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How to Prevent Job Burnout

by Tim AustinNovember 19, 2018 2:58 PM

Going to work shouldn’t feel like, well, going to work.

Sadly, that’s how most workers feel. A Gallup study found that two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job. Yet, only 23 percent of companies offer burnout prevention programs, according to a 2017 Statista survey. It’s a huge issue for many companies and a major reason why talented workers leave for better opportunities.

However, employee burnout doesn’t have to be part of the job. Learning how to spot job burnout and understanding its effects can help employers not only reduce burnout and job stress, but also increase productivity and revenue. We put together some tips to learn more about what job burnout is, how job burnout is affecting your company and ways you can prevent (and even reverse) job burnout at your organization.

An employee shows signs of job burnout when they are unmotivated, overworked, cynical and frustrated.

What is job burnout?

Job burnout is a type of job stress defined by Mayo Clinic as “a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work.” Job burnout symptoms can include lack of motivation, cynicism, frustration, impatience, irritability and even physical pain like headaches and backaches.

From demanding deadlines to bad bosses, there are many factors that can be attributed to the causes of job burnout. Lack of control, unclear job expectations, dysfunctional workplace dynamics, unreasonable time pressure and work-life imbalance can all cause an employee to experience burnout from work.

Effects of job burnout

An overworked, over-stressed and unhappy employee can take a serious toll on any company. Burnout affects every facet of an organization, with decreases seen in production, morale, retention and revenue.

Quantity and quality of work both suffer when an employee is burned out. Data from The O.C. Tanner Institute’s Health and Wellbeing Study revealed that employees with poor wellbeing, on average, self-reported that they are only working at 64 percent of their maximum output. That’s because employee productivity decreases with a lack of motivation, causing slower work and lower productivity.

The previously mentioned Gallup survey also found that employees who suffer from burnout are 63 percent more likely to take sick days, as burnout can lead to increased instances of illness. You’ll also start to see increased errors in work, which could be attributed to factors including apathy, lack of communication and/or time constraints.

You’ve likely heard the saying, “it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch,” and the same can be said for a burned-out employee. Employee burnout is highly contagious, as team morale decreases, and workplaces are more susceptible to conflict, ultimately resulting in a toxic work environment.

Retention rates will suffer with good workers leaving bad situations due to burnout. A study conducted by Kronos and Future Workplace found that burnout is the biggest threat to employee retention, according to 95 percent of human resources leaders.

Overall, job burnout can cost your organization serious losses in revenue. The American Institute of Stress estimates that job stress can cost U.S. businesses as much as $300 billion annually.

Job burnout solutions

You don’t have to—and shouldn’t—accept burnout as part of the job. While job burnout doesn’t just happen overnight, it can creep up slowly if you’re not paying attention to the warning signs. Job burnout can be prevented (and even reversed) by changing how you manage and lead your employees. Follow these five steps to prevent job burnout at your organization.

Define goals and expectations

Regular check-ins with employees can increase productivity, lower stress levels and encourage open communication throughout the company. Perhaps that’s why 65 percent of employees wished they received more feedback from their employer, according to a study by employee engagement firm Office Vibe.

When was the last time you had a check-in with an employee that involved more than just giving project updates? Frequent check-ins and employee reviews can help make sure goals and expectations are clearly defined by providing direction, eliminating guesswork and creating better employee/manager relationships. These check-ins can also help you spot a burned-out employee.

Should you notice signs of burnout in one of your employees, address the situation head-on by scheduling a one-on-one meeting to determine ways you can work together to reverse the symptoms before they escalate.

Delegate tasks evenly

When you’re understaffed, it’s easy to see how employees can become overworked or overwhelmed. Just make sure it’s not one person carrying the entire team. A study by the Families and Work Institute found that almost one in three employees feel overworked or overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to do.

Overloading employees can cause stress and increase the chance of burnout if the weight of responsibilities becomes too much.

If your employees are downing in a sea of work, it’s up to management to provide the life rafts—not add stress by upping the workload. To prevent work overload, distribute job responsibilities fairly, monitor scheduling, set reasonable deadlines and arm your employees with the tools and resources needed for them to be successful. Even more than that, create a culture where the word “no” is respected.

Foster creativity

On the flipside of being overworked, burnout can also occur when employees are bored or under-stimulated. A Gallup study found that about two-thirds employees are disengaged on the job, which means they are not performing to their full potential.

Creativity helps maintain mental fitness by keeping the mind sharp and increasing engagement and motivation. Holding brainstorming meetings or inviting employees to participate in decision-making processes can be great ways to keep employees engaged.

Additionally, sending employees to training courses or conferences can rejuvenate employees, boost productivity and help not just them, but also your company reach its full potential.

Encourage breaks and vacation time

Vacations are good for more than fancy drinks with tiny umbrellas in them. A 2015 study by the American Psychological Association found that vacations make for great stress relievers, which can help prevent burnout.

But don’t think that just because your organization has a vacation policy that workers will actually take advantage of it. Many employees think they can’t take time off over fear of being replaced, they’re burdened by too heavy of a workload or there’s simply no one else who can cover their work while they’re gone. Perhaps that’s why 52 percent of employees left unused vacation time on the table in 2018, collectively throwing away 705 million vacation days, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s Project Time Off.

Not only do you want to encourage your employees to take time off, you need to make sure they stay off. Discourage the practice of working after hours or answering email while on vacation—and lead by example. Allowing flexible scheduling or remote work options can be another way workers can catch a break from the office bustle.

Show appreciation

Saying “please” and “thank you” is more than just polite manners. A study conducted by Clear Review, a performance review software system, found that the top workplace frustration is a lack of appreciation regarding performance and effort, with 40 percent of employees saying that employee recognition isn’t a priority at their company and thus limited their motivation to truly excel.

Give credit where credit is due by showing your employees their hard work is appreciated. Recognizing accomplishments and top performers can help increase employee engagement. It also provides management with an excellent opportunity to provide feedback and guidance for an employee’s growth and development.

A few ways you can show your appreciation could be as simple as a round of applause in a meeting or celebratory lunch, presenting an award, or rewarding an employee with a promotion and/or pay raise.

Ignoring the warning signs of employee burnout and promoting dysfunctional organizational standards can create a serious burnout epidemic for your organization. However, leaders can work to eliminate burnout by being proactive and taking measures listed above. Decreasing job stress and creating work-life balance will help drive your organization’s continued success by reducing burnout and raising engagement, productivity, retention and revenue.

Contact Group Management Services today to talk with one our experts about job burnout solutions for your organization.

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