employee burnout

When it comes to the health of your business, there’s nothing as thoroughly detrimental as employee burnout.

Excessive turnover, reduced engagement, and decreased productivity can all be tied to employee burnout. What’s more, these frazzled employees can destroy the morale of their colleagues by transferring their stress, anger, and workload to others –- thereby multiplying the number of burnt out workers in your employ.

To avoid (or diminish) employee burnout, you have to understand what causes it. Most commonly, burnout is the result of a lack of recognition or feedback, overwhelming workload, increased job demands without equivalent benefits, and loss of faith in leadership. Unfortunately, burnout isn’t something that can be dealt with overnight. It requires substantial changes to an employee’s workload and environment — only then can they begin their emotional recovery.

If you’re starting to see the signs of employee burnout — or you want to  prevent it altogether — consider doing the following:



Manage Stress

According to Pepperdine University, employee stress costs American business approximately $300 billion per year, due to increased use of health benefits, absenteeism, turnover, and worker’s compensation claims. Although stress isn’t the only cause of burnout, it’s definitely a major factor. That’s why zeroing in on stress management can make such a difference.

There are multiple ways to incorporate stress management into your employees’ day to day lives. First, encourage employees to communicate the challenges they face in regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings with their managers. This requires creating an environment where employees don’t fear being reprimanded when they speak up.

Second, create a quiet area somewhere in your office where employees can take a break to relax, regroup, and spend time free from social interactions. Not only does this help reduce workplace stress and burnout, it’s also incredibly beneficial for your introverted workers, who need more quiet time away from social situations than extroverted employees.

Finally, offer monthly programs that train employees how to handle and prevent stress. This can be done through wellness coaching or professionally taught onsite classes. You can even take it a step further by holding weekly yoga classes, bringing in masseuses, or having daily meditation sessions.

Be Empathetic

Empathy is absolutely critical in leadership as it allows you to put yourself in your employees’ shoes. In fact, one of the easiest ways to earn the respect and loyalty of your team is to show them you care by being empathic.

Meet regularly with your employees to listen to and address their concerns. Be supportive during these meetings — never defensive. Sometimes they just need a chance to vent. Other times, they may need additional help. As much as possible, devote some time to get to know each of your employees as an individual. Talk about non-business related topics and make an effort to connect with them personally.

If you see obvious signs of burnout, meet with your employee to discuss the issue. Understanding the motivation behind this behavior is the key to solving the problem — especially since the cause could be completely unrelated to work. For instance, there may have been change in performance stemming from problems at home or a recent illness. The most important thing you can do is to  refrain from judgement, make sure they feel heard, and then work together to identify possible solutions.

Customize Their Workload

Seventy-three percent of US respondents to a ReportLinker survey say they believe their employer helps them fulfill professional challenges. This, in turn, makes them more loyal — 83% of these employees say they’re committed to their employer.

A proper workload is essential to employee success. Take time to identify each employee’s unique skills and passions. Then, ensure that they’re in positions that utilize said skillset and interests — if not, move them. Guarantee that every team member has a varied workload and assign an amount of work that is challenging, but not overwhelming. If you find a deadline or goal is unrealistic, change it so it is feasible. Finally, be sure to involve your employees in these decisions. This will assure they end up happy and fulfilled.

Encourage a Healthy Work-Life Balance

With employers demanding more of their time, and work email going straight to their smartphones, American workers are finding themselves increasingly stretched thin. They’ll do anything required to get their work done, including working in the evenings, on weekends, and through lunch. However industrious this may sound, it’s not a good thing.

Jon Hainstock, co-founder of ZoomShift, explains,

“In the US, long hours in the office is often worn like a badge of honor, and hardworking entrepreneurs are glorified and celebrated. But people are not machines, and when pushed too hard for too long, they will succumb to illness, fatigue, and unnecessary (but sometimes costly) mistakes.”

You absolutely must communicate your expectations regarding work-life balance to your employees, otherwise they will assume you want them to work themselves to the bone. Allocate and encourage a one hour lunch as well as numerous 15 minute breaks throughout the day. Cut back overtime and ensure your employees are only working the number of hours agreed upon at the the time they were hired. Invite them to use their vacation days more regularly. And, if you can afford it, offer paid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child.

Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions, as well as those of the people around you. It requires self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills — and it’s being recognized as one of the most important skills a leader can possess.

A study of manufacturing supervisors found that, following emotional intelligence training, formal grievances were reduced by 20%. Why? Because leaders with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they’re feeling and how these emotions affect their employees. They don’t lose their temper easily, become overly defensive when faced with criticism, or feel the need to prove they’re in control by being overly harsh with their underlings.

As a leader, emotional maturity and compassion will take you further than angry outbursts and heavy-handedness ever will. Your employees need to feel valued. Make the extra effort to regularly thank them for their hard work and effort. Mentor those who require a little extra help in order to blossom. Demonstrate to your workers that you care about them. These seemingly inconsequential gestures will pay off in ways you never imagined.

Final Thoughts

One of your most vital roles as a leader is to be able to spot the symptoms of overworked, overwhelmed, or just plain burnt out employees — and take the steps necessary to resolve it. Burnout won’t pass on its own, it requires you to intervene and offer support. Doing so will bring about a positive change in your workforce, and you’ll see happier, more productive, and most importantly, engaged employees.



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Liz Greene

Writer, Marketing Specialist
Liz Greene is a writer, marketing professional, and full blown pop culture geek from the beautiful City of Trees, Boise, ID. When she’s not stalking the aisles of her local Ulta, she can be found shoveling down sushi while discussing the merits of the latest Game of Thrones fan theories.

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