Maybe you’ve experienced it in some form. You get home from work, eyes barely working, and shuffle around the house like a zombie, as you attempt to make dinner, clean the house and take out the trash. Then, ping, you get another work email. As you open your phone, you feel a mixture of resign, resentment and utter fatigue. When will it stop?
That’s what employee burnout feels like on the personal level. On the business and managerial level, its effects are just as disruptive. A burnt out employee is an unfocused employee. The more they feel burnt out by their work, the less productive they’ll become, and the worse the work culture will get.
In short, overworking employees is no good, either for the employee or the system. If you, or those you manage, start exhibiting signs of burnout, it’s imperative to hit the stop button, assess the problem, and take actionable steps toward managing workload and providing relief. In this post, let’s define the phenomenon of employee burnout, look at a few recent stats, and talk about how to prevent – or rectify – its presence.
Employee Burnout, Explained
“Employee burnout” isn’t just a buzz term. It certainly isn’t just a water cooler term created by lazy employees (a criticism unfairly levelled at the term in its early days). It is a problem, outlined by the World Health Organization as a disease, that is personally and systemically disruptive. It is characterized by a few different things:
- Chronic feelings of tiredness
- Feeling “checked out” at your job
- Resentment toward your work
- Reduction in productivity
As you can see, the effects of burnout are bad for everyone – for employees, for managers, and for the C-Suite looking at the bottom line.
CNBC recently reported that the employee burnout rate was nearly 25% – that’s nearly a quarter of all workers – with an additional 44% saying they felt burnt out sometimes. According the Harvard Business Review, this crisis costs an estimated $150 billion in healthcare spending. And according to a Kronos study, employee burnout is responsible for between 20% and 50% of employee turnover.
These stats illustrate a crisis. Employee burnout has broadly negative impacts on employee health. It is prevalent, and it costs companies a lot of money (the total cost of a new hire, resulting from turnover, is estimated to be around $5,000).
How to Prevent It
There are a few proven methods for dealing with employee burnout.
Is your company culture too serious? Do you leave little to no room for fun, creativity and socialization? This can be a major contributing factor to employee burnout.
Take your employees out for some fun once in a while. Leave the desk, leave all the workplace politics, and take them somewhere where they can let their hair down and forget about work. As employee burnout becomes a more prevalent issues, teambuilding retreats are becoming more popular. Managers will take their employees axe throwing to blow off some steam, for instance, or out for dinner. Axe throwing is good because it allows for de-stressing, and dinner is good because it sends a message of appreciation.
You would think that an employee who works less would be less effective to a company, but you’d be wrong. You have to consider quantity vs. quality. The more an employee works, the more they burn out, and the more they burn out, the worse their work becomes. It’s therefore better to invest in a shorter workweek, knowing that the time your employees are working will be significantly more productive and quality-oriented.
Work/life balance also incudes setting strict boundaries on after-hours communication. Sure, every once in a while you may expect an employee to respond to a work email at night, but don’t make a habit of it.
Variety Is the Spice of Life
Sometimes, burnout is caused not by the amount of work, but the nature of the work. If you’ve delegated a single task to an employee repeatedly – let’s say filing – and filing is all they ever do, they will eventually start to feel under-stimulated and creatively unchallenged. Try your best to vary up the work for each employee.
Consider the Culture
A toxic work culture can be emotionally draining. Is yours the kind of office plagued by gossip, professional feuds or bullying? If so, you have to tighten up your ship immediately. Work to develop a positive work culture, one built on mutual appreciation rather than hostility. Not only will it benefit current employees, but it will also make your business more attractive to prospective talent.
Employee burnout is costly – emotionally, physically, and financially. Put an end to it this year by knowing how to spot it and knowing how to deal with it.