Employee Burnout in the Workplace
Workplace burnout refers to the exhaustion of an employee’s mental or physical strength as a result of their work situation. It can be a result of long hours, responsibilities, or general workload. Following the definition established by the World Health Organisation, burnout distinguishes itself from other forms of employee stress by the resulting increase in mental distance from one’s job and the resulting lack of professional efficacy.
What this means is that this stress isn’t just stress, it’s a company cost. Employees struggling with burnout are 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job and 63% more likely to take a sick day. When you’re dealing with employee burnout you’re looking at turnover costs, healthcare costs, and a huge decrease in workplace productivity.
There’s one major issue — employee burnout can be hard to detect. People have a nasty habit of saying they’re fine when they’re really not. So, what should we do? If it’s expensive to fix and hard to detect what options do we have left?
The best way to minimise employee burnout, as with most things in life, is to step in before a problem develops. This includes both avoiding the major reasons that burnout occurs and implementing extra measures to boost employee satisfaction.
The major reasons for burnout
In 2018 Gallup ran a survey of 7,500 people and found five key factors mostly highly correlated with employee burnout:
- Unfair treatment at work
- Unmanageable workload
- Lack of role clarity
- Lack of communication and support from their manager
- Unreasonable time pressure
You can try taking a hard look at this list and wonder if your company has a problem with any of the five, but it’s not that easy to get a sense of these things. Workplace issues can slip through the cracks — even when you think you know a company inside and out. The best way to eliminate problems causing burnout in your workplace is to implement measures to actively avoid them. You can also check in with your employees through an employee survey. An employee survey would give workers the opportunity to provide feedback for the company on these five areas. Consider setting up a survey with employee burnout as the survey objective (more about that here).
Workplace changes to minimise burnout
1. Provide autonomy
There is increasing amounts of evidence that autonomy in the workplace has a positive effect on employee’s well-being and job satisfaction.
You can provide your workers autonomy by giving them flexibility when it comes to the location and timing that they do their work in. Consider allowing them to join in on the growing number of people who are working from home. Or, giving them flexibility when it comes to what order they’ll do their tasks in.
2. Minimise stress in the workplace
Stress is a primary contributor to burnout and is likely to be the one of the first things employees start feeling before they begin to disengage. Reducing stress is going to keep your employees on task, calm, and stop them from feeling overwhelmed.
A great place to start is the office space: an updated colour scheme, some additional plants, and a revamped break room are all elements that can help keep your employees relaxed. If you’re looking for inspiration, we covered some of our top ideas (taken straight from the Google Offices) here.
3. Acknowledge employee’s work
Employee recognition has shown to have a positive effect on job satisfaction, so it’s no surprise that it’s also a key tool for eliminating burnout.
There are several ways to acknowledge an employee’s work: you can take them out to lunch, shoot them a quick “thank you!” or let them know in person that you really love what they’ve been doing lately. If you are able to build up a work culture where recognising another’s work is encouraged, you’ll create an environment of peer-to-peer recognition. This can be extremely beneficial as employee recognition in the workplace will not only be high, but high in a self-sustaining way that does not require the need for recognition programs or prizes.
Office awards are also an option for recognising employees. Though, this has the potential downside of increasing competition in the workplace which could emphasise current lingering stress.
4. Encourage time off
One big Christmas holiday isn’t going to magically solve a years’ worth of burnout but encouraging smaller holidays just might. Consider giving employees an extra one or two days off a month so they can take a little bit of time off and recharge.
Encouraging time off also lets your employees know that you care. This can make them feel supported on a day-to-day basis.
5. Support physical exercise
Encouraging physical exercise throughout the workday will not only help your employees to relax and take their minds of work but has also been shown to have a direct correlation with reducing job burnout.
There are a couple different ways that exercise can be encouraged at work:
-Installing an on-site gym or including a gym membership as part of salary packages
-Organising team walks during lunch breaks
-Trading in regular meetings for walking meetings
-Encouraging workers to get out of the office at lunch
-Starting a walking challenge
-Encouraging team sports
The big picture
The changes recommended here all come back to one thing: the employees. As with any other issues regarding retention rates, employee satisfaction, and positive workplace culture — the solution lies with a great employee experience.
So keep your ear to the ground — know what makes your workplace great, know what doesn’t, and understand how your employees are finding things around the office. The best solution for burnout is going to be to stay in touch with your employees and listen to their needs and wants.
At CiVS we offer surveys for just this reason, to connect employees to management. Our surveys can capture opinions and perspectives across thousands of workers and provide deep insights. The confidentiality of our surveys provides employees with an opportunity to speak freely, without worries about how their answers will be seen by management. This produces meaningful insights, and the best true reflection of the company’s standing.