How to Prevent Employee Burnout

Key Takeaways

1. Employee burnout is quite common in the corporate world. A Deloitte survey reveals that the majority (77%) of professionals today say they’ve experienced employee burnout at work.

2. Burnout is also sabotaging workplace retention, reported a 2016 survey of 615 HR professionals conducted on behalf of Kronos Inc. and Future Workplace. It pointed to unfair compensation, unreasonable workloads, and poor management as chief contributors to the problem.

3. According to the Harvard Business Review, workplace stress is estimated to cost the U.S. economy more than $500 billion, and, each year,  lose 550 million workdays due to stress on the job.

4. As a manager, you can take steps to prevent burnout, from increasing collaboration with your team to altering your management style, so you are not pushing too hard.

Common causes of burnout

If your staff has logged long, sleepless hours getting ready for a new product release or has traveled cross-country for days making sales pitches, you may find that they are experiencing burnout.

The Mayo Clinic defines burnout as a state of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about the competence and work value.

The Mayo Clinic cites these common causes of job burnout:

  • Lack of control
  • An inability to influence decisions that affect one’s job — such as schedule, assignments, or workload — could lead to job burnout. So could a lack of the resources needed to do the work.
  • Unclear job expectations
  • If an employee is unclear about the degree of authority he has or what his supervisor or others expect, he is not likely to feel comfortable at work.
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics
  • Perhaps an employee works with an office bully or feels undermined by colleagues or her boss micromanages her work.
  • Extremes of activity
  • When a job is monotonous or chaotic, a worker needs constant energy to remain focused, leading to fatigue and job burnout.
  • Lack of social support
  • If an employee feels isolated at work and in his personal life, he might feel more stressed.
  • Work-life imbalance
  • If work takes up so much of an employee’s time and effort that she doesn’t have the energy to spend time with her family and friends, she might burn out quickly.

As a manager, how can you prevent burnout?

Look at your management style to make sure you are not pushing employees past the breaking point.

If you are leading sales teams in different regions that involve conference calls across time zones, try to be considerate of employees to prevent burnout. Recognize if you have asked an employee to hop on a conference call at 2 a.m. in his country, he is making a sacrifice. Let him take a half-day off tomorrow.

A brand-new survey of 3,900 employees and business leaders across 11 nations, led by The Workforce Institute at UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group) and Workplace Intelligence, discovered that burnout and fatigue are equally concerning for employees working remotely (43%) and those in a physical workplace (43%). Overall, three in five (59%) employees and business leaders say their organization has taken at least some measures to guard against burnout, though nearly a third (29%) of employees wish organizations would act with more empathy.

The Harvard Business Review

Train your managers to act with empathy by being open and honest with employees and recognize the symptoms of burnout.

You can demonstrate empathy by monitoring your employees’ workloads to ensure that these are fair and manageable. Try to be aware of unusual circumstances (e.g., international travel, relocation) when you give assignments to prepare your workers for success and not failure.

Companies expanding overseas experience numerous challenges to prevent burnout.

A U.S. company expanding into Germany or France, for example, might have to reset its expectations around contacting employees outside the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. timeframe. What might be acceptable to a U.S. employee might lead to burnout for a German.

Your international expansion might be aided, and the risk of employee burnout alleviated, by engaging an international expansion partner. International expansion partners, such as global employment organizations (or, ‘GEOs’) employ overseas workers on behalf of international businesses and act as their ’employer of record’. This means that they often understand applicable labor conditions in a country of expansion, in a way that client businesses don’t. 

Generally a GEO uses cloud solutions to allow employee working hours to be monitored across all international locations, allowing for proactive management by the client company and the GEO to minimize burnout.

Find out if your employees are experiencing stress from your environment

Ask your employees if the company environment is contributing to their stress. A valuable employee experience for most workers means reducing the risk of burnout. Is your firm enforcing unrealistic deadlines on employees and blurring the boundaries between their personal and professional lives?

Inquire if a specific problem affects their productivity: such as pay equity or credit for work done.  You might have a one-on-one phone conversation with a worker in another location or conduct a small focus group at your home office.

Encourage employees to be open about their concerns without the threat of any judgment or retaliation. The more you listen, the more you can take steps to remedy the problem.

Foster an environment where ongoing, honest dialogue about issues is welcomed, not feared.

In international locations, do you have adequate staff to support your operations?

If you are expanding internationally, you should start with a global expansion strategy, which a GEO can assist you in creating. A GEO might advise you on the appropriate number of employees for a given location to ensure staff won’t be overworked and reduce the risk of burnout.

A GEO will also help you create organizational and operational models to ensure you have the best workers needed for your mission. In this way, the chance of burnout and attrition will be minimized. 

Furthermore, by fueling your expansion with local employees sourced by a GEO, who are fresh and ready to hit the ground running, you reduce the chance of longtime workers facing burnout as the challenging entry into new markets launches.

Increase emphasis on wellness

Initiate programs to reduce stress and encourage healthy living. Whether you schedule more yoga classes at your workplace or offer meditation sessions via Zoom, emphasize programs that can help wound-up employees de-stress.

If your company allows it, schedule periodic wellness days for employees as a reward for meeting a tight deadline or recognition of a contribution made under challenging circumstances.

Model the behavior that you want employees to follow. Join an upcoming 10K marathon for charity and invite your colleagues, or plan ski trips that workers can join at a reduced price. Encourage their teamwork and emphasize fitness, both in their work and home environments.

As a manager, are you increasing your employees’ stress?

What is your management style? Are you one who trusts your workers and gives them clear directions, then lets them work independently? Or are you always looking over their shoulders, requiring constant updates about progress?

Whether you realize it or not, you may be contributing to your workers’ stress.  Look at your management behaviors and alter them.  Loosen up.  If you push too hard and force employees to experience burnout, the company and your team will suffer. Worst of all, you may lose employees to another organization.

Be empathetic when employees bring you their concerns. Realize that speaking up takes a certain amount of courage. Work with them to find a solution.

Let your employees know that you value them and their contributions. Be flexible and accept feedback about your management style and adjust as necessary.

Balance productivity with good health

You have many Type A employees in your company who are driven and will work tirelessly towards their goals.

Such motivation is admirable, but it cannot come at the expense of their health. Find ways to encourage your employees to balance their productivity with healthy behaviors.

Experts have noted that encouraging an excellent work-life balance in your company pays dividends including having employees with less stress, less chance of burnout, and an excellent sense of well-being.

Your workforce will be more loyal and productive as a result.

Among the ways you can encourage a work-life balance, and prevent burnout, are:

  • Prioritize exercise and fitness 
  • Whether that means encouraging employees to participate in a weekend softball game or in daily aerobics at the gym, let them know their fitness is essential.
  • Support their needed time off with family
  • If you have moved an employee from one location to another and that has involved settling children in new schools, recognize that your employee may need extra time off. Support parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child.
  • Encourage employees
  • To take their well-earned vacations, inquire about their families after a trip and during holiday seasons such as Christmas.
  • Respect boundaries
  • During their vacations, don’t contact your workers. If you respect your employees’ boundaries, they will honor yours.

When remote work is the norm, keeping to a 9 to 5 schedule may be challenging.  But the Harvard Business Review emphasized the importance of temporal boundaries:

Creating clear temporal boundaries often depends on the ability to coordinate ones’ time with others. This calls for leaders to aid employees in structuring, coordinating, and managing the pace of work. This might mean regularly holding virtual check-in virtual meetings with employees or providing them with tools to create virtual coffee or workspaces. Through this disruption, keeping a sense of normality is key".

Laura M. Giurge and Vanessa K. Bohns

You can also prevent burnout by offering your employees a chance to socialize together: whether with a pizza party on Friday night at headquarters or a virtual Zoom “cocktail party” to celebrate achievement.  Give your workers a chance to get to know each other without “talking shop.” Encourage the camaraderie that will strengthen the bonds of your team. An individual who feels supported is less likely to be stressed.

In some countries, governments are even introducing laws to strengthen the obligations that companies have to remote employees to prevent burnout. In Spain, this has been achieved by enforcing an employee’s ‘right to disconnect’. 

For more strategies on preventing burnout for remote employees see How to Connect with and Engage your Remote Team

Communicate often, with empathy

In this era of remote work, not only is your management style critical to your employees’ productivity, but your communication style is, too.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Be clear in your expectations 
  • Seek feedback when giving new assignments to make sure that your expectations align with the team’s capabilities. Be willing to exercise humility if you have to go back to the drawing board to reset expectations. Value your team’s feedback.
  • Provide encouragement
  • Support, and honest communication whenever you can.

  • Keep the door open
  • Figuratively, so if an employee is experiencing a tricky issue, he can feel comfortable discussing it with you or another expert to solve the problem. Be accessible, even if it involves making sacrifices on your part (e.g., working an hour longer to take an international call).
  • Communicate
  • In a way that empowers your employees, not in a manner that belittles them.
  • Make everyone feel they belong
  • The more your employees feel a part of the team, the more they can avoid burnout.

Conclusion

Employees who feel “on” all the time are at greater risk of burnout. This may seem hard to manage in this era of remote work. As a leader, your ability to respect boundaries, set realistic expectations, monitor workloads, and communicate with empathy is critical.

You do not want turnover rates to increase at your company, or worse, see employees get sick. As a manager, you can both model and articulate what behaviors are encouraged, from staying fit to giving each other positive feedback and supporting a flexible working style. When you let employees know that they belong and are valued, they will be more willing to come to you when they have a problem.

As your company explores international opportunities for expansion, consider that New Horizons Global Partners specializes in the strategic recruitment of high-level talent.  Our global headhunters will identify and match your organization to exceptional talent across any industry vertical.

New Horizons will ensure that you have the necessary support to hire the best employees in each location where you operate and have programs that will reward and retain these workers in these challenging times. 

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