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Employee Burnout: Understanding and Tackling It

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Employee burnout is not a new phenomenon; it has existed for many years in the shadows. However, as a leader, acknowledging its existence is not just vital but absolutely necessary.

Consider this: your most dynamic employees, who were formerly the driving power of your organization, suddenly show a significant reduction in productivity. They gradually but steadily deteriorate into a state of apathy and incompetence. Tasks that were once simple suddenly become impossible.

You are not alone if you have encountered such instances. Unproductivity, a loss of composure, and a lack of focus are obvious indicators of a widespread malaise sweeping across industries.

In this article, we won't just scratch the surface. We'll delve deep into the root causes and potent solutions to combat burnout for the greater good.

What is Employee Burnout?

Employee burnout is a serious psychological condition caused by extended workplace stress and excessive work demands. According to a recent study, burnout is rising globally, most notably in the United States, where 43% of middle managers felt burnout—more than any other job group. And this is a key indication that organizations must tackle the issue and minimize it at all costs.

But you must know where and when to tackle it. Recognizing burnout symptoms is critical for sustaining a healthy and productive staff.

The following are some key indications of burnout:

1. Emotional tiredness: Employees often feel exhausted beyond their capacity due to a severe sense of emptiness, frustration, and tiredness.

2. Increased Irritability: Burnout can show as increased irritability, causing people to become easily annoyed or frustrated at work.

3. Cynical Attitude: Burnout can lead to a cynical attitude towards work, coworkers, and the organization as a whole, which can erode passion and participation.

4. Depressive Symptoms: Employees suffering from burnout may experience depressive symptoms such as continuous sorrow, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities.

5. Health Issues and Performance Decline: Burnout can also present physically, with individuals becoming ill and increasing errors and gaps in job performance.

Recognizing and resolving burnout symptoms is critical to developing a healthier, more resilient workforce that benefits employees and organizations.

What are the main causes of employee burnout?

Employee burnout does not happen on its own. It occurs for specific reasons that make it difficult for employees to sustain themselves in the workplace. But what could be the reasons? Below is a list of a few of them:

1. Excessive Workload

When employees are subjected to too much work without enough resources or support, they succumb to burnout. Employees become disoriented and disorganized with no specific deadlines or a structured work schedule. This disrupts their work-life balance and negatively affects their mental health.

2. Lack of Control

While working, employees need little autonomy or decision-making power. However, if they are not provided with that, it causes the feeling of helplessness and detachment.

3. Insufficient Rewards

Employees crave acknowledgment after accomplishing a work or a difficult project. But if they are undervalued or unappreciated, it leads to diminished motivation and frustration. Thus leading to an increase in burnout in the workplace.

4. Unfair Treatment

When there is bias in the workplace, employees become a part of inequitable practices. They are involved in a system of favoritism that creates cynicism and exhaustion. It makes it difficult for the employees to sustain in such a work environment, leading to employee burnout.

5. Inadequate Support

Learning is part of a growing work culture and something that every employee looks forward to. However, if there is a lack of proper coaching, training, and resources from leadership, it increases isolation. This feeling makes an employee feel left out and escalates burnout in the workplace.

6. Role Ambiguity

When employees are hired for a certain job, they expect the management to set them clear responsibilities. However, if the job expectations are unclear, it can be mentally draining and demotivating as the employees won’t know what is expected of them.

7. Lack of Job Security

Another reason that adds to employee burnout is the lack of job security. When employees are unsure about the existence of their jobs, it causes anxiety and disengagement. This can lead to a drop in productivity and inefficiency. Hence, a significant drop in overall work performance in the long run.

How HRs can prevent and reduce employee burnout

Now, you have a fair idea of why burnout occurs in an organization. But how are you going to mitigate it? What are the different ways that you, as a leader or an HR, can prevent or reduce it? These questions can be daunting. However, we are here to help you out. Below is a list of ways through which you can tackle the issue of burnout.

1. Promote Work-Life Balance

Promoting a healthy work-life balance is key to preventing burnout. As an HR, you must encourage employees to set boundaries between work and personal life. You can also implement policies around paid time off, sabbaticals, and flexible schedules. This demonstrates a commitment to instill a work culture that believes in work-life balance.

The goal is a sustainable workload aligned with personal needs while reducing stress in the long run.

2. Recognize and Reward Employees

Recognition is a critical intrinsic motivator and HRs need to acknowledge
that fact. You should focus on creating a culture where employees are regularly acknowledged for their contributions. This could include peer recognition, employee of the month programs, spot bonuses, or achievement-based incentive systems.

To do these, you can take the help of virtual tools that are available in the market. These tools allow you to focus on making recognition timely through accurate data and insights. Moreover, you can make the appreciation engaging with the help of monetary awards that involve redeemable points.

Spot Award from Vantage Circle

(Source: Vantage Circle)

Investing in recognition and reward helps the employees feel valued while increasing engagement and reducing the risk of burnout.

3. Foster a Positive Work Environment

The work environment has a significant role to play when it comes to burnout. As an HR, you have to proactively assess the organizational culture and address any kind of issues that trigger burnout. Some of the issues might include a lack of diversity, an overload of work, or no flexibility.

Thus, it is essential to foster a culture that is positive and values employees. Some of the elements of a good workplace culture include-

  • Fairness and equity.

  • Good and transparent team collaboration.

  • Empowerment and autonomy

  • Health and wellness initiatives.

4. Offer Career Development Opportunities

Employees are always on the lookout for improving their learning curve. They constantly want to develop their skills and become experts in their areas of expertise. Hence, you must provide the same to the employees. If it is not done in time, then chances are employees will succumb to burnout.

As a leader, you can guide the managers to identify employee aspirations. Based on that, you can offer cross-training and courses for developing new capabilities. Moreover, you can also focus on mentorship and leadership programs to invest in employees with potential.

Read more: 5 Reasons To Promote Employee Training And Development

5. Implement Flexible Work Arrangements

Providing employees with greater control over their work is a good way to reduce burnout. This helps employees in managing their responsibilities alongside personal needs. However, it will not be possible without the support of the leaders and managers. You need to develop policies that support the cause.

Policies can include things like remote working and flexible work schedules. The focal point is to minimize any sort of micromanagement and increase trust in the employees. This increases autonomy and helps mitigate burnout.

6. Develop and Implement Wellness Programs

Employee health has a significant effect on energy levels and resilience in the workplace. HR has the chance to foster an atmosphere in which individuals may access services that will help them develop physically and emotionally. This includes services such as ergonomic assessments, mental health support, fitness challenges, preventative health screenings, and educational programs in addition to medical coverage.

The goal is to create a well-being culture that puts the employee's health first. And to further boost your efforts, you can opt for health and wellness applications that are easily available in the market. These applications provide virtual health competitions that can be easily incentivized. Moreover, it also tracks the overall fitness goals, along with real-time insights.

7. Establish Clear Roles and Expectations

Establishing clear roles and responsibilities is an important thing that will reduce burnout. Remember that when employees lack clarity around their responsibilities, it becomes a huge stress point.

As a leader, you must ensure managers set clear objectives, success metrics, and plans for each employee. Having well-defined structured goals and expectations provides focus. This also enables them to prioritize the work they must do first and then follow the structure. With clear expectations, employees experience less stress and are able to fulfill their jobs with ease.

Effects of Employee Burnout on Employees and their Organization

Effects on Employees

1. Physical Health Implications:

Employees who feel the heat of excessive burnout tend to have a deteriorated physical health. Some of the implications include-

  • Heart issues.

  • Weight gain and obesity.

  • Sleep disorder.

  • Exhaustion and fatigue.

  • Hormonal imbalances.

2. Mental and Emotional Impact:

Employees with severe cases of burnout tend to be emotionally unstable. The workload and stress take a heavy toll on them. Some of the implications include-

  • Depression and anxiety.

  • Irritability and mood swings.

  • Reduced motivation.

  • Cynicism and detachment.

  • Lower self-esteem and self-worth.

3. Career Consequences:

Employee burnout is not only restricted to physical and mental health. It takes a negative impact on an employee’s career as well. Some of the impacts are-

  • Reduced job performance.

  • Conflict with co-workers.

  • Increased absenteeism.

  • Decreased job satisfaction.

  • Strained relationships with managers and supervisors.

Effects on the Organization

1. Productivity Decline:

Employees who succumb to burnout are more likely to be less productive and have reduced performance. They are not able to focus and have low self-esteem.

2. Increased Absenteeism and Turnover:

Burned-out employees tend to take frequent breaks and leaves, increasing the absenteeism rate of the organization. They do not heed their responsibilities and sit idle most of the time. Eventually, they leave the organization, and the turnover rate increases with time.

3. Decreased Employee Engagement

With reduced productivity and focus, the engagement rate within the organization reduces. The job performance drops significantly, and employees do not meet the targets. In the long run, this negatively affects the bottom line of the organization.

4. Diminished Team Morale

Employee burnout can have a negative impact on team morale. Employees who are facing burnout collaborate less, do not fulfill their responsibilities, and jeopardize their team performance. This diminishes the team morale and impacts the overall outcome of the team.

5. Client and Customer Relations

Due to increased burnout, there can be a negative impact on client and customer relationships. Some of the consequences include-

  • Decreased service quality.

  • Poor communication.

  • Longer response time.

  • Increased customer complaints.

  • Negative feedback and online reviews.

Burnout the problem:

When you face burnout, your capacity to perform diminishes, which is the same for your employees. Employee burnout is a serious issue that needs to be diagnosed to become easy for you to solve.

It would be best if you created a supportive environment and where everyone can flourish. It is beneficial for your employees in the long run and significantly helps the issue of burnout in organizations.

With that being said, I hope you have a culture that emphasizes more on the good and positive things within the organization.

Mrinmoy Rabha is a content writer and digital marketer at Vantage Circle. He is an avid follower of football and passionate about singing. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com

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