The term “burnout” has become a bit of a buzzword over the past few years, but don’t let its ubiquitous usage prevent you from giving it the attention it deserves.
Employee burnout is a real issue with real consequences for organizations that don’t take it seriously.
While we spend a lot of time on this blog talking about how to recruit and hire the best employees, the reality is that none of it matters if you can’t hang onto them once they’re on the payroll.
High turnover and instability within your organization is extremely costly (in more ways than one).
Learning how to guard your employees and keep them engaged and satisfied will serve you well.
In this article, we take a deep dive into the topic of employee burnout, what it is, why it matters, and how to implement proactive and corrective measures to ensure this disease doesn’t eat away at your organization from the inside out.
Mayo Clinic describes job burnout as “a special type of work-related stress — a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”
While it’s not technically a medical diagnosis at this point, many experts within the healthcare community believe it’s just a matter of time before it gets recognized as such. If nothing else, there’s a strong underlying belief that burnout is attached to other issues like depression. Personality traits, family life, and social factors also impact the types of people who are most likely to suffer burnout.
Symptoms of employee burnout may include any or all of the following:
Not only do people experience burnout differently, but it can be caused by unique factors. Here are some of the main triggers for employees:
You can think of burnout like a bathtub full of water. Each of the factors mentioned above (and there are dozens of additional ones, by the way) is like a large stone. Each time a large stone is placed in the tub, the water rises. At first, it’s no big deal. But after you add three, four, or five large stones to the tub, the water eventually starts to spill out onto the bathroom floor and make a mess. And if it happens over a long period of time, this water causes damage to everything around it and renders the bathroom inoperable.
Employees might be able to withstand a couple of these factors, but as more factors emerge, the risk for burnout increases. Eventually, it all spills over.
The cost of burnout is real for organizations. Here’s a look at some of the ways it could be slowly eroding your business:
It’s easy to look at employee burnout as a “them” problem. But it’s very much an “us” issue. Burnout impacts every part of your organization. When you add up the costs, it gets very expensive.
As an employer, you have to do more than simply understand what burnout is and how it’s caused. You also need to proactively look ahead and squash any contributing factors that are holding you back. Here are several suggestions:
It’s easy for people to grow bored of their routines and environments. If you’re forcing an employee to spend 40 to 50 hours per week in a cubicle or small office, don’t be surprised when they grow disillusioned. Anything you can do to help them mix up how they work is going to have a positive impact on their engagement.
If you feel comfortable doing so, and the job allows for it, a remote work setup is a great antidote to burnout. However, this isn’t always realistic. Another option is to offer a hybrid work setup. In other words, employees spend part of the time in the office and part of the time at home. Some companies require employees to be in the office Tuesdays through Thursdays, while freeing up Fridays and Mondays for remote work. This creates a cadence of three days in the office followed by four days out of the office (when you include weekends). This sort of differentiation makes burnout less likely.
It’s not enough to give your employees an allotment of vacation and personal days. You actually need to encourage them to use these days (otherwise, they may hoard them or feel like they don’t have the freedom to actually take time off).
Studies show that 52 percent of American workers fail to use all of their vacation time during the course of a year. This is usually tied to the pressure of work and a fear that they’ll be seen as replaceable if they step away. You don’t want this happening in your company.
One way to encourage time off is by requiring employees to use their vacation time and to not let it accrue from one calendar year to another. You might even require employees to use a minimum of one day off per month. You’ll have to determine what’s best for your organization, but be intentional with this.
Employees need to feel like they have opportunities that are bigger and better than what they’re doing now. Even if an employee loves their current position and is satisfied with their compensation, it won’t always be like this. As people, we’re naturally discontent with what we have. Over time, we can feel boxed in if there doesn’t appear to be a “next step.” This is why so many people who win the lottery or suddenly have a massive influx of cash feel depressed, anxious, or apathetic. They’ve spent their entire lives thinking they wanted money, when in reality it was the pursuit of money that gave them meaning. The same can be said of our careers.
By prioritizing internal hiring, you make upward mobility a realistic option for your employees. Not all of them will pursue bigger and better positions in the company, but the simple knowledge that they could is enough to give people an underlying sense of hope.
It’s imperative that you have open lines of communication with your employees. This means your employees should have opportunities to communicate with you, while you have avenues to do the same with them.
The best way to keep your finger on the pulse of how your employees are feeling is by having regular one-on-one check-ins. Ask them how they’re doing, where they feel exhausted, which tasks are filling them up, and which tasks are depleting their energy. You’ll learn a lot about your team and how you can evolve your organization to play to their strengths and desires.
Part of proactively preventing burnout is mastering the recruiting and hiring processes so that employees are set up for success from the moment they sign the job contract. At Recruiters.co, we not only deliver top talent to your team, but we also carefully manage the recruitment process so that you’re set up for success from the start. Want to learn more about how we can help you? Simply contact us today!