May 12, 2024

How to Prevent Employee Burnout

The increased awareness of employee burnout and concerns raised by the WHO have put office culture to the test. Here, we explore the stressors of modern work life and how hybrid work and other beneficial arrangements can improve the lives of employees.

Burnout on the rise

Stress-related diseases leading to absence from work have been around for quite some time, but only recently has awareness of the issue increased. Today’s employees no longer work in mines with harsh conditions. Instead, our mental health can be affected by the daily grind at the office—not from getting hit by a rock.

In 2019, burnout was declared an occupational phenomenon by the World Health Organization. It is defined by them as: "a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed."

Burnout is caused by chronic workplace stress, characterized by the following:

  • Feeling exhausted and indifferent
  • Increased negative attitude to work and a feeling of hopelessness
  • Reduced employee productivity and motivation at work

An employee who suffers from burnout is only focused on surviving, not thriving. Most energy goes into getting through the day, not making an impact.

Your company is at risk

It is safe to say that it is not only a tragedy for the individual employees, but the entire organization also suffers. Negativity and lack of productivity in the workplace will lead to decreased profit.

According to Gallup, burnout-related expenses account for $322 billion globally due to decreased productivity linked to employee burnout. When people quit unexpectedly, it puts a lot of pressure on those who remain, resulting in a negative downward spiral.

The company’s reputation can be seriously harmed. When people are unsatisfied with the work environment and start looking for new jobs, the word tends to get around.

Common causes of workplace burnout

Workplace burnout is a complex issue where different factors can impact an employee's mental health. People are worse off psychologically, physically, and spiritually, with one aspect impacting the others.

The human body is complex, and the mind is affected by the body, and vice versa. Research has shown that being exposed to prolonged, heightened levels of cortisol, the body’s own stress hormone, can cause fatigue and diseases.

Our lives consist of two spheres: private and work life. Usually, when one of them is stressful, you can find solace in the other. However, when both are stressful and chaotic, burnout is on the horizon.

Alternatively, a highly stressful office environment or dysfunctional relationships at work can also have a negative impact.

Private matters

There can be many external stressors in an employee's life such as insomnia, OCD, neurodiversity, and depression. Sometimes, another family member may be ill or dysfunctional, which causes codependency. The death of a loved relative or a separation is one of the most traumatic life events we can experience.

Naturally, your private life can greatly affect your productivity and well-being at work.

A toxic workplace can lead to burnout for several reasons. One example is unfair treatment at work, which includes everything from favoritism to mistreatment by coworkers. A value-driven coworker can develop negative feelings towards the company if they feel it is immoral or unethical.

When managers and senior team members fail to earn trust from other employees, work feels less meaningful and productivity decreases. People are more likely to excel if they feel respected and appreciated.

We all deal with stress at work, and hectic days are not the sole cause of burnout. However, if the workload never ends and the pace keeps increasing, people will feel stressed and depressed.

When people have to deal with tight deadlines, it can send ripples through the organization, causing others to fall behind as well. Besides causing unnecessary job stress, people will make sloppy mistakes that end up being costly rather than profitable.

Even high achievers can feel that they have a lot on their plate, from unrealistic performance goals to too many clients and appointments. Endless meetings and postponed projects can rub people the wrong way since they feel restricted and trapped.

The number of hours people spend at work every day also affects their well-being, since more hours at the office means less time for family, relaxation, and hobbies. Notably, working too many hours is not the top reason why people experience burnout. Feeling unmotivated by repetitive, difficult, and pointless tasks are the main sources of stress.

When leadership fails

The manager's job is to assign a reasonable workload and ensure everyone has the right tools and information at hand.

Unclear expectations, informal leaders, and vague follow-ups all contribute to a stressful work environment, which can lead to burnout. A project management system can be handy as it allows tracking of progress and the number of tasks assigned to each employee.

The best managers set aside time in their calendar to discuss responsibilities, priorities, and expectations with their employees and are not afraid to lead by example. When something goes wrong, they are there to lend a helping hand, instead of throwing an employee under the bus.

Signs and symptoms of workplace burnout

As a team leader, you can learn a lot from 1:1 meetings where not only performance but also the employee's overall health is discussed. Take the opportunity to find out if there is anything that could be affecting their performance, especially if there has been a recent decline in productivity.

Other obvious signs of burnout include a high level of absences and high employee turnover. Sometimes, exit interviews can provide clues about why people decided to leave the company. It can be quite tough to admit that you are not comfortable with the work culture, but sometimes it is possible to read between the lines.

After a while, you are able to connect the dots to see if there has been an increase in workplace burnout.

How to prevent employee burnout in the workplace

People who want to combat burnout do not succeed overnight. We have pointed out the role of managers, but in all fairness, it is a joint effort. Everyone needs to get on board, and systems and processes that support the shift must be in place.

Everything starts with the company culture

The entire company needs to incorporate wellness into the organization, and it starts with an overall policy, signed by the HR department. The culture is highly impacted by the employees. Norms are shaped over time, and it is possible to foster an environment where work-life balance is encouraged and people can work from home.

Being a leader is tough; you need both the right education and soft skills to deal with different personality types at work. Employee performance is affected by their attitude, and many people quit their jobs because of a bad boss.

The company will benefit from providing managers with leadership training, especially when organizational changes or technological implementations are made.

In these kinds of meetings, you can take the opportunity to brainstorm the causes of job burnout and different signs to look out for. Are there any issues you need to address right now, and could the management style of a certain manager be affecting employees negatively?

When interviewing new managers, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of high interpersonal skills, great project planning abilities, and a mindful communication style.

Stress reducing tools and initiatives

Cultural norms play an important part, but the physical environment is just as important. Employees need a safe haven during the day where they can relax with a cup of coffee for just ten minutes or retreat to calmer spaces with green plants and comfortable furniture.

In the lunchroom, people can meet and cultivate relationships, which also bring a sense of meaning to the workplace. The same goes for after-work events, free lunch training organized by the company, and team-building exercises.

Recently, walking meetings have gained popularity, which basically means participating in meetings while moving around. It could be in the nearby park just around the block. It’s like killing two birds with one stone: you get to move around, get some fresh air, and also increase meeting efficiency. If the meeting wasn’t successful, at least you have burned some of those calories from the heavy lunch.

Hybrid work: promoting flexible work schedules

It is almost impossible to talk about burnout without mentioning work-life balance, or the lack thereof.

Flexible working options are one of the best ways to boost engagement and satisfaction at work, as people feel a great sense of autonomy and freedom. These options suit everyone from early birds to night owls, allowing people to base their schedule on their everyday life, rather than the other way around.

It is no wonder that hybrid work has increased in popularity, meaning that people can work both from home and in the office. They can set aside time for complicated tasks when they are home in solitude and meet up with colleagues to brainstorm on an exciting topic.

It also gives them the opportunity to incorporate more movement into their workday. They can take a long lunch break to go for a run or a power walk and compensate later during the day. Another option is to leave early and go to soccer training or kite surfing.

As advocates for a hybrid work-life, we are happy to spread the word about our practical desk management system, which creates a seamless transition between remote and in-office work.

Pro tip: Inspire and encourage employees

Managerial support through well-directed feedback is usually highly appreciated, offering an opportunity to give praise, not just to address flaws and failures. Managers should set aside time for regular check-ins where employees can discuss both setbacks and wins.

When a team member reaches company goals, it is a good idea to give praise in front of the whole team, whereas critique is best given face-to-face in private. There is truly a fine line between elevating a coworker and playing favorites. A combination of praising team efforts publicly and giving feedback in a 1:1 meeting should do the trick.

Professional development is key

One idea is to create a career development plan to inspire employees to grow and explore new grounds. A lot of effort is put into onboarding new employees, but how does the company follow up later to make sure they are happy and motivated?

New areas of responsibility, training, or inspiring conferences could be ways to increase personal development. It is far less expensive to invest in a productive employee than to hire and train new ones.

Prevent employee burnout with hybrid work

Employee burnout is not always evident, but it is clear that it can negatively impact companies. For the individual, it can bring a successful career to a halt and reduce their self-worth.

Companies have everything to gain from addressing work stressors. Hybrid work gives people a sense of autonomy and flexibility, and improves their work-life balance—factors that are said to increase well-being at work and prevent burnout.

Want guidance on how to set up your hybrid office for success?

Feel free to schedule a meeting with one of our product experts to learn more about our solutions and how technology can help you streamline your office processes without interfering with employees' day-to-day work.

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