This article originally appeared in Forbes by Dr. Laura Hamill
Exhausted. Overwhelmed. No longer making a difference. Many of us know the feeling. And a few of us have experienced these symptoms at the peak in our career. Burnout is a global problem, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared burnout as a legitimate syndrome linked to chronic workplace stress. It’s a problem that your employees are at risk for — and it leads to big consequences if you don’t take the steps to address, prevent and help employees recover from burnout.
Burnout may result from ongoing emotional, physical and interpersonal stressors. It’s been found that when employees experience greater levels of stress, they feel higher levels of exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy. Burnout can happen when employees begin to have low well-being due to unmanaged workplace and/or personal stressors — and it’s your most engaged employees who feel the impact of stress more than disengaged employees.
Before you can help your people, it’s crucial to know the impact burnout can have on your employees.
Burnout Has Big Consequences
According to Aon Hewitt, SHRM and Hay Group, companies with engaged employees are 78% more profitable, 40% more productive and five times less likely to have a safety incident, and they have a stock price growth two and a half times that of peers. But without manager and organizational support and resolving employees’ stressors, engagement will suffer, and your engaged employees could burn out.
While some companies are finally taking burnout seriously, they often approach burnout as a personal issue, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Burnout is commonly associated with issues that organizations control, including work overload, role ambiguity, lack of manager support, a disconnect in values and more. Because it’s associated with employee absenteeism, intention to leave the job and actual turnover, it’s crucial to focus on supporting your most valuable assets — your employees — by addressing burnout and understanding real prevention and recovery tactics you can implement today.
The Good News
Burnout is preventable if companies take the time to understand its causes and mitigation strategies. Here are four ways to help prevent burnout today:
1. Help employees put self-care first.
Now more than ever, employees are looking for more well-being support. In fact, research has found that when it comes to well-being benefits for Generation X, “more than 70% agree their company should do more to support holistic health.” Furthermore, 90% of those surveyed “said they believe employers should be responsible for helping employees manage stress.” Stress impacts people differently. For some, stress is a powerful driving force, while for others it can be paralyzing.
With a focus on fostering a well-being mindset, managers are better equipped to help employees cope with stress that’s tied to burnout. Managers can help prevent burnout by cheering on their team through positive encouragement, helping employees set emotional boundaries with their work and finding the “sweet spot” of stress that enables them to rise to the challenge instead of crumble.
2. Connect employees to the organization’s values, and help them find personal meaning in their work.
Bringing your company’s values to life is a win for everyone. Engaged employees have a deep and real emotional connection to their work. When you empower your employees to not only connect their values to the organization’s, but to also dig deep and find their own meaning behind their work, they’ll ultimately feel more connected to the company and their own purpose. Start with the basics: Make sure every employee knows the company’s values and mission. Put them on the office walls and in your employee handbook, and train managers to reinforce them on a regular basis and connect each individual’s role to the greater company mission and what makes them a valuable asset.
3. Go beyond breaks by providing true recovery time.
Everyone needs a break to recover, but it’s not the answer to solving burnout in the long term. Managers should prioritize one-on-ones to check in with employees and keep a pulse of workload. Lead with questions around their well-being before jumping into projects and tasks. Managers can also be a great resource for helping employees prioritize projects and manage workload to ensure they’re able to stay on track and meet deadlines or goals without feeling swamped with to-dos. This kind of support is crucial to stop burnout before it starts.
4. Foster a sense of community by encouraging employees to build social connections.
Relationships at work matter — maybe more than you think. A nationwide study by Cigna found that 61% of employees suffer from loneliness. And, “lonely workers say they are less engaged, less productive and report lower retention rates.” As people, we’re wired to be social. And that’s also true in the workplace.
Social connections help guard against burnout at work by creating a sense of community and belonging. Help your team to get to know each other with weekly lunches or quarterly off-sites focused on team building. Make sure new employees are onboarded properly, and focus on introducing new teammates in a way that offers personal information that the employee approves to share. Encourage employees to grab coffee or meet outside of work hours. The stronger and more positive the connections, the more likely your employees will feel they belong and are able to flourish in their work.
Tackling burnout isn’t easy, and it won’t happen overnight. With proactive, strong and supportive managers, companies can take an active role in stopping burnout in its tracks — or better yet, preventing burnout before it starts.