
Often, they need significant time off to recover their energy and passion because burnout crushes it. It is incumbent upon employers to take care of their employees and ensure that burnout doesn’t happen. If it does happen, they need to be prepared to offer recovery and healing time.
Let’s look at a few things employers can do to prevent employee burnout altogether:
Learn the Symptoms
The signs of burnout, whether present or pending, are easy to spot if you know what to look for. Some employees will exhibit just one of these negative signs while others will present several. These signs include:
- Expressing anger or sarcasm
- Frequent irritability
- Frustration, indifference, or apathy
- Physical or mental exhaustion
It’s not only menial, repetitive jobs that create burnout. Often, the most burned-out workers are those with intellectually stimulating jobs that they enjoy. Just because they enjoy what they do, doesn’t make them immune to being overworked and burning out.
Learn What Causes Burnout
In this day and age, many people work under the notion that “achievement equals success.” The ever-increasing demands surrounding this can create a never-ending cycle of stress and burnout until the dam finally breaks.
Much of the time, the pressure will come from above. Bosses have unrealistic expectations that employees will still strive to meet. But, many workers also tend to expect far too much from themselves, thus creating their own burnout.
When unreasonable expectations come from both the workers and their bosses at the same time, burnout can happen fast. Employers have a duty to see these signs, reduce the stressors that cause them, and make sure their employees remain happy and productive.
Sometimes it’s a lack of control, whether real or perceived, that leads to feelings of helplessness and frustration. You can avoid this by empowering your employees instead of micromanaging them.
Give them the necessary tools and supplies to do their jobs efficiently. When your workers are self-sufficient, they will feel powerful and be proud of themselves.
Clear expectations are also necessary for job success. It’s not possible for anyone to complete a task without knowing what they are to do. Yet, many people will try anyway. They will be so eager to please that they stress themselves out over instructions they don’t understand.
Don’t sabotage your employees by not giving them all the necessary information.
Isolation is another major stressor. Human beings are social creatures. Even introverts who thrive on solitude need some occasional interaction.
People are already separated from their families while at work. If they’re separated from their colleagues, too, it can cause feelings of loneliness and depression.
Office dysfunction can be the worst of all. Backstabbing politics, office bullies, and having an uninterested or incompetent boss can be soul-crushing. Favoritism or nepotism are two other things that can contribute to certain employees feeling burned out.
While no workplace will ever be perfect, it’s up to management to keep things balanced and running smoothly. Deal with poor and inappropriate behavior. Remove toxic people from the office if necessary. Don’t show favoritism and ensure everyone is being treated fairly.
Educate Employees About Burnout
There are many people, particularly those who “live to work,” who either won’t acknowledge their own burnout or won’t be aware of it. The world teaches us to always produce, succeed, and strive.
Taking a break is seen as a weakness. But, nothing could be further from the truth. You have to rest and recharge.
Employers must take an active stance against burnout. From time to time, have deliberate meetings with your teams to explain burnout and how to avoid it. As management, never belittle or reprimand someone who truly needs a “mental-health” day.
Lastly, encourage activities at work that truly build camaraderie and esprit de corps. Even if it’s small, short spurts, stress-relief while at work can do wonders for employee morale and productivity.
Order some pizza every Friday for lunch. Play games during breaks. Encourage everyone to socialize. Host a bigger event once a month with competitions and prizes. It doesn’t matter too much what you choose to do, what matters is that you do something that allows everyone to blow off some steam.
Let Employees Rest
This one is simple. Make sure employees go home at an appropriate time.
Instead of being proud to never see the sun, employees should be free to leave work behind and go home to their families. The love and support a family can offer will enrich the life of the employee. This will contribute positively to their attitude at work.
Happy employees are productive employees. If employees look like they need vacations, encourage them to take one. Accommodate their schedules as best you can. If they need to leave a little early because their kid is sick or has an event, don’t gripe about it.
Let them have their hobbies or “side hustles.” Remember, blind devotion to the company will result in burnout. Happiness through accommodation will result in content, balanced employees who are passionate about what they do.
Implement Wellness Programs
One of the biggest components of employee wellness is the combining of physical and mental care. A physical fitness center can be a solution to both. Exercise is not only a good way to work out aggression, but it’s proven to produce serotonin, which will elevate your mood.
Aquafit is an example of an aerobic activity that is also fun. It can easily be turned into a team-building activity as well. Other examples of easily achieved physical activity include:
- Occasional extended lunches to allow for exercise
- Encourage alternative transportation to work – ie biking in the summer
- Organize a group walk outside once a week
These are all excellent ways to let your employees move around during the day and get some exercise. This will contribute to keeping them physically fit as well as help balance their mental health.
That being said, a simple exercise isn’t always enough. Having a counselor of some sort on-site, even once a week can be beneficial. This will give stressed or frustrated employees a chance to talk it out with someone. This person can then offer tips, tools, and advice on handling their work-related issues.
Build a Friendly Work Environment
Offering support and encouraging friendliness are also two crucial aspects when it comes to burnout healing and prevention.
Friendliness doesn’t mean that all employees have to be friends. Rather, it means that people are respectful to each other and cheerful in their outlook. You can create that respect through team building.
In 2014, companies worldwide spent more than $100 billion on training and team-building. More than 95 percent of them sent their employees to seminars, conferences, and other team-building events.
Further, researchers at the University of Stanford determined that those working in a team were able to work 48 percent longer than those who had to work alone.
Be a Good Leader
Both management and the workers must lead by example rather than telling everyone what to do. Help a colleague out even if that person is not your friend. Build long-lasting work relationships based on fellowship and respect.
Most of all, never just sit behind your computer and “do email.” If you’re management, then you should engage with your employees. If you’re an employee, then you should engage with management. Fear should never enter into the equation, and neither should exploitation. Neither is the quality of a good leader.
Arm Yourself Against Burnout for a Happy Workplace
Knowing how to deal with employee burnout when it arises is important. Preventing it in the first place is better. Familiarize yourself with burnout and its signs and symptoms. Then, follow these steps to keep your employees happy, balanced, and productive.
Don’t be afraid to ask your employees how they are doing. Don’t ignore burnout – face it head-on. Address it with your workers and involve them in the prevention process.
A positive workplace where employees feel comfortable and appreciated will go a long way. You’ll find that this is the perfect recipe for long-term loyalty and consistent, good-quality work.