Andrew Martin February 28, 2024

5 Critical Strategies to Navigate Employee Burnout

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strategies for reducing employee burnout

During the height of the pandemic, employee burnout became a hot topic. The stresses of adapting to new work arrangements, juggling the needs of kids who were stuck at home all day, and navigating the stress of a global health crisis took its toll on many American workers. Now that we’ve made it through the pandemic, employee burnout has become less of a buzzword, but unfortunately, it’s just as bad of a problem – if not worse – than it was several years ago.

According to a recent Deloitte survey:

  • 77% of workers have experienced burnout at their current job
  • 64% of employees frequently feel stressed or frustrated at their current job
  • 91% of workers say unmanageable stress or frustration negatively impacts the quality of their work
  • 83% of individuals say burnout at work also negatively impacts their personal relationships
  • 69% of professionals feel their employer doesn’t do enough to minimize burnout

Burnout isn’t just an issue affecting your employees; it can also have a devastating impact on your business. Employee burnout can result in lower levels of productivity, higher employee absenteeism, and higher employee turnover rates. In fact, employee burnout costs companies 15-20% of total payroll in voluntary turnover costs, on average.

Due to the pervasive nature of employee burnout and the ways it impacts both the wellbeing of your team and the success of your business, it’s critical to take proactive steps to minimize burnout at your company.

Common Causes of Employee Burnout

In order to combat employee burnout at your company, it’s important to understand why it occurs. The increasingly fast-paced, demanding and complex environments associated with modern workplaces create ideal situations for employees to experience stress and eventually become burnt out. The following factors are most likely to cause employee burnout:

  • causes of employee burnout Unmanageable workload – An unmanageable workload is perhaps the most common cause of burnout. Employees often feel overworked for a variety of reasons. Some cite having too many tasks to complete, while others become stressed by the difficulty of the work. In many instances, an unmanageable workload causes employees to work very long hours, which can increase the likelihood of burnout.
  • Unrealistic deadlines – Unrealistic deadlines can create a snowball effect. Once one deadline is missed, an employee is likely to fall behind on their next important task as well. This can create stress and result in burnout.
  • Lack of community – People are social and tend to thrive when they are a part of a positive, supportive community. When employees feel a lack of community at work, it can lead to feelings of isolation. In some instances, a poor work community can also create toxic relationships with coworkers. These negative emotions can cause workers to burn out.
  • Unfair treatment – Employees who feel like they’re treated unfairly experience significantly higher burnout rates than their coworkers. Unfair treatment can encompass a variety of issues, including favoritism, mistreatment by a coworker or manager, or inconsistently applied company policies.
  • Lack of autonomy – When employees feel like they are micromanaged, don’t have control over their work and aren’t able to make decisions that positively impact their job performance, it can lead to feelings of helplessness. Over time, this can contribute to emotional exhaustion, which is a key cause of employee burnout.

Steps to Reduce Employee Burnout at Your Company

The companies that most effectively navigate employee burnout are proactive at creating a positive work environment for their team. There are many different strategies you can take to reduce burnout at your company. Below are some of the most effective ways to ensure your employees stay happy, engaged and productive.

Cultivate a Culture Based on Trust and Respect

Trust and respect are two of the most critical components of a positive company culture. When your employees feel respected and are trusted to perform their jobs without the need for micromanaging, they will be significantly more engaged and fulfilled at work. In addition, this culture of trust and respect will help employees feel empowered to engage your leadership team in discussions when they experience a stressful or difficult situation. This will help diffuse these situations before they lead to burnout.

Prioritize Employee Wellbeing

When you make employee wellbeing a priority and provide your team with the resources to live a healthier life both at and away from work, they will be better equipped to handle the stressors associated with their job. There are several steps you can take to create a company culture that prioritizes employee wellbeing:

  • Encourage work-life balance
  • Provide employees with resources to optimize their health
  • Offer flexible work schedules
  • Allow remote work when possible

Encourage Work-Life Balance

prioritize employee wellbeing to reduce burnout Promote a healthy work-life balance so that your employees have the proper time to recharge. Empower your team to set boundaries and take their allotted time off. Discourage working very long hours or responding to emails at night or on weekends. Let your employees know that you value their ability to spend time with their family.

When your team has a balanced life with plenty of time to decompress from the stress of their job, they are less likely to experience burnout.

Provide Employees with Resources To Optimize Their Health

Making mental health resources available to your employees is a critical step that will help them improve their overall wellbeing. In addition, you should consider offering perks that foster a healthier, more active lifestyle, such as a stipend employees can use for their gym membership or the ability to workout on lunch breaks. Staying physically active can help boost your mental health and minimize daily stress.

Offer Flexible Work Schedules

Flexible work schedules give your employees the ability to manage their time more effectively and balance their personal commitments with their work responsibilities. This can help reduce stress and combat burnout.

Allow Remote Work When Possible

The pandemic forced us to reimagine workplace environments, and it’s clear remote work is here to stay. A majority of workers value and prefer remote work environments. The flexibility and autonomy that employees experience when they can work remotely can improve their engagement, and eliminating their commute will reduce exhaustion. These benefits will help combat burnout.

Take Steps to Effectively Manage Employee Workloads

manage employee workloads to reduce burnout Since an excessive workload is one of the primary causes of burnout, it’s critical that you take steps to ensure everyone on your team has a realistic and manageable workload. There are several strategies that will help you achieve this goal:

  • Prioritize tasks
  • Leverage technology solutions
  • Outsource as needed
  • Empower your managers

Prioritize Tasks

Help your team identify the actions and tasks that are most important to the success of your business and encourage them to focus on those. Help your team understand where their efforts will make the greatest impact so they understand how to prioritize their time. This will also help your managers and their team identify specific tasks that are less important to offload on a team member with more bandwidth when the workload spikes during a busy time.

Leverage Technology Solutions

There are more technology solutions available than ever before that can help your employees improve their efficiency. Leveraging some of the latest AI capabilities can help your team automate a variety of tasks so that they can focus their energy on things that truly require their attention.

Outsource as Needed

If your company is in the midst of significant growth, you’re likely to reach a point where the workload is too large for your existing team, but not large enough to justify additional full-time employees. In these situations, you can help prevent an unmanageable workload by outsourcing some of your tasks to contract workers who can alleviate the burden on your full-time team.

Empower Your Managers

Your managers can play a significant role in making sure their team members have a manageable workload. Empower them to delegate tasks among their team based on the specific strengths of each employee. This will help improve the quality and efficiency of each employee’s work, while reducing the stress that often occurs when people are asked to complete tasks that don’t align with their abilities.

In addition, provide your managers with software tools that will help them monitor their team members’ workloads and the progress they’re making on specific tasks. This will help your managers identify situations where employees may be falling behind before it reaches a critical point.

Train Your Managers to Help Combat Burnout

train managers to combat employee burnout Your managers play a critical role in helping prevent employee burnout. When they set clear expectations, facilitate collaboration and open communication, and support their team members in achieving their goals, it will set your team members up for success, foster a more positive environment and reduce the stress that often contributes to burnout.

There are several ways you can help your managers to more effectively combat burnout:

  • Educate them about the causes and warning signs of burnout
  • Reduce administrative responsibilities so they can focus on their team
  • Hire managers who are the right fit
  • Provide the support necessary to avoid manager burnout

Educate Your Managers About the Causes and Warning Signs of Burnout

When your managers understand the causes of burnout and can identify the warning signs in their team members, they will be better positioned to help combat the problem. We’ve already discussed the primary causes of burnout above. Review these with your managers on an ongoing basis and give them time to reflect on how their habits, communications and management style may be contributing to these causes.

In addition, make sure they are aware of the common signs of burnout so they can identify them in their team members. These include:

  • Feeling depleted or exhausted
  • Showing a lack of engagement in their job
  • Expressing cynicism or negative feelings about their job
  • Reduced professional efficacy (employees aren’t feeling successful at their job)

Empower your managers to engage team members in a discussion regarding burnout whenever they notice these signs.

Allow Your Managers to Focus on Their Team

It’s common for managers to become inundated with administrative tasks that take their focus away from leading, supporting and developing their team members. While these administrative tasks may be an essential part of their job, your managers should understand that their primary role is to support the needs of their team. If administrative tasks are preventing them from focusing their energy on their team, work with your managers to determine which of these tasks can be offloaded so that they have more time to engage team members and facilitate their wellbeing.

One way to empower your managers to focus on their team is to have them schedule regular one-on-one check-ins with each team member. These check-ins give your managers an opportunity to engage each employee about challenges associated with their workload, issues that may be impeding their success, and their career growth aspirations. This proactive communication can help your managers become a true advocate for your team members’ success.

Hire Managers Who Are the Right Fit

Not everyone is going to be a great manager. It’s critical to identify individuals who possess innate leadership ability and are motivated to provide their team members with the support necessary to be successful in their jobs. Good managers also possess the following characteristics:

  • Good communication skills
  • Strong coaching and mentoring skills
  • Wired to create a positive work environment that fosters engagement

When you have strong managers, it will elevate the success of your team, boost performance and reduce the risk of burnout. Therefore, it’s important to develop a system for identifying great managers. List the criteria you value in candidates who will lead your teams, and give potential candidates the ability to demonstrate these skills before making them managers.

Provide Support to Your Managers

While your managers play an important role in helping reduce burnout at your company, it’s important to remember that they may be the most likely people to suffer from burnout. The job of a manager is often stressful and chaotic. Managers are typically responsible for a wide range of tasks, and they are typically under a great deal of pressure to perform. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that managers report higher levels of stress, worse work-life balance, and worse physical wellbeing than many of the team members they lead. This can increase the likelihood that your managers will experience burnout.

To reduce the risk of manager burnout, make sure you provide them with ample support by checking in with them regularly to determine what they need to do their jobs effectively. In addition, provide them with resources to help them manage stress and improve their overall wellbeing. Finally, encourage your managers to take time off so that they can recharge and provide the leadership your team needs.

Encourage Employees to Speak Up When They Experience Burnout

employee burnout One of the best ways to navigate employee burnout is to empower your team to speak up when they are experiencing the early signs of burnout. While it can be challenging to have these conversations with your employees, this is an important step to address these issues and help your team receive the support they need.

There are several steps you can take to make these interactions successful and ensure your employees will feel comfortable coming to their managers about burnout:

  • Take your employees’ concerns seriously – Regardless of whether it seems like your employee’s situation has reached the level of burnout, it’s important to take these concerns seriously. Take the time to actively listen to their concerns without interrupting, then repeat back what you’ve heard to ensure you understand your employee correctly before responding with a proposed solution.
  • Identify the cause of their burnout – In order to address employee burnout, you must first understand its cause. Start by asking them about their biggest stressors. This can help you get a sense of the issues that are contributing to their sense of burnout, making it easier to figure out a path forward.
  • Identify short-term solutions – If an employee is experiencing burnout, it’s important to take steps to alleviate their stress right away. Sometimes a short-term fix such as delegating some of their workload to a team member with more bandwidth or providing additional support for a challenging project can help get an employee back into a more positive place.
  • Work on a long-term solution – Often, the short-term solution will provide a temporary reprieve, but it may not alleviate the cause of the burnout. Therefore, you should also engage the employee in a discussion about what changes can be made to make this situation better in the long-term. Depending on the cause of their burnout, this may involve adjusting their workload, giving them greater flexibility in their schedule, allowing them to have greater autonomy at work, or some other solution that will provide a more positive work experience.
  • Create a monitoring plan – It’s unrealistic that you’re going to be able to solve an employee’s burnout in one conversation. Once you’ve created a plan that works for both your employee and your management team, have your managers check in with this individual regularly to see how things are going. This will not only help you make adjustments to the plan as needed, but it will also show the employee that you truly care about their wellbeing.
train managers to combat employee burnout

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