Employee burnout is almost like an epidemic in the modern workplace. It is estimated that over half of the workforce is experiencing some form of burnout. This is particularly true for the younger lot, who experience higher stress and anxiety than previous generations.
Burnout is bad for health; in employees, it also causes lower productivity and increased absenteeism. To get tips to develop positive work culture, you need to know the causes and the signs of burnout.
However, remember that there is no blanket solution for workplace burnout. Every business and its independently managed departments have unique challenges and stressors. You, as a manager, need to know the fundamental causes and signs to avoid burnout in your teams.
Employee burnout is a phase of both emotional and physical exhaustion at work. Burnout occurs when employees get overwhelmed by the level of stress they experience in their workplace.
Burnout impacts the mental and physical health of sufferers, employees going through burnout are usually stressed and anxious about their work. They could feel like they’re not adding anything to the team or are indifferent about their jobs.
Reasons behind Workplace Burnout
Many issues can trigger burnout. The most common reasons are:
· Feeling undervalued or unappreciated
Amongst the biggest causes of employee burnout are feelings of inefficiency and lack of contribution to work. Employees are always more engaged when they are making a difference. Appreciation by supervisors, team leaders and managers leads to a sense of fulfilment and value. When employees are appreciated, they are likely to stay longer and contribute more.
If your business is cash strapped and employees are managing multiple tasks, they may start looking for alternate options. Overburdened employees also start to take shortcuts with their tasks, which causes errors. This makes people feel guilty and adds more stress to an already stressful situation.
· Lack of Management Support
Employees should be able to rely on and communicate with their managers and believe that they care about them. When this doesn’t happen, employees tend to become disengaged. This causes low morale, increased turnover, and decreased productivity.
Similarly, if managers don’t communicate clearly about what they expect from their team members, team members can get frustrated.
Signs and Symptoms of Workplace Burnout
In our culture, where mental health and its discussion is a taboo area, it is even more challenging to treat. This makes it vital to know the symptoms of burnout so that employees may be managed accordingly. Burnout can result from long work hours, inability to fit or adjust to company culture, or having too much responsibility.
The most common signs of an employee experiencing burnout are:
1. Decreased motivation (and performance)
Burned-out employees aren’t motivated to perform. They may not come to work on time or meet deadlines. They may also avoid social events, skip work meetings or avoid coffee breaks.
2. Reduced productivity
Lack of motivation and focus always causes poor performance and productivity. Staff will be less productive and creative. Many burned-out employees are likely to leave their jobs.
3. Increased stress levels
A key symptom of workplace burnout is increased stress, which causes anxiety. This is not the stress we all feel before an important presentation or while sending a crucial email or quotation.
This is regular and sustained stress, usually due to something at work that makes people feel out of control or disconnected from the work environment. This leads to anxiety about the future and what might happen.
4. Difficulty concentrating
Employees suffering from burnout usually complain about feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. These feelings make it challenging to focus on work.
5. Increased Irritability and Toxicity
When an employee feels overwhelmed or stressed, they often get angry. Some employees end up blaming others for their poor performance. When such situations are not attended to, there can be a toxic environment for other employees.
How to Prevent Burnout in the Workplace
Now that we know some of the common symptoms of burnout employees, how do we address the issue?
The following strategies are based on common sense and can help improve overall employee engagement and prevent and reduce employee burnout.
- Know What to Communicate
Clear communication helps people know their goals, how to achieve them, and how they will impact the workplace. Many managers and leaders sometimes don’t communicate effectively, which causes problems.
Not all matters or details need to be communicated to all cadres of employees, so know what you want to say and the level of detail you want to share. We sometimes need to tell people things repeatedly to ensure that everyone is at an almost equal level of understanding.
Think about what you want to say before you start a meeting or any interaction.
- Give Visible Rewards
Rewarding employees encourage others. Rewards show people that you value their contributions. Recognizing effort and showing gratitude are effective for preventing employee burnout. When employees know their contributions are noted and valued, they make more effort.
- Recognize efforts and show appreciation
There are different ways to show appreciation. The easiest is to give verbal praise, while another is by giving gifts. These gifts don’t need to be expensive if you are on a tight budget. A simple thank you card or gift certificate is effective. Having a clear reward structure is highly advisable so that employees know how much they contributed and it’s worth in terms of their rewards.
- Give Recognition Regularly
It is a common syndrome to have improved performance and employee behaviour during appraisal time. Bypass this by giving praise regularly. Knowing that their performance is rewarded regularly creates a positive feedback loop.
Everyone appreciates being recognized and rewarded for their work. Delayed rewards reduce motivation, while frequent rewards boost motivation.
- Thank Your Employees
While not every employee will be winning rewards, make sure that you thank the deserving ones for their efforts. And remember that they don’t want to be thanked. They need to feel appreciated and valued.
- Reduce workload
If an employee is overworked and underperforming, showing signs of irritability and other indicators of burnout, it’s time to reduce their workload. Workload reduction is an essential aspect of controlling employee burnout. It’s also critical for productivity and efficiency.
Reducing workload can be difficult, particularly if the business controls costs or can’t hire an additional resource. In such cases, encourage the following measures:
· Short breaks
Support staff in taking short breaks throughout the day to help relieve stress. Just a quick 5 minutes to walk around the office can help clear your thoughts and give your body and mind a break. Quick 10-minute meet-ups allow team members to break away from work.
· Help Employees Keep Realistic Expectations
Don’t expect staff to complete all their task in a day. Set goals for teams and managers so that they remain realistic. Have people prioritize tasks so that feelings of stress and anxiety are controlled and people remain productive.
Burnout is becoming a common problem among employees here. A cultural lack of awareness and support for mental health makes things worse for people suffering from stress.
There are multiple reasons for employee burnout, but the main ones are long hours, lack of control over their job, poor communication between management and staff, and being undervalued by their employer.
Sadia Zaheer holds a Masters in Business Administration from IBA, Karachi. After working in several financial institutions in Client Management, Corporate Lending, Islamic Banking and Product Management she jumped careers to pursue a career in writing.
She is a Finance, Business and HR Development writer with four years of experience. She reads a lot and takes care of her multiple cats to remain calm.