Even the best and most hardworking employees need a successful work-life balance. It’s easy to just put in a little more effort when it’s crunch time, but what happens when it’s crunch time all the time? Employees may not even notice, but when you’ve been working too hard for too long, both quality and quantity of work start to suffer. In today’s busy world it’s more important than ever to monitor your employees and help keep them from job burnout.
What Is Burnout?
Job burnout is a relatively new term, but it’s becoming more and more widespread, and more companies are having to pay attention to this phenomenon. A recent Gallup poll revealed job burnout statistics that said 23% of employees report feeling burned out very often or always.
Job burnout happens when an employee reaches a physical and emotional low point with regards to their job; they feel like they have nothing left to give, but that they have a lot of work on their plate. They’ll feel overwhelmed, exhausted and unappreciated. It manifests differently in different employees, but the World Health Organization (WHO) recently updated the common symptoms of job burnout:
- Feelings of exhaustion, lack of energy
- Increased detachment from work and/or negative thoughts about one’s job
- Reduced output in the workplace
What Causes Burnout?
A number of things can contribute to an employee reaching this state; it’s usually a combination of workload, workplace situation and company culture that work together to slowly degrade an employee’s will. The following things are commonly cited as causes of burnout:
- Lack of Control: Employees who don’t feel like they have control over their work are easily frustrated. This can happen when they don’t have the necessary resources to do their job, when assignments have roadblocks they’re unable to address or when workload increases beyond the usual. The inability to influence decisions that are required to do your job produces a feeling of resentment and helplessness.
- No Work-Life Balance: The kinds of people who deeply identify with their jobs, and correlate successful work with personal pride, are more likely to suffer burnout. So are those who just can’t stop working — taking work home, answering emails on weekends — and those who may not have a social network for support.
Other Contributing Factors
There are other factors that contribute to burnout that deal more directly with the work environment. These can be impacted by management styles and corporate policies.
- Dysfunctional or Toxic Work Environment: When the dynamics of the workplace are negative, it affects not just morale, but output as well. Any kind of toxic behavior, from a workplace bully to a coworker out to make themselves look better, will easily discourage employees from contributing.
- Constant Crisis: Employees cannot operate in a constant state of emergency. Everyone’s willing to give a little bit extra when it’s needed, but when it feels like all a workplace does is move from one crisis point to another, employees lose focus and suffer extreme stress.
- Unclear Job Expectations: When an employee isn’t sure what they’re supposed to be working on, or what their manager is expecting them to do, they feel uncomfortable and slowly lose confidence in their own work.
Manifestations of Burnout
These types of situations easily lead employees to job burnout. This can manifest in the workplace in different ways. Some employees lose their motivation and, as the quality of their work starts to decrease, mentally detach themselves from the workplace.
Other employees may get angry or nasty, starting the day off in a bad mood and getting worse as it goes on. Sometimes job burnout can lead to depression, anxiety and even insomnia; employees may begin to be late for work or abuse flex time options. Excessive stress is known to have a negative effect on the immune system, so employees may be more frequently sick as well.
Protecting Yourself From Burnout
Protecting yourself from burnout requires self-awareness. Take time to evaluate your current mental state. Normal feelings of frustration or discomfort happen from time to time in one’s career, but if any of these thoughts are overwhelming or veering toward negative behavior, it may be time to take a time-out. Do you feel able to handle your workload?
If you feel overloaded, under-appreciated or like you don’t know what you’re doing, take a step back and consider the situation. Do you feel like you have the agency to solve problems, or are you helpless to make changes? It’s good to take some time during a workday and consider these questions from time to time. They may alert you of a dangerous situation before you reach true job burnout.
Protecting yourself also requires action. In order to fully stave off burnout, the situation has to change in a positive manner. Discuss the situation with management, explaining the factors that affect you the most, and work with your manager and HR to reevaluate your current workload, priorities and/or coworkers. It’s also important to start taking actions outside of the workplace; leading a healthy lifestyle, getting enough sleep and finding valuable hobbies to pursue all help restore that crucial work-life balance.
Protecting Your Employees from Burnout
Companies that work towards burnout recovery before it even starts end up with high morale, efficient employees and a positive work environment. To help protect the workplace from burnout, managers should be aware of what causes it and should follow best practices in avoiding it.
- Monitor your department’s workloads. Make sure responsibilities are evenly divided, and that no one seems overworked or overloaded.
- Don’t make commitments that will require your department to work excessive overtime or additional hours to keep up; work with other managers to set fair deadlines. Avoid the stress of constant time crunch.
- Encourage employees to use vacation time, create a culture where sick employees feel comfortable taking sick time to stay at home and set boundaries for when it’s okay to contact an employee who isn’t in the office. It’s easy for employees to feel like they’re always on call, but is it necessary?
- Give consistent feedback; let employees know their work is appreciated, and help clarify expectations. Keep your employees engaged in their jobs, and let them know when they’ve done something extremely well.
- Take actions when necessary to solve workplace issues like noise levels, seating arrangements or unnecessary layers of administration.
- Above all, institute and execute an open-door policy. If employees know they can come to management with issues and receive real help eliminating their roadblocks, they’re much less likely to become frustrated or jaded with their work.
Helping an Employee With Job Burnout
Sometimes burnout happens before you’ve had a chance to realize it. If you think one of your employees is suffering from job burnout, it’s best to approach them one-on-one in a casual setting and ask whether there’s anything going on in the workplace that you can help to improve. Sometimes an employee’s private and personal life can be the cause, so don’t make assumptions, and be sure not to pry. Focus on the workplace side only, and try to understand what the problem is.
Job burnout can have a serious effect on your workplace as well as your employees. It’s important for leadership to be aware of how to recognize burnout, and how to prevent it. Burnout can lead to health problems, poor performance and can cause an employee to leave their job, so it’s best for everyone to put policies in place that will help combat burnout before it happens.
Danielle Smyth is a writer and content marketer from upstate New York. She has been writing on business-related topics for nearly 10 years. She owns her own content marketing agency, Wordsmyth Creative Content Marketing (www.wordsmythcontent.com) and she works with a number of small businesses to develop B2B content for their websites, social media accounts, and marketing materials. In addition to this content, she has written business-related articles for sites like Sweet Frivolity, Alliance Worldwide Investigative Group, Bloom Co and Spent.