Take time to reduce workplace burnout

Allison Tringale PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

Have you noticed that you and/or your employees seem more stressed and exhausted this year?

You’re not alone. The pandemic has caused an influx of employee burnout, which if left unchecked could result in negative consequences for individuals and organizations alike.

Employee burnout is a specific type of work stress. Early work in this area conducted by researchers Christina Maslach and Susan Jackson at University of California-Berkeley focused on the high amounts of burnout workers were experiencing in jobs that required a substantial amount of interaction with other people. However, since then research has found that burnout can happen to anyone, in any industry, at any time.

The researchers found three key features of employee burnout. The first being that employees who experience burnout feel emotionally exhausted, or as though they do not possess the emotional resources required for their work.

Employees experiencing burnout also express a sense of cynicism, or negative attitudes, about their work and those around them.

Finally, burnt-out employee might experience a decrease in beliefs about their accomplishments at work.

To summarize, those experiencing burnout are not only mentally exhausted, but also might hold negative attitudes about themselves, their work and those around them.

Burnout is bad for both individuals and organizations. Not only can it make your employees feel miserable, but burnout also has been linked to decreased productivity, increased turnover and lower levels of job satisfaction.

Managers are recognizing the psychological toll that the pandemic has taken on their employees, and seeking ways to help alleviate burnout. While there are a variety of ways to reduce burnout, the following could be a good place to start:

First, check in with your employees. See how they are feeling and genuinely listen. Sometimes we as humans just need our feelings validated in order to start feeling better.

However, don’t overdo it. Some people are reporting that the pandemic has caused an influx in virtual meetings simply for the sake of checking in so often that is has become counterproductive and stressful — potentially adding to burnout.

Meet as frequently as you deem necessary, but if it begins to be counterproductive you might want to scale back the amount of time or frequency that you are doing check-ins. Focus on quality time over quantity.

The same goes for Zoom happy hours. In the early months of the pandemic, many people enjoyed unwinding in this novel, causal virtual setting at the end of the work week. However, these have begun to feel like a mandatory extension of the work day for some, and what was originally intended to be a fun stress-reliever might be contributing to more stress.

Once again, this does not mean that these functions are not a good way to help your team relax, but make sure that they are not contributing to the problem.

Another way to reduce burnout is by simply taking a day off work. We as Americans are notoriously bad at using our vacation days. Take a step back and take a day or two of your personal days to reduce your stress and burnout levels.

Would you rather have employees take a day off to recharge their batteries and come back re-energized or have them continue working, probably only giving part of their effort and potentially end up leaving your organization permanently because they are so burnt out?

While taking a day off could seem like an inconvenience at the time, it can do wonders to reduce burnout and re-energize employees in the long run. As a manager make sure you are not discouraging employees from using their personal days.

They are there for a reason and if you let them know that they have the ability to use them without being judged or stigmatized this might go a long way to show that you care about them and their well-being. And to be completely honest, many of your employees probably won’t use them, but will appreciate the gesture.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to burnout. There are a number of ways to reduce employee burnout and the success of different strategies might be specific to your employees, organizational culture and industry. See what works for your company and people.

Lastly, make sure that you are not only cognizant of your employees’ burnout, but also your own. Be sure to take care of yourself too! Even the most well-intentioned organizations likely have employees who are dealing with high levels of burnout at the moment.

While the pandemic won’t last forever, the negative effects of employee burnout could last well into the future, so make sure that your organization is taking proactive steps to reduce burnout for employees and leaders alike.