Professional burnout is a major issue in today’s workplace: a Deloitte US survey revealed that 77 percent of employees have experienced burnout in their job. Over half reported having felt burnout more than once. It’s easy for C-Suite managers to get carried away with meeting or exceeding business goals. Few find the all-elusive balance of getting the best from their employees without overworking or depleting them.
You may be tempted to keep pushing your team to outperform expectations. However, employee burnout works more to your detriment than for your benefit. That said, during harsh economic times, you may have minimal resources to splurge on holidays, bonuses, and other incentives.
The Problem with Employee Burnout
Ironically, professional burnout has gotten worse in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and work from home (WFH) arrangements. One would think that eliminating long commutes should have dissipated burnout. Au contraire, a NordVPN study, showed that Americans have worked three extra hours daily since the pandemic began in mid-March 2020.
FlexJobs and Mental Health America replicated these findings: 75 percent of workers experienced burnout, 40 percent attributing it to the period since mid-March. Despite working long hours, employees report that they lacked the support needing to cope with challenging situations since the pandemic hit. Only 1 in 5 reported having productive conversations with HR regarding their burnout; 56 percent said their HR departments discouraged conversations on burnout.
How to Address Employee Burnout and Boost Morale
C-Suite executives and line managers must put in extra effort to adapt organizational culture to the new work environment. Apart from affecting your workers’ morale hence productivity, burnout affects the quality of products/work delivered to clients and your employee-client relations. Here are six free and easy ways to boost morale in your workplace:
Create company-wide policies on work hours.
Employees are struggling to achieve work-life balance when their workplace has moved into their homes. Worried about not being “seen to be working”, they put in more hours to demonstrate productivity. However, hard work doesn’t translate to success.
As the drivers of organizational change, C-suite executives should redefine work from the time-based approach to the task-based approach: if a worker accomplishes their tasks in 20 rather than 40 hours per week – good for them.
Conversely, if they consistently take more than 40 hours, they need either additional training or a workload review. HR can examine workloads and job descriptions to determine the tasks and deliverables and assign clear deadlines.
Streamline targets and goal setting.
Some people advocate for the principle of setting goals that are just slightly out of reach to keep workers striving to be better. Is it clear (to the employee) that getting within, say, 70-80% of the mark is acceptable? Are they made to feel like they have failed when they never achieve an unachievable goal?
If so, your employees will put in extra hours and burn out faster while trying to reach the goal. Make it crystal clear that you are more interested in them doing their best rather than meeting a specific number.
ABC – Always be communicating.
With WFH arrangements, it is harder to keep tabs on employee’s progress with work. It may help set up calls or Zoom meetings, but you must be clear on the agenda and keep meetings short when necessary. Note that endless meetings detract from time that should be spent handling tasks.
Effective communication includes articulating desired outcomes and expectations early on. Find out what your employees need from you in the short- and long-term. By addressing their immediate needs, you free their minds to focus on the tasks at hand.
Encourage employees to log off work.
Most employees had never worked from home before the pandemic, and they are struggling with drawing lines around work and home. As their leader, provide tips to work from home without losing the balance.
This means that supervisors and colleagues should have hours within which they reach out with work-related queries. Lead from the front: do not ask work-related queries outside work hours.
Professional burnout in the workplace comes with plenty of stigma. Workers are afraid to speak to their bosses – in this tough season, any admission of weakness could put you first in line if lay-offs come, they think.
As a leader, your team should know that they can come to you when the weight of their workload and other responsibilities are weighing them down. When they do, readily negotiate – without prejudice – to figure out solutions that work for you both.
Let them take vacations.
Disavow the school of thought that working from home is a pre-vacation. Many workplaces have held off on giving vacation time to recoup the loss incurred during the pandemic.
If you are among them, allow your employees to take vacation time as they did before the pandemic and WFH. Go further and demand that everyone take their allotted vacation time – with appropriate timing arranged by HR, of course.
Design handover policies to ensure work continues in the absence of certain workers. During their vacation time, employees must not be disturbed with work-related queries.
Lead from the Front
C-Suite executives have plenty to learn about taking breaks and relaxing. However, you set the tone for your organization’s operations. By learning to balance your work and home life, you can encourage your employees to follow suit.
If you’re struggling to keep your team motivated, executive coaching can help you sharpen your management skills!