Characterized by “emotional exhaustion, cynicism, … ineffectiveness in the workplace, and chronic negative responses to stressful workplace conditions,” employee burnout is quickly becoming a pervasive phenomenon companies are struggling to address.
Burnout triggers a downward spiral for both the employee and the organization, and workplace stress causes additional healthcare expenditures of anywhere from $125 to $190 billion a year in the US alone.
While stress can be caused and exacerbated by numerous factors, there are some universal strategies companies can use to alleviate stress before it turns into full-blown burnout:
1. Improve Communication Between Managers and Employees
The manager-employee relationship is one of the most valued assets in any organization, and it is crucial to identifying and intervening in employee stress.
Generally, managers are the ones assigning employees to projects, so they have the most knowledge of employees’ workloads. Thus, managers have clear insight into what employees are dealing with on a daily basis. It is important for managers to establish open-door policies to encourage authentic and honest dialogue with employees. When managers promote such conversations, employees will be more willing to bring stress-related issues to their manager’s attention. The manager is then in a position to offer assistance before burnout sets in.
Employees may not necessarily take advantage of an open-door policy on their own initiative, so it is a good idea to schedule weekly or monthly check-ins with employees. This gives managers the chance to gauge how all of their subordinates are feeling, and these regular meetings can foster a stronger sense of camaraderie between managers and team members.
2. Promote a Healthy Work/Life Balance
Perhaps the most common symptom of employee burnout is the feeling of overwork and exhaustion, and even the commute to and from work can be a contributing factor here. For some, a commute can effectively add several additional hours to the standard workday, thereby giving the employee less time to unplug and recharge every day.
Thankfully, we live in an era of mobile technology, and employees can now access their work from virtually anywhere. Take advantage of this fact by offering your employees the ability to work from home. Even a few remote days a month can help increase productivity and reduce stress.
As added incentive, remote work opportunities are something your employees likely want: According to one survey, 43 percent of US office workers think “the ideal working situation” is a mix of in-office and remote work.
For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:
3. Mark the End of the Workday
While advances in technology have helped us improve efficiency and productivity, they have also come with a downside: Now that employees can work from anywhere, they often feel obliged to keep working once the day is done.
The more after-hours work an employee puts in, the more quickly they speed toward burnout. Therefore, companies should encourage their employees to officially unplug once the workday is done. Set formal guidelines to ensure employees get some much-deserved rest and relaxation while at home.
4. Encourage Collaboration
Sometimes, employees don’t realize they’re dealing with burnout. Instead, they believe they are simply struggling to keep up with their team members and falling short of expectations. As a result, the employee may feel alone in their struggle and may not reach out for support.
Encouraging employees to work together on projects is one way to combat this aspect of burnout. When employees collaborate, the workload is more evenly distributed. Moreover, if team members notice a colleague is struggling, they can more readily empathize and offer advice because they are dealing with the exact same situation.
5. Celebrate Successes
An additional contributing factor to burnout is the feeling that one’s efforts are not appreciated by the company. Employees spend the majority of their waking hours at work, sacrificing time with family and friends. With employees giving so much to the organization, they want to feel recognized for the work they are doing.
This doesn’t mean you have to give all employees raises or promotions. A company-wide congratulatory email or the sharing of individual accomplishments on social media can effectively show recognition without breaking your budget.
It is important to celebrate the little things, and while most of the accomplishments in the workplace are group successes, you should also highlight individuals to foster a greater sense of value. For example, if an employee’s work anniversary is coming up, have the executive team sign a card to show the staff member they care.
Employee burnout is difficult to eliminate from the office entirely, but there are strategies to reduce the risk of your employees catching it. By taking a few simple steps today, you can put your company in a position to win the fight against employee burnout — or at least make the matter much more manageable.
Matt Thomas is president of WorkSmart Systems.