How to Reduce Employee Burnout and Chronic Workplace Stress
Employee burnout and workplace stress are constantly plaguing businesses, and it’s affecting your productivity and your bottom line as an employer – but there are ways to reduce them.
Two things should give any employee or would-be employee cause for concern:
- Firstly, an estimated 40 percent of 2,000 randomly surveyed workers said they were considering quitting their job due to ‘burnout’, and research shows that more than 60 percent of work absenteeism is attributed to psychological and chronic stress.
- Secondly, the numbers show that employee burnout is on a steady rise.
Understanding and reducing employee burnout doesn’t just drastically affect your turnover rate, but it can immensely boost the profitability of your business. A business is only as successful as the product or service it provides, after all, and without the talent needed to back a good product or service, you won’t have any success.
What is Employee Burnout?
Burnout is a condition due to chronic workplace stress, mostly from a variety of factors in a worker’s professional and personal life. Although it’s a word that has only recently gained a lot of traction, it was first coined to refer to extreme work-related stress in the mid-1970s, by American-German psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger.
With a career focused on stress, chronic fatigue, and substance abuse, Freudenberger identified burnout as work-related stress, self-diagnosing it as something separate from depression or exhaustion after succumbing to burnout himself and observing the phenomenon in other people.
The World Health Organization has since added burnout to its International Classification of Diseases as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
Identifying and separating burnout from other similar disorders of chronic fatigue or depression isn’t always easy, but there are hallmark symptoms that set it apart from other conditions. The three conditions that best describe employee burnout are:
- Fatigue and constant depletion/exhaustion.
- Negativism or cynicism toward one’s job.
- Reduced professional efficacy.
While something like a serious depressive disorder occurs due to outside factors both genetic and environmental, anyone can suffer from burnout. Some people tolerate more stress than others, but a combination of causes eventually cause an individual to break down and stop functioning properly both at work and at home.
Identifying the Causes of Burnout
Taking into account the three aforementioned tenets of employee burnout, we can see that a person begins to suffer from burnout when they:
- Feel constantly emotionally and/or physically drained
- Feel as though their input isn’t necessary and feel distanced from their position at work
- They are no longer putting any proper effort towards their work, or are unable to perform as they once did.
There are many factors that feed these three issues.
- Long hours, ineffective management
- Leaders that do not listen or take employee ideas into account
- Turning a blind eye to abuse of power
- Seeing company resources go wasted
- Demoralizing or ineffective leadership
- Lack of respect for work-life balance
- No appreciation for extra effort, etc.
To prevent employee burnout and chronic stress, a company’s management must carefully consider what each employee needs, and how to properly (and positively) motivate a team.
Reducing Stress and Employee Burnout
When managing a workforce, it’s important to remember that each worker has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Playing to those strengths and mitigating the weaknesses is critical to improving an employee’s productivity and allowing them to grow into top performers.
While it’s crucial to know when to let an employee go, it’s also crucial to recognize when a different direction will help a worker perform properly.
As such, keep track of when individuals perform best, and what factors help contribute to their productivity. Allow every employee a ‘must-have’ incentive that can help keep them motivated to continue working hard, such as giving them a certain day off every week to spend time with their family or go see their kid’s games.
If you find yourself wasting time in meetings, cut them short or reduce their frequency, to give your employees more time to finish work before critical deadlines approach.
Change up the office environment, taking down cubicles and providing flexible spaces for both isolated and concentrated work as well as collaborative efforts and communal bonding.
1. Long Hours ≠ Productivity
Do not fall for the fallacy that someone who clocks in plenty of hours a week finishes a lot of work. Sometimes, a motivated worker can do in an hour what a tired worker will struggle to do in a day.
Giving your team members more time off and guaranteed vacations can improve the overall productivity of your company by ensuring that everyone is well-rested and destressed.
2. Embracing Flexibility
Another way to help reduce employee burnout is by encouraging workers to take frequent breaks. Rather than sit at their desk without really being productive, a quick break to grab a snack or discuss ideas with a workmate can potentially lead to something better.
Rather than clocking in 8 hours of hard work a day, workers should have the encouragement to be as productive as they can in bursts. They should feel comfortable taking a few minutes between bursts to walk around, refresh themselves, and set their eyes on something other than a desk or screen.
Flexible office designs similar to those in coworking spaces help emphasize this philosophy by providing a variety of different spaces to work in.
3. Encouraging Cooperation and Communication
A cooperative team is ultimately what every company strives to build, but to do that, there has to be communication. That’s thankfully easier to do today than ever.
Always keep channels of communication open, so team members can seamlessly discuss work with one another through dedicated messaging systems like Slack or Discord, collaborate and plan through tools like Trello, and more. When a team member needs time to concentrate, they can set themselves to Do Not Disturb until they’re ready to speak again.
More than just enabling basic communication and collaboration between team members, it’s critical to be available and open to suggestion as the leader or manager of a department or team. Valuing your workers’ inputs can help them recognize that they provide value to the company, and that their position has real purpose.
While that shouldn’t mean simply praising every form of input, it does mean recognizing useful input and rewarding it accordingly, encouraging workers to think critically and bring their own ideas to the table rather than discouraging them from voicing their opinions and pointing out crucial inefficiencies.
4. Offer Help
Sometimes, stress gets the better of us, but there’s simply no way to pause and take a breather. And even when the opportunity to take a break arises, there are times when that simply isn’t enough. To avoid worker burnout, companies must recognize the value of good mental healthcare.
Providing mental healthcare for your workers sends a message that you understand that just taking a few days off doesn’t always fix the problem. Sometimes, some need professional help to function both at work and at home.
Takeaways – Common Employer Questions
What is Burnout?
Burnout for employees is classified by the World Health Organization as “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” and can consist of fatigue/exhaustion, negativism, or reduced efficacy.
What Causes Stress and Burnout?
There are many things that may cause employee burnout including, but not limited to: long hours, poor leadership, abuse of power, lack of respect, little work-life balance, and more.
How Can You Reduce Burnout?
You can reduce employee stress and burnout by: reducing hours (as long as they are productive), embracing flexibility, encouraging cooperation and networking, and offering help.
Employee burnout is a serious issue, stemming from a growing feeling of cynicism and negativity towards one’s job as a result of chronic workplace stress.
Helping employees feel valuable and recognizing their input, as well as helping them better manage stress while continuing to be productive are important in preventing and reducing burnout rates.