6 Ways to Help You Tackle Employee Burnout
Even a star employee can have a bad spell and there are always telling signs of employee burnout. Let me also add, given the current lockdown mode, it will be hard to not see these signs staring in your face.
Let me begin with an example, recently, I was sitting across the room and sharing feedback with Jane (name changed). Jane is very capable and most certainly the top-performing recruit of her company. However, lately she had become extremely short-tempered. Has been showing a lot of apathy towards her targets; vendors have got back saying she is out right rude. She is at the verge of missing several deadlines, and if she does not correct her course of work now, the end result is sure shot going to be that her productivity would plummet.
Consider this scenario carefully. It’s definitely not uncommon. But has it occurred to you that problem may not be with Jane, but rather with her job? Jane is facing an employee burnout. Often the culprit is stress, and the result is burnout – a state of emotional and physical exhaustion that is brought on by a long period of stress resulting in a feeling of emptiness and frustration.
Burnout rarely has one cause. It usually results from a combination of issues, including an overwhelming workload, lack of flexibility, lack of guidance, lack of planning, lack of appreciation and rewards or a toxic work environment or many a time, a toxic boss; and we have to acknowledge that right now burnout could be a result of all the extremities each one of us is experiencing due to COVID-19 situation.
The fall out of this as a manager is that you eventually feel like the person is not performing well and they need to be reprimanded. In the usual work mode, this is done either by stern communication or taking it to the next level by not promoting them, or giving them a poor salary hike, or in some worst-case scenarios, they may have to be replaced on the job. Under COVID-19 circumstances however you will need to adopt a different approach. So, just before you take that step, bear in mind that these are testing times and you have to take every opportunity to turn the situation around.
Here are some ways in which you can tackle employee burnout:
# Spot the problem early and get to the bottom of it:
For a manager, the single most important indicator of burnout is changed employee behaviour. Typical signs of burnout include more complains, excuses, constant resistance, turning up late or missing deadlines, poor productivity, a drastic decline in quality of output, or a listless, apathetic attitude to work, or more temper flares.
If you spot such symptoms, talk to your employee first to see what’s going on. Sometimes, you may find that the issue is not to do with work at all. It may be entirely a personal problem that is spilling into work. However, it may be work issues as well. If it is the latter, then there is a clear case for the manager to take some action.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for helping employees tackle burnout. It may not help to just give them some time off. Work from home is not easy and you will have to help the employee pull through the new work environment, and their emotional state. As the boss, a manager has to reshape their work-life and can often change things for the better by supporting the employee with planning, scheduling, sometimes better understanding or at times merely having a chat to motivate them.
# Keep an open communication channel:
Communicating with the employee is very important to understand what the issue is before you can tackle it. This could mean being more approachable, holding one-on-one meetings, or group meetings, weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Give your employees a chance to not only discuss what they are working on, but also any issues they may have concerning their workload, the difficulty level of their work, the work environment, and meeting their career goals. Letting them know that you are on their side helps to open up the line of communication better.
Once the issues are identified lay out the cards on the table. There are pros and cons to every job, and when employees have burnout, they often forget about the positives and only focus on the negatives. Highlighting the positives and keep them motivated. For instance, if an employee only focuses on the time-consuming while overlooking the more exciting project work she does, it helps to point her in the right direction. Emphasise on the work that excites her more in every meeting. In this way, you can keep what your employees enjoy about their work at the top of their minds.
# Reassess job requirements vs. expectations:
Another common reason that employees experience burnout is that it is unclear what they should be doing. Sometimes an employee starts out doing a particular role, but it may pivot into something else. Maybe that doesn’t fit their expectations, or maybe they are not equipped to handle all the requirements of the current role in the current COVID-19 stressful environment.
Sometimes the tasks may be vague, or they get very varied and multi-layered feedback where they cannot focus on one particular goal. All these situations lead to apathy and disinterestedness in the job. It is a manager’s job to make sure the employee knows his or her precise role, what is expected, how they should be going about it and close the loop with constructive feedback. Otherwise, money and time are wasted, and frustrations will continue to grow.
# Make work fun:
Long hours of work sitting in front of screens, engrossed in the same task will lead employees to exhaustion and fatigue resulting in lower productivity and poor creativity. While work is serious business, you will benefit most when your employees are working efficiently. Adding fun to your workplace is a recipe for success.
As we had mentioned in one of our earlier blogs, some simple ways to do this is to have some out of the box engagement with employees. This could be virtual karaoke sessions, maybe introducing a hobby hour, or hosting a game or quizzes, anythign that will help them unwind in these stressful times. Ideas can be endless if there is willingness to change.
A good way to come up with continuously new ideas is to also ask the employee themselves what they would enjoy doing, and see if it can be fitted into the scheme of things. Even though these activities are counterintuitive, and take away some of the organisation’s time, it will go a long way in increasing overall productivity, happiness, and importantly employee retention.
# Offer employee wellness programmes:
I cannot stress more on the fact that happier employees make a more stable workforce. With long hours at work, and demanding family situations, it is inevitable that sometimes the ball will drop while juggling. In order that they give their best at work, and also ensure that they stay healthy it has become a very logical extension to look into employee wellness programmes.
Several organisations are actively looking into this right now and there can be several ways to do this. One is offering offer counselling services, access to virtual fitness centres, or yoga sessions, or having an online games room that includes games of different genres. Another very interesting way to make a meaningful impact is allowing time to your employees to sign up for virtual volunteering services. Taking active interest in the ergonomics of your employees while they work from home also contributes in a big way towards employee wellness.
# Recognise and acknowledge their work:
Lastly, no matter what they tell you, every employee wants to feel needed. An unexpected pat on the back or recognition for a job well done can be a tremendous boost and go far toward stemming the onset of burnout. It is an important validation.
Be honest, but right now make it a critical part of your job to really look for these things, even if it is among mundane tasks. You are likely to find all the evidence you need of sincere effort towards accomplishments. It can be as simple as spotting fine email courtesy, or great team playing skills. Find a reason to boost employees up on a regular basis, and tell them what you have observed.
To conclude, it is important to take the time out to evaluate your staff’s level of burnout and implement measures to deal with and prevent it.
And my last word, when employee engagement is at an all-time high, your team will feel motivated, productive, and passionate about their work, thus lessening the chances for burnout. Providing them with unwavering support through this COVID-19 lockdown phase will get them to a place of mental clarity where they can perform at their best.
Yellow Spark can help you develop strategies to curb employee burnout. To find out how, write to us at email@example.com and set up a ‘spark meet’.
Author Profile: Deepam Yogi is an adventurer at heart, socially conscious in her gut and professionally a strategic consultant. She co-founded Yellow Spark to support organisations to build workplaces that people love being a part of. Deepam describes herself as a shy yet opinionated writer and firmly believes that most answers to complex issues lie in simple communication.