Overwork or stress that leads to physical and mental exhaustion — aka work burnout — produces disengaged employees who are not only less motivated to be productive on the job but also more likely to quit. The prospect of replacing those workers in a tight hiring market such as this one is daunting for employers, especially if a company has earned a reputation as a tough place to work.
Burnout is on the rise, even though many companies are working hard to hire more employees to meet increasing business demands. In a Robert Half survey of more than 500 professionals in Canada, 38 per cent of respondents said they are more burned out now than they were a year ago.
You may not realize until it’s too late that your workers feel overwhelmed. That’s partly because they may not even drop a hint: According to our recent survey, nearly half of professionals (45 per cent) are uneasy about expressing their feelings of burnout with their manager.
What can you do to prevent or counter employee exhaustion and exasperation? Here are four quick tips to help keep work burnout at bay in your organization:
1. Encourage boundary-setting
One key finding from our survey is that 60 per cent of employees are devoting more than 40 hours per week to work — even though most professionals we surveyed said they have the ability to set their own hours.
The fact is, even though they’ve been living with pandemic-related work disruption for more than two years, many workers are still trying to settle into remote and hybrid work and the demands that even a more flexible work arrangement can place on their time.
Encourage your workers to re-establish boundaries between their work and personal lives, to the extent possible, as they settle into remote or hybrid work arrangements for the long term. Also, let them know it’s OK if they need to fine-tune their schedule to find the right balance. Emphasize that you want to hear from them if something isn’t working, so you can collaborate on a solution.
2. Reassess roles
If employees aren’t enjoying their work, it can make them feel frustrated and discouraged and set them on a faster path to burnout. So, make sure your employees are in positions that suit their strengths and interests — and provide them with clearly defined roles and expectations. That will help ensure that your workers don’t become frustrated labouring at tasks that don’t make the best use of their abilities.
Also, communicate with your team members regularly and keep everyone in the loop when priorities change. Making the extra effort to communicate information about changes is especially important if you have employees working remotely all or part of the time.
When possible, include your staff in the planning process for new projects and initiatives so that they will feel more invested in the success of those undertakings. By seeking out their expertise, perspectives and feedback, you’re also reinforcing their value to the organization.
3. Be realistic
Another way to set employees on the short track to burnout is by burdening them with overly ambitious or unclear assignments. Take a step back and ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I assigning manageable workloads to my employees?
- Do my employees have all the resources and information they need to handle their duties and assignments?
If you conclude — either on your own or after speaking with your employees — that the answer to both questions is “no,” you’ll want to rethink your current approach and adjust priorities so that your team members can realistically and consistently complete good work on time without burning the candle at both ends.
4. Recognize contributions
Feeling appreciated can make challenging workloads easier for employees to shoulder. Remembering to say “thank you” to your employees can go a long way toward preventing work burnout.
Offering appreciation can be as simple as a shout-out during a staff meeting or as significant as nominating your team for internal and external awards.
If your employees do something well, take notice. And if you implement ideas submitted by your employees, give them credit.
Short on ideas for how to recognize and reward employees, especially hybrid team members? Get 10 ideas in this post.
A final tip for countering work burnout: emphasize wellness
Keep in mind that millions of workers have been quitting their jobs in recent months as part of the so-called “Great Resignation.” For many of these professionals, feeling burned out by unmanageable workloads and an unfavorable work-life balance have been motivating factors for launching a new job search. The strategies outlined above can help prevent your employees from feeling burned out at work.
One final suggestion is to encourage your team members to take advantage of any perks and benefits your business provides that are designed to help support employee health and well-being. Build awareness around those programs, and make sure that all your staff members, whether they’re working remotely or on-site, have access to the same or similar offerings.