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More companies are developing strategies to prevent employee burnout as its incidence has increased across the workforce in recent years. The hybrid and remote working environments, and our 24-hours-a-day connectivity, have placed additional stresses on us all. This is to speak nothing of the major disruptions to many industries in the last few years, due to shifts in the labour force, supply chain problems, and strain on major societal systems.
Below we look at the signs of employee burnout so that you can fulfill a core duty as a manager of stepping in and alleviating the causes of burnout before it progresses. Next, we offer five proven tactics that help in avoiding employee burnout.
The Signs of Employee Burnout
While “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” as the saying goes, you may not be able to avert employee burnout 100 percent of the time. Be on the alert for these signs of employee burnout:
Mental and physical exhaustion
Defensiveness or more sensitivity to feedback
1. Prioritize Stress Reduction & Employee Wellness
A key contributor to burnout is stress. Train employees on stress reduction techniques and encourage them to rely on these skills on a daily basis. Each employee will benefit from different approaches, so give them a variety of tools that they can explore to discover those that are most effective for them.
Check-in with them regularly on their stress levels, their mitigation methods and their overall job satisfaction. This can be a part of an ongoing performance review whereby employees meet with their supervisors on a frequent and consistent basis to discuss their performance, goals, roadblocks, solutions and well-being.
A stress management plan and ongoing performance review schedule will ideally be incorporated into a larger employee wellness program. These initiatives work in tandem, creating a synergistic effect that does wonders in avoiding employee burnout, maintaining talent and nurturing employee success.
2. Reveal the Purpose of Their Work
Employee burnout is often tied to the sense that their work has little or no deeper purpose. Your workforce spends a considerable amount of their waking life applying their time and talents to their job; they must understand its meaning to the company and to their lives to ensure they are fulfilled and motivated to perform.
Speak with your team about how their work contributes to the department dynamic and larger organizational operations. Furthermore, tie their daily work to goals. This should include their professional development, which is most effective when a part of an ongoing performance program. Making it clear that their everyday toil moves them towards their personal betterment, as well as furthers the objectives of the team and company.
3. Provide Frequent, Honest, Constructive Feedback
Employees value feedback on their performance. Your leadership here as a supervisor really matters. Nearly 70 percent of employees report that they would work harder if they received more recognition. Twenty-four percent surveyed would consider working elsewhere if a manager’s feedback was deficient.
Providing regular assessments to employees shows that you value their contributions and are available for guidance when needed. Feedback should be on a set schedule so employees anticipate the assessments at regular intervals. Frequent and consistent feedback also builds rapport between supervisors and their direct reports.
Feedback should be honest and specific. Cite particular actions an employee took that were exemplary or helpful, rather than a general appraisal. Frame the feedback, even if it is critical, in the most positive light possible. The conversation should be defined by how constructive it is. Ask yourself, how can this feedback be a win-win for me, the employee and the team?
A good rule of thumb is to provide five positive pieces of feedback for each negative one. Studies show that employees respond best to this approach. It shows that management notices their input and successes more than their miscalculations and mistakes. All of this makes an enormous difference in avoiding employee burnout and boosting workforce morale.
4. Set Clear and Realistic Expectations
It is extremely stressful to work a job where the duties are constantly changing or do not align with the position’s description. Similarly, nothing demotivates an employee quite like an environment where the targets are not defined or frequently change. These working conditions can shatter employee confidence.
As a manager, avoiding employee burnout means ensuring that expectations concerning the employee’s job duties and team goals are clear and realistic. Again, this is where regular one-on-one meetings with employees is incredibly valuable. This gives you the opportunity to identify barriers to meeting expectations and provide clarity around goals and boundaries. For example, you can intercede when a worker is picking up tasks outside of their normal job duties and allocate responsibilities fairly across the team. You can also calibrate employee performance goals if they are too difficult or easy for the employee to attain.
5. Encourage Taking Breaks and Unplugging
A significant stressor is working continuously without breaks. Some office cultures put too much emphasis on staying busy, rather than valuing employee output. Employees in an always-busy company culture may not feel comfortable taking breaks during the workday. Remember, being busy does not equate to productivity. Encourage your employees to take breaks throughout the day and manage their energy levels to maximize productivity.
Similarly, some employees may hesitate to unplug at the end of the workday, feeling compelled to answer emails or chat messages during evenings and weekends. Set boundaries around work hours and ask that employees not contact coworkers outside of those times unless it is truly urgent. Be the example here too by logging off after hours and avoiding calling or emailing employees barring emergencies.