We live in both an exciting but harsh economic climate. Exciting, because we are in the age of constant technological evolution, emerging markets and new entrepreneurs hitting the marketplace every day. Harsh, though, because there are winners and losers, with the losers facing lost clients, redundancies and restructuring with surviving staff having to pick up the slack resulting in sustained increases in workload and stress.
It’s no surprise then that studies show that many staff in today’s climate may be facing the early stages of burnout. Yes, a Towers Perrin study of 90,000 employees worldwide has revealed that a massive 38 percent of workers globally are currently wholly or partly disengaged and a ComPsych study of over 45 million people has revealed that 63 percent of those surveyed have high stress, fatigue and are feeling out of control. This is being reflected in lost productivity, lost work days and an increasing frequency of “stress breaks.”
Burnout syndrome will kill your employer brand, lowering retention levels, damaging your reputation, making it harder to attract talent, and making it harder to remain competitive. That’s why it’s vital that HR and small business leaders put their finger on the pulse and check to see if their people are showing the early signs of burnout, and if so, take some of the following steps to alleviate it.
1. Make sure objectives are SMART: Specific/Stretching, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. In times of pressure it is easy for objectives to become far too stretching and increasingly unattainable. This is a danger area, because if objectives are consistently unrealistic your employees will be constantly pushing themselves too hard and/or constantly failing to meet objectives, which will eventually lead to burnout. Review your objectives and check to see if they are SMART. If they are not attainable you may need to adjust objectives and/or provide greater support. This is perhaps one of the most effective remedies for preventing burnout.
2. Encourage staff to take their breaks and vacation. Increased workload, pressure and job insecurity can lead employees to sacrifice breaks and holidays in order to keep in or ahead of the game. This behavior is counter productive for both the employee and company as employees need to recharge to maintain optimal performance throughout the year. Monitor employees’ working hours and attendance. Are they forgoing holidays and breaks? If so, lead from the top and be seen taking breaks and vacations while actively encourage and support employees to take them.
3. Promote work-life balance. Maintain reasonable working hours and discourage employees from working excessively long hours on a sustained basis. Monitor employees’ working hours and identify those who may be working longer hours than the norm on a consistent basis. If any employee is having to work long hours continually, perhaps they are not working efficiently, not delegating effectively or perhaps they are in need of additional support.
4. Value everyone’s contribution. Make sure that managers are trained to identify positive contributions and recognize and reward them. Not recognizing effort and contribution is one of the quickest ways to demoralize a workforce and push employees further toward burnout.
In this article I have presented for of the most powerful techniques to ward off employee burnout. Of course, there are many other techniques that organizations can and should deploy to ward off employee burnout; share your strategies below.