We all know what burnout looks like – or at least the meltdown at the end of a burnout streak. It exists in virtually every career and industry from support personnel to sales, management, industrial workers, line men and beyond. Burnout is the primary cause for turnover in many industries.
While the level of American worker engagement is open to debate (a SHRM study found employees to be generally satisfied with their job and at least “moderately engaged”) what is not debatable is that turnover is increasing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the rate at which workers are quitting their job is the highest in six years and could reach 25 percent this year.
Despite burnout being common, we all struggle with why it happens, and how to prevent it.
Burnout is not just the result of working too many hours in a busy environment. Burnout is a multidimensional response that can be a complex mashup of causes. If it hits a single employee it could dramatically impact your workflow.
What’s worse, burnout spreads like wildfire and impacts the performance of the entire team and work environment. Every process and employee that intersects with the individual succumbing to burnout is affected. These effects include:
- Work withdrawal including absenteeism and turnover – sometimes with the intent of leaving the job
- Greatly reduced productivity
- Ineffectiveness due to reduced job satisfaction
- Increased personal conflicts with coworkers
- Disruption in the tasks of coworkers
What Causes Burnout
Burnout begins to worsen as you have a multitude of factors merging within an individual including Exhaustion (depletion of emotional resources leading to an inability to cope), Cynicism (a growing distant attitude about the work), Inefficacy (a cynical attitude where personal accomplishment is lacking and the employee has given up trying)
There are some common causes of burnout within the workplace including:
Overwhelming work demands
Overloading employees is one of the most common causes of burnout; when they have a massive rolling to-do list resulting from business growth and not enough people to tackle the work or poorly designed/obsolete workflow.
When your employees don’t clearly understand how to do their job well, they’ll struggle to find their place in the role resulting in a constant stress.
Poor workflow design
Workflows should evolve and be improved as the business grows. Aging/obsolete workflows and resources can be time consuming and overwhelming for your team.
Lack of resources
A lack of training or inadequate resources to get the job done. Asking employees to cut fulfillment time in half without giving them improved tools is a tough order to fill.
Overload them with work or put tasks on inappropriate people and your employees will begin to feel useless and unhappy.
Frustration sets in quickly within the workplace when hyper-friendly but under-qualified coworkers are promoted or paid at a higher level.
Lack of appropriate rewards
Salary and lack of social rewards or intrinsic rewards are one of the most common causes of employee burnout. Just about everyone has a story about a hard-working, underappreciated employee who finally quit because they weren’t being fairly compensated for everything they were doing. And it’s not always about money; some employees treat appreciation of work and pride as motivational compensation.
How to Prevent Burnout in Your Team
The last thing a manager or company owner wants is to lose their best talent or have a good employee go sour and bring the carefully planned workflows to a grinding halt. Unfortunately, most don’t realize that an employee is at the burnout point until it’s too late.
Here are 12 ways you can be proactive in preventing burnout within your company
- Be realistic when doling out work – Delegate to your employees in a way that keeps them challenged, without overwhelming them.
- Assign the right people – When you have a goal or milestone make sure the right person is assigned to it based on their skills and their passion
- Grant your employees one big “gotta have it” – Whether it’s need to leave an hour early on a certain day, a different lunch hour, a special piece of equipment to do their job, etc. let them have it. Treat it like an investment in the employee, which is always an investment in your business.
- Find ways to improve your workflow – If you’re working with outdated systems and a variety of software platforms then it’s time to update. Improving your workflows with ERP is a great way to reduce the workload on your employees and streamline project communication and departmental coordination.
- Equip your team – Get them the software, supplies and any resources they need to do their job properly. You never want to skimp on the tools they need to make your business run.
- Provide support from all angles – “Being supportive” should be a company mantra. Lead by example and model that behavior, then reward any of your team members who exemplify that supportive culture.
- Encourage your employees to socialize – Both during and after work. Bonding is an important part of successful team building. Allowing them a few minutes here and there in passing will provide more productivity boosts then wagging fingers and telling everyone to get back to work.
- Treat your team and stock up – Either surprise your employees with random rewards or make your workplace feel a lot more like home by providing free drinks and/or snacks.
- Get engaged directly – Never undervalue the effectiveness of one on one time with your team. Even if they’ve been with you for years, an employee still appreciates it when you take the time to talk to them on a personal level. Follow up, talk about non-business related topics, and be human together.
- Address tension quickly – If you pick up on cattiness and attitude in the workplace, handle it quickly. Redirect the employee to be supportive
- Empower your team – Give each employee the power to make decisions within their work domain and trust them to do their jobs. Your employees will feel more valued and appreciated this way.
- Create a fun environment – The increase in morale and happiness is almost palpable when you allow your employees the freedom to break away from work and start something like a nerf war or a small group game session. A random 30 minute to 1 hour break from work will have far less impact on workflow than a 6 months stint of disgruntled employees letting their work slip away from them.
No one is immune to burnout but you can take steps to minimize the occurrence by structuring your workplace in a way that your employees feel happy, motivated, and have the tools to do what they do best. A community building game night, great coffee, and better tools might be all you need to keep your employees happy.