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Workplace Insights – Avoiding Burnout

January 29, 2015

One of the most challenging issues of our contemporary workplace is avoiding employee “burnout.”   This occurs when employees are in overload, for various reasons I will describe below.

Smart employers need to recognize the causes of burnout. The good news is that there are concrete steps managers and business owners can take to avoid burnout from happening to their employees.

The Causes

Let me list the primary reasons burnout takes place:

1. Rise of technology. While technology is a blessing, it can be a huge burden for individuals who have to implement new systems.

2. Double the work; double the responsibility. With the recent  recession, many jobs were cut and employees who remained were left doing two and three jobs. This caused overload that has left many employees angry and overwhelmed.

3. Feedback. A common complaint is that managers don’t make their employees feel appreciated. While everyone does not need a pat on the back every day, positive feedback is important, especially in our technology-based world, where face-to-face communications are often rare. 

4. Time to plan. Employees need quiet time to reflect on their work assignments, plan strategies and prioritize their schedule. Working at a frenetic pace may be necessary in an emergency situation; it becomes counter-productive if you are rushing all of the time.

5. Training. Lack of proper training is often a big contributor to burnout.Employees who are not properly trained can easily become frustrated.

6. Work-life balance. Having a proper work-life balance is even more important in our fast-paced work life, that often does not have time-borders. Studies have shown that employees who have a healthy work-life balance are more productive and think more clearly when they are at their jobs.

7. A disconnect. Working without a common mission is a hindrance to productivity. Without a unifying motivation, employees will not feel connected to your operation. 

The Cures

The good news is that cures for burnout are not difficult to implement. Employers that undertake these steps  will find their employees are more productive and more professionally inspired.

1. Have technology work for you. Technology is personal to an organization. Don’t become a slave to technology; but study the appropriate trends and technological tools, and adopt those that suit your particular enterprise. Are you leveraging technology appropriately? When implementing a new system, make sure you have the right team. You want to ensure you are hitting your milestones and testing properly before your target date for implementation. 

2. Periodically evaluate everyone’s job. As technology advances and customers’ needs change, jobs change. That is a healthy progression. But you need to assess what changes are necessary to the job so that you can address current demands. Can one person still perform this function? Can parts of the position be delegated to others?

3. Show your appreciation. Positive feedback is free and goes a long way to making your employees feel good about themselves. Compliment them on specific projects they performed and identify in your comment why you think their work was well done.  Positive feedback is easy to deliver, resonates with every employee and earns good will for the manager. For more on the importance of feedback, see our recent Workplace Insights column, Feedback – The Lost Art.

4. Plan your day. While it may seem basic, many managers spend their days putting out fires, instead of planning and prioritizing their  proactive assignments.

5. Identify the right training.  If training is necessary, identify whether the employee requires better mentoring or formal technical or skills training. Often new managers are promoted without learning management skills, such a coaching, counseling and delegation.

6.  Cultivate a work-life balance. This is often preached but soon forgotten due to work velocity. Make a real effort to keep to normal working hours.  Encourage outside involvement on the part of your employees in communal activities. Being involved as a volunteer in a non-profit goes a long way to developing better communication and social skills.

7. Develop a mission statement.   A mission statement is easy to prepare and goes a long way to inspiring your employees to rally around your organization’s goals. As discussed in my recent Workplace Insights column – The Value of a Mission Statement,  developing a mission statement will motivate your staff to go the extra mile and distinguish you from other employers.

The Future

As you can see, the cures for burnout are varied, and will depend on your organization’s culture. Keep these “cures” in mind with your daily goals and “to do” list. You will surely reduce turnover, cultivate a satisfying and healthy work environment and attract highly talented individuals to join your organization.

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