A 5-Step Guide to Preventing Employee Burnout

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Photo by Bernard Hermant

Employee burnout is a problem that’s rapidly becoming clearer and generating more discussion. Perhaps the most biting analysis comes from a Stanford University study on burnout in hospitals, which surveyed practicing physicians and found a measurable decline in quality of care relating to burnout. In other words, the study found that burnout among professionals in healthcare can actually be the difference between good or bad results for patients.

Clearly, that is a particularly haunting example because of the profession at hand. But even if burnout isn’t such a direct life-or-death problem in other industries, it is every bit as present. It can at the same time impact employee wellness in a negative way and detract from workplace performance — often significantly.

It’s for this simple reason that more and more businesses are devoting time and energy to addressing this issue, and preventing burnout wherever possible. This may be done differently in different businesses, but what follows is our general guide to stopping employee burnout.

1. Design Work Around Productivity

The notion of designing work around productivity may sound obvious, if not somewhat oxymoronic. But the truth is, employees in a lot of modern workplaces don’t feel the emphasis on productivity, so much as on work itself. In other words, today’s employees often feel that they’re being driven to work a certain amount, rather than work to produce certain results or each certain goals.

This is a problem, because work for work’s sake is not rewarding — and is exhausting (and can thus induce burnout). On the other hand, as we put it in our take on The ABC’s of Employee Productivity, “productivity is everything” in the business world. What this all means from a management perspective is that finding ways to make employees aware of what tangible goals and accomplishments they’re working toward — as opposed to just how much work they’re doing — can make a real difference where burnout is concerned.

2. Set Up Feedback and Check-Ins

This suggestion basically boils down to making sure that employees are given the opportunity to voice frustrations or discuss stress factors — and do so without fear of judgment or retribution. By setting up feedback systems and/or scheduling regular check-ins, you are giving employees a voice, and a means to make you aware of problems you might not otherwise see. This doesn’t mean you have to (or will even be able to) address every concern that comes your way. But these kinds off open communication options can absolutely help to head off issues that might otherwise lead to burnout.

3. Invest in Organizational Leadership

The field of organizational leadership can cover a lot of specific jobs and tasks, including administrative work, management analysis, program management, HR, and more. And up until recently, some of these jobs may have seemed to modern businesses to be low priorities for investment. With more and more focus on office atmospheres and employee wellness though, these have become demanding jobs, to the point that organizational leadership is among the leading subjects people are returning to school or pursuing online education for. In fact, to give you an even clearer idea of the buzz in this space, Maryville University cites organizational leadership degree graduates as those who will enjoy the fastest job growth among all occupations from 2018 to 2028. So the sheer demand for organizational leadership tells you just how many businesses are finding it worthwhile to invest in this space. Professionals in this category are trained essentially to manage workplace environments, and having someone in a role like that can go a long way toward building up more favorable conditions for employees. This in turn can and will reduce burnout.

4. Set Realistic Goals

Setting realistic goals relates to focusing on productivity rather than work itself. But by specifically organizing that productivity focus around reachable goals, you can give employees a true sense that their time and effort matters. Short-term, attainable successes make people feel good about their contributions, and make the entire process of going to work and getting through work days worthwhile — if not, in the best of cases, exciting! It’s not a catch-all solution, but this is ultimately one of the best efforts you can make to combat burnout.

5. Promote Flexibility

Finally, and particularly in light of the workplace changes we expect to see heading into 2021, it’s a good idea to promote flexibility among employees. To borrow from an MIT Sloan School of Management professor’s takeon flexible working hours (as written up by Fast Company), giving employees a sense of choice and control over “when, how, and where they do their work” is “valuable for their wellbeing, their excitement for the job, and their commitment to the company.” Those quotes really say it all. Each of those perks directly counters problems like fatigue and burnout, which suggests that allowing flexibility — so long as it’s not at the expense of productivity — can be one of the most effective measures to take where this subject is concerned.

Combatting employee burnout has become one of the most important management challenges in the modern workplace. It can take time to figure out, and it can at times be uncomfortable. But the strategies we’ve just covered can do a lot to help you pull this off successfully.

The article was exclusively written for actitime.com by Tati Mason

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