Don’t Get Scorched by Burnout

The holidays are a time for added stress; there is no arguing that point. But what if the issue is more severe? What if you are charred by burnout? If a colleague, friend or perhaps you are dealing with burnout, stop and ask, “Why?” Rarely is it because they/you didn’t exert enough grit or demonstrate a positive attitude; those aspects are important, but aren’t the major reasons for burnout. So, what is?

According to the Gallup Organization, the top five reasons for burnout are:

  1. Unfair treatment at work
  2. Unmanageable workload
  3. Lack of role clarity
  4. Lack of communication and support from their manager
  5. Unreasonable time pressure

The list above clearly demonstrates that the root causes of burnout do not really lie with the individual; rather, in most cases, burnout is a leadership issue. Leaders could save themselves a huge amount of employee stress and subsequent burnout, if they were just better at asking people what they need and then doing something about it. Below are 10 low- or no-cost tips to reduce stress and avoid burnout:

  • Monitor and adjust workloads. Stop burying your superstars! Continue to give them the work you need your best people to do, but transfer some of their other work to others.
  • Demonstrate work-life balance rather than just talk about it. Help employees better fit work into their lives by increasing the flexibility of your time-off policies and consider increasing the time-off available. Maybe instead of an end-of-year bonus, consider a well-deserved hiatus.
  • Provide a helping hand. Rather than piling extra work onto already stressed workers, consider hiring temps or part-timers to help out AND get your hands dirty, too. Nothing helps develop teamwork better than seeing leaders roll up their sleeves and dig in.
  • Encourage everyone to completely unplug. Discourage check-ins by email or telephone during off hours and encourage everyone to use vacation time.
  • Cut the red tape. Do decisions and projects really need to go through multiple layers of red tape? Review and streamline complicated, time-consuming procedures and approval processes to decrease frustration.
  • Give frequent and consistent feedback. Lack of appreciation and recognition or lack of direction leads to frustration.
  • Reconsider where work can take place. Increase the availability of work-at-home opportunities, especially if commutes are lengthy or inclement weather ensues. If you don’t trust your employees to work when they are supposed to, there are bigger issues—like trust—that need to be tackled first.
  • Consider changes to the workplace environment. Review seating arrangements, noise levels, lighting and temperature to help reduce stress caused by an uncomfortable or unproductive environment. Not everyone likes Muzek pumped into their ears all day long, especially me.
  • Show appreciation. The number one thing employees need from their boss is a four-letter word—and it’s not “cash.” Employees need their leaders to CARE. Small acts of appreciation go a long way, especially during super busy times.
  • Reward hard work with a little time off. After a busy time has passed, consider offering comp time so employees can enjoy some free time they way they want to.

The tips just shared are savvy solutions based on what many stressed out employees want. But don’t assume these ideas are what your employees want or need. Don’t presume. Ask, then act.

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