How to handle employee burnout in the workplace
Engagement 5 minute read

How to handle employee burnout in the workplace

Rise | May 30, 2019

According to the latest version of the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, the World Health Organization now recognizes burnout, a syndrome resulting from employment-related stressors, as an occupational phenomenon.

Burnout is characterized by three dimensions of symptoms, including:

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion,
  2. Increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job, and
  3. Reduced professional efficacy.

This definition of burnout is the result of deep, long-term stress that hasn’t been dealt with by the impacted employee, thus affecting their ability to work. With unaddressed mental and emotional exhaustion in the workplace being identified as a health epidemic, there are no more excuses for companies to ignore the issue of employee burnout. In fact, Gallup found that 1 out of 4 employees claim to be feeling burned out “always” or “often."

As an employer, here’s how you can address employee burnout and help your people successfully manage work stress so that the feeling of being 'burned out' is prevented in the future.

Developing your people’s professional development

Negativity and cynicism can arise when your people feel stunted by the lack of growth opportunities available to them. Invest in your people’s professional growth by providing team members with the chance to gain new experiences and skills on the job, as well as supporting their professional development through sponsoring them in training, education, and networking opportunities. Not only will these efforts increase their feelings of job satisfaction and security, it also adds to their opinion of how much their employer values their employees.

Making better use of employee time by working smarter

When there are already limited hours in the day to complete one’s tasks and responsibilities, a never-ending schedule of meetings competing with heavy workloads can result in incessant stress and frustration. In an effort to remedy this, managers should pay attention to any factors that serve as blockers to work productivity. For example, evaluating the effectiveness and necessity of team meetings and aiming to reduce the amount of in-person meetings held throughout the week allows team members to focus on completing their projects without distractions.

Enabling better work-life balance

In our tech-driven workplaces, employees feel the pressure to always be on, even when they should be off. While it may seem like one is getting more done, soon enough, work-life begins to take over all other life priorities, leading to an overwhelming feeling of working non-stop.

Related reading: Balancing Act: How to Unplug from Work When You’re at Home

To combat this, people managers should enforce policies for team members to leave their job responsibilities to within business hours, discouraging overtime when it’s not necessary. Have employees stay offline from work outside of office hours and leave work at work.

Encouraging your people to take a break

Overworked employees are likely to not take breaks, causing them to skip their lunches and neglect to use their allotted vacation days, and leading to a high risk of burnout. Your people should be using their vacation days, personal days, and time-off throughout the year in order for them to unplug, recharge, and come back to work rejuvenated. HR departments should ensure that their people are aware of their company’s vacation policy and informed of the benefits of taking time off.

Fostering the development of workplace connections

Being part of a supportive work environment and surrounded by a solid support network within one’s team makes a difference in an employee’s outlook towards work. As HR consultant Melanie Peacock says, “employees who know and like one another are more energized and motivated, and therefore less likely to burn out and depart the organization” adding that “organizations that are courageous enough to foster friendships in turn develop an environment that people want to join, remain in and promote to others."

Building interpersonal work relationships with colleagues that are trusting and meaningful will help your people feel connected and engaged with their work. As such, your people and culture team should prioritize social wellbeing in the workplace by providing opportunities for team members to connect through engaging social activities.

Caring for your people by caring for their health

Your people’s health should be both their main priority as well as your organization’s top concern. As a company, this can be clearly demonstrated through the health and wellness benefits offered to employees. Some examples of effective ways to encourage healthy lifestyles include subsidies for participating in physical health activities, health spending accounts, and programs and events hosted by the organization to teach and encourage better fitness and nutrition habits.

In our fast-paced work culture, dedication is considered a trait to strive for. When left unchecked, the pressure to perform well at work can lead employees to going above and beyond their capacity. Rather than providing better results, overworking can lead to decreased productivity and interest from your people.

The WHO classification should empower organizations to not only acknowledge burn-out, but also to take action on preventing employee burnout by making mental well-being a priority of the organization. In doing so, you will restore your people to optimal productivity and improve their overall motivation and satisfaction towards your company.

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