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6 ways your organization can prevent employee burnout

Employee burnout can be difficult to describe. The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines burnout as “physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion, accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes towards oneself and others.” The danger for many businesses is that people may not see the difference between being tired and being so exhausted that they cannot function - at least, not until it’s too late. Prevention is always better than a cure.

Causes of employee burnout

Reasons for burnout may be down to individual personalities, global issues like the pandemic, or other problems outside work. Still, for many people, organizational issues can pile on the stress for prolonged periods until performance and well-being are massively affected. Some of the reasons for burnout include:

  • Difficult relationships with colleagues or managers

  • Lack of control over workload or deadlines

  • Concerns around job security

  • Personality type - burnout is more common in perfectionists

  • Personal issues, e.g. health conditions or problems at home

  • Feeling undervalued or underappreciated at work

Everyone will have their own unique ‘burnout mix’. It is never just one thing that causes burnout, but the outcome will be the same – an employee who is struggling to juggle their workload and relationships and their mental and physical health is suffering.  

Spotting the signs of employee burnout

  • Increased absence – if an employee suddenly starts needing much more time off, it could be a sign of burnout or another underlying mental health issue.

  • Out-of-character behavior – a common behavioral symptom of burnout is increased irritability, but other symptoms may include aggression or disinterest.

  • Difficulty sleeping or poor quality sleep – getting a good night’s sleep can be hard and can be noticeable to others. This is due to the hormonal changes that burnout causes, which undermine sleep quality.

  • Poor performance – lack of concentration, lack of creativity, poor decision-making, and an inability to complete tasks are common signs of burnout and will lead to reduced performance levels.

  • Working longer hours – this is a sign that an employee’s workload has got too much for them. It can also mean they feel like they are ‘taking work home with them.’ This can be a real struggle for remote workers when the lines between work and home are already blurred.

Many of these signs can be spotted before burnout hits, so organizations should ensure managers are always on the lookout for tell-tale signals and are ready to intervene before the situation escalates out of control.

6 ways your organization can prevent employee burnout

1. Talk about mental health

There is always a prolonged period of stress before an employee reaches the full burnout stage. Keeping the mental health conversation going and communications channels open with your team will make sure everyone can spot the signs of poor mental health and can take steps to intervene before burnout occurs. Make sure line managers are appropriately trained to communicate sensitively, and encourage them to have regular 121 meetings with team members to make sure they feel supported and able to bring up any issues of concern in the workplace.

2. Be realistic with workloads

According to the CIPD, workload is the most common cause of work-related stress and burnout. You can prevent too much pressure from being loaded onto people by setting expectations that are achievable within normal business hours, making sure skills and abilities match job roles, addressing issues that are raised, and communicating constantly with regard to unplanned deadlines or exceptional demands on workload.

All too often, organizations recognize high-performing employees by giving them more duties and responsibilities. This can be seen as a reward, but it can also create unfair work imbalances and can lead to burnout for your most productive employees. Make sure roles and duties are clearly defined and that everyone has adequate time and resources to complete their work well without undue time pressures.

3. Listen to your people

Feeling a lack of control is a major cause of work-related stress for many people. You can avoid this by including team members in decisions about their work, implementing flexible working, and setting realistic and agreed targets and deadlines.

Burnout can be fueled by perceived unfairness in the workplace. This may be due to individual concerns, such as favoritism of one employee over another, or organizational concerns, such as a company’s general hiring and promotion practices. Make sure it is easy for employees to talk about how they are feeling about issues like this and make sure they feel listened to.

4. Downtime

All organizations provide paid time off for holidays. These are not just a benefit; they are a necessity. People need time to reset, recuperate, and recharge their batteries. While some employees can’t get enough time off, others don’t always take the time they are entitled to, so encourage them to make time for much-needed downtime.

5. Show appreciation

It is widely believed that burnout and feeling underappreciated are closely linked. Every person’s contribution to the organization should be acknowledged and rewarded. This doesn’t have to be a cost, although bonuses, awards, and promotions are all great ways to reward people. Just saying a heartfelt thank you for giving visible kudos goes a long way. For more information visit our latest blog on employee recognition ideas.

6. Promote healthy work habits

Work cultures that encourage employees to stay at their desks late or put in a lot of overtime or cultures that discourage breaks or days off can quickly lead to employee burnout. To support your people and promote a supportive people-centric work culture, encourage your team members to draw boundaries between their work and home life. This may require a relook at some policies or unwritten rules. Make sure everyone has sufficient time off. Encourage mental health days if needed or well-being days for all. Provide flexible working options like remote working or nontraditional working hours. And above all, encourage your people to look out for each other while making it easy to confidentially raise concerns if necessary.

How can Unit4 help your organization?

Unit4 is in business for people. Our next-generation smart ERP software solutions are built for people in the business of helping people. With us, you can ‘Experience Real Purpose’ with an adaptable solution that’s right for you, now and in the future.

Unit4 HCM and Talent Management solutions connect information from your employees to enable managers to define, measure, and understand engagement levels throughout the organization. Equipped with this information, managers can facilitate one-on-one conversations, define and track objectives, and provide employees with learning and growth opportunities that can help to promote well-being and avoid burnout.

To discover more, click here to book a demo and see what our HCM solutions can do for your organization.

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