Burnout is becoming a very serious epidemic in the professional workforce. And as a business owner or team manager, it’s up to you to identify the early warning signs and help your team through related challenges so they don’t become serious problems.
What is Burnout?
Job burnout has been described as “a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress and is characterized by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job), and feelings of reduced professional ability.”
In other words, it’s that feeling people get when they become tired of their job and feel like they’re less capable. There’s a feeling of being stuck in a dead-end situation where nothing you do matters. Frustration turns to apathy, which may eventually cause you to contemplate quitting.
Anyone in any business can experience burnout, However, major risk factors such as these increase the likelihood.
- Heavy workload with long hours
- Poor work-life balance
- High-responsibility profession (like healthcare or criminal defense)
- Feeling like you have a lack of control over your work/outcomes
The more factors are present, the harder it is for people to feel engaged at work. And once the disengagement occurs, burnout follows quickly behind.
The Warning Signs of Team Burnout
The unique thing about burnout is that it can go beyond the mental/emotional and extend into the physical. Signs and symptoms include:
- Chronic stress, anxiety, and physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches
- Emotional exhaustion and lack of energy
- Reduced performance, forgetfulness, and an overall lack of concentration and focus
- Alienation and cynicism
The Best Ways to Squash Burnout
By the time burnout has taken root, productivity and output will have already plummeted. This leaves the business in a precarious situation. On top of that, burnout seems to be highly contagious, which means once a couple of team members are experiencing burnout, other members of the team could as well.
Here are some ways you can snuff it out before it becomes a major problem:
- Encourage Flexible Working Arrangements
The 9-to-5 is dead. If you’re expecting your employees to clock in, take a couple of timed breaks throughout the day, and then clock out, you’re doing your business a huge disservice. You might be fine for a little while, but don’t be surprised when burnout spreads like wildfire.
As counterintuitive as it might seem, flexible working arrangements actually lead to better output and increased productivity. How so? Because employees are happier and more satisfied. They feel like they have more work-life balance.
Encourage things like remote working and flex scheduling. Anything you can do to give your employees a little autonomy over their schedule will go a long way toward keeping them happy.
- Gather Employee Feedback
Never assume that you know what your employees are thinking. Make it a point to regularly gather feedback to assess how they feel. One easy way to do this is by creating eNPS surveys.
Also known as employee Net Promoter Score surveys, eNPS measures how employees feel about your company. These surveys are quick, easy to distribute, and provide a real-time look at the health of your team. Based on the feedback, you can make needed changes.
- Leave Time for Creativity
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! There’s something to be said for allowing employees to work on things that interest them. If they work eight hours a day, consider letting them spend one hour per day working on work-related side projects that get them excited.
This is beneficial for two reasons. First off, it keeps them engaged and allows them to flex their creative muscles. Secondly, these side projects could turn into future products or services. This is something Google has had a lot of success with. Products like Google News, AdSense, and Gmail all originated as work-related side projects.
- Encourage Employees to Speak Up
Finally, encourage your employees to speak up when they’re burned out. Discuss burnout symptoms in meetings and foster open dialogue on the issue. You never want an employee to feel weak for coming forward. Praise them for being open and you’ll be able to prevent a lot of future issues.
Get Your Team on the Right Path
As a business owner, manager, or team lead, you can’t control everything. Some employees will simply be more prone to burnout than others. However, you can play a role in proactively addressing underlying issues before they become serious problems. Start with the suggestions highlighted above and see what happens. As you discover what works for your team and its unique dynamics, feel free to pivot.