How Employers Can Help Tackle Workplace Burnout

What is burnout?

Burnout has been a growing concern in public health for many years, with a staggering 76% of full-time employees feeling physical and emotional exhaustion at work either “very often” or “always,” according to an alarming 2019 study. This pressure was so great that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared burnout as an occupational phenomenon within its global standard for diagnostic health information, the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases. It’s clear that job burnout has become a major epidemic and needs to be addressed urgently to protect current and future workforce members from suffering workplace fatigue.

In today’s rapidly advancing and complex world, the callous consequence of employee burnout is clear. Employees frequently feel inundated by excess tasks and contradicting expectations in their place of work. Furthermore, technology has blurred any distinction between personal life and professional life, particularly with mobile devices always close at hand.

A survey in 2020, released just prior to the pandemic, showed nearly 8 in 10 people experience burnout on the job at some point. Burnout results from chronic workplace stress and mental health pressures on work life balance. According to the World Health Organization, burnout includes these three elements:

  1. Chronic Stress, and Emotional and Physical Exhaustion: Experiencing a stress response leaving people feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally drained.
  2. Feeling Negative and Cynical: Battling feelings of negativity and skepticism in the workplace, towards coworkers, and those around you.
  3. Feeling Negative About Oneself: Constantly questioning oneself and wondering why you can’t cope with this.

 

The Knock-On Effects of Burnout

Simply put, people are under a lot of pressure and stress out at work. But there’s more to it in the long run. Organizations are faced with a substantial cost due to employee burnout, which has dire consequences for both individual and organizational performance. Not only does it lead to decreased performance, but it also poses various other risks, such as a 63% higher probability of employees taking more sick days. In addition, burned-out employees are 2.6 times more likely to be actively searching for new employment opportunities and experience 13% lower confidence in job roles. Furthermore, burned-out employees can become demotivated as it requires too much energy just trying to survive the day rather than learning new skills or growing professionally.

Burnout among employees can cause them to become inflexible, making it difficult for them to collaborate with their manager and discuss how best to achieve performance goals. This kind of mindset shift from potential solutions towards problems is especially detrimental as it affects not only the employee’s work but also that of the entire organization, leading to lower-quality decision-making, customer service, control processes, and overall innovation.

Unsurprisingly, burnout doesn’t just stay in the office, it also affects employee work life balance. Those who go through high levels of exhaustion are twice as likely to agree that their job takes up too much time from taking care of family duties. Even more concerning is the fact that burned-out employees have a 23% higher chance of going to an emergency room than those without burnout.

 

What Makes Burnout a High Priority for Employers?

In our current highly accelerated work environment in the wake of the pandemic and characterized by social/political unrest, job stress-induced burnout is a pervasive problem that has affected all industries. Employers are aware of its seriousness and have taken steps to address it head-on. The following factors are of high importance:

  • Employee Retention: Upholding performance and retaining the workforce
  • Workplace Culture: Maintaining an organizational culture where employees feel respected and energized to come in each day
  • Job Performance and Productivity: Eliminating needless stress to empower people to reach their highest potential and flourish
  • Overall Well-being: In addition to psychological issues, burnout and stress can also contribute to potentially costly and life-threatening physical conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, Type 2 Diabetes, and decreased immunity.

 

Factors Involved in Dealing with Burnout

Even though the challenge of burnout can’t be completely resolved in a day, there are effective steps that employers may take to address it. As evidenced by leading experts and numerous studies, these initiatives have been proven to make an incredible difference when tackling burnout:

  • Employee Capacity: Giving employees the requisite time and resources to successfully complete their work, as well as providing them with avenues of communication regarding their duties
  • Autonomy and Responsibility: By granting individuals the opportunity to exert some control over their work tasks and processes, you are providing them with a sense of ownership that can ultimately lead to higher efficiency
  • Reward and Recognition: It is essential to celebrate and reward individuals for their accomplishments. Recognition serves as a positive reinforcement of hard work
  • Community and Sense of Belonging: Fostering a culture of trust and collaboration, creating an environment where colleagues feel supported and inspired to reach their full potential
  • Fairness in Opportunities: Promoting equal opportunities while providing employees the chance to advance and feel valued
  • Values and Purpose in Work: Infuse pride and satisfaction into the work people do, helping them to feel good about their accomplishments

 

Changes in Strategy Toward These Factors Can Lead to Big Impact

To reduce employee burnout symptoms in the workplace, there are no set rules to follow. However, here are some key strategies employers can take into account across these distinct areas that will have a positive impact:

 

Employee Capacity

It is essential to remind leaders of the substantial benefits that come with regular informal check-ins, such as increased clarity and transparency in regard to expectations, workloads, and deadlines.

 

Autonomy and Responsibility

Tap into the potential of your team by allowing them to take initiative and ownership over their work. Supply opportunities for individual control while still maintaining timelines and desired outcomes. Whenever possible, empower your employees with autonomy in organizing their tasks.

 

Reward and Recognition

Let’s not forget the significance of appreciating and honoring employees for their successes, no matter how small or large.

 

Community and Sense of Belonging

Promote existing and new opportunities that foster peer-based relationships, cross-team communication, and supervisor/leader interaction. Consider establishing ERGs (Employee Resource Groups), mentorship programs, or “virtual lunchrooms” not only beneficial for remote work environments but all alike. Create an environment conducive to meaningful connections and encourage employee engagement.

 

Fairness in Opportunities

Assess unfair treatment in payment systems and promotional chances to stimulate personal growth and guarantee that a correlation is maintained between accomplishments and progress.

 

Values and Purpose in Work

Think of the advantages that come with this job and encourage employees to of them. Demonstrate how their work relates to the organization’s greater purpose and mission, as well as their contributions to both.

 

Small Changes Can Bring Big Improvements to Everyone’s Well-Being

If you strive to empower employees and prevent employee burnout, assessing the mindset of your staff is the best way to identify areas of opportunity and concern. Showing that your organization cares about how its team members are feeling is essential in tackling this problem. It might be overwhelming looking at all facets of it, but you’ll soon see that small changes can bring big improvements to everyone’s well-being.

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The Union Workforce Initiative is for educational, training, and awareness purposes only. This is not an Employee Assistance Program. We help build awareness within the workforces of employer/employee assistance professionals, substance abuse professionals, nurses, doctors, and other educational professionals.