7 Ways to Help You Tackle Employee Burnout
Even a star employee can have a bad spell. There are always telling signs of employee burnout. As recently as yesterday, 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.
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. 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. Just before you take that step, bear in mind that there is still room to turn this 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 absenteeism, excuses, constant resistance, turning up late to work, 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 sending them on a leave of absence. A real change needs to be made to the nature of their work, the 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.
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. Otherwise, money and time are wasted, and frustrations will continue to grow.
# Encourage employees to focus on self-improvement:
At times guiding the employees is more than enough. They will still have to do things on their own to improve the situation after they recognise it. When you’re busy on exciting projects it can alleviate some of the problems that come with an exhaustive schedule. When you have fun while being busy, then it doesn’t seem like such a great deal. However, if you are squeezing yourself dry trying to deliver on projects that do nothing to inspire you, then burnout can happen. When this happens, find ways to make the jobs your team is working on more fun using creative approaches.
Working away from the desk is good as a change of scenery can do wonders. Sometimes, working remotely from time to time can be inspiring. Maybe working out of a local coffee shop can help with burnout feelings. It is important not to work from home. When an employee is experiencing burnout, they need to make a strong effort to separate work life from home life. Drawing the line helps.
Even the most dedicated people can suffer from burnout and decreased employee engagement. When co-workers see a star player struggling, they’ll quickly lose faith in the company as well.
# Make your workplace 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 the office is a place of work, 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 karaoke sessions, maybe introducing a hobby hour, or changing your workstation once a week, conducting meetings once a week over beer. 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, tiring commutes, and demanding family situations, it is inevitable that the task of juggling all the balls comes to the workforce that is in their prime. 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 also looking into this and there can be several ways to do this. One is offering healthy food services/snack counters at the office. The office can also offer counselling services, fitness centres, or weekly yoga sessions, or having a games room that includes carom, or table tennis. Another interesting way to make a meaningful impact is having volunteering services that employees can sign up for. Taking active interest in the ergonomics of the workplace also contribute to 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 in front of peers 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 make it a 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. Each person has a different reaction to different jobs, and it is your job as a team leader to make sure that employee and position can be bound seamlessly together.
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 throughout the workplace 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and set up a ‘spark meet’.
Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.