While we may not be engaging in labor as physically punishing as those who made it through the industrial era, it’s a mistake to assume that all is sunny and roses in the modern working world. Burnout has become a serious risk in offices of all types and sizes.
The buildup of resentment, tension, and exhaustion can lead to collapse, which can affect your team in very serious ways. So, what can you do to help them prevent and manage the risk of burnout?
Recognize The Signs Of Burnout
One of the things that managers and employees will most commonly say after an employee has a breakdown or a serious health or work incident that requires them to take an extended break is “I didn’t see it coming” or “I never expected it.” However, the chances are that the signs were there, just that not enough care was taken to recognize them. Get to know the warning signs of burnout, or the symptoms that it might already be happening, such as people being more irritable, seeming depressed, taking more sick days, or failing to meet deadlines or other goals more consistently. You might be able to help them by encouraging them to take some time to themselves while you address the causes.
Create A Positive Work Environment
The nature of the workplace and how people function in that environment is going to be one of the greatest contributors to burnout. As such, you have to make sure that you foster a healthy and positive work environment as best as possible. There are several ways to cultivate a better working environment for your team. This can include making sure that you keep the physical workspace in good condition, clean, with access to natural light, as well as the ability to work in both private spaces where they can focus and more open spaces where they can communicate and collaborate with others. Of course, a good working environment is about the culture just as much as it is about the physical space, too.
Encourage Employees To Say “No”
It might sound like it goes against every leadership or managerial instinct that you have, but it is vital that you give employees the power to say “no” to you. While it’s not the only cause, burnout is often caused by people taking on more work than they are feasibly able to handle, putting them under pressure and stress to meet unrealistic goals. The reason that people do this in the first place is because of you, or whoever they feel they have to answer to, puts pressure on them, even if they don’t know it. Give your employees the permission they need to say no when their plates are full and try to understand the pressure you exert when you directly ask them to take on more work.
Help Employees Recognize When They Have Enough On Their Plate
Of course, in order to effectively say no, your employees have to be able to recognize when they are already taking on enough work. To that end, you can help them get a better idea of what they can do each day, as well as to better track their current responsibilities. There are workload management tools that you can equip your team with that can help them better track what work they have to do in a to-do list but also get an idea of which work they should be focusing on first by helping them categorize them by priority and timeliness. This way, your employees can get a better idea of when they really can’t take on more work
Recognize Toxic Work Behavior
As mentioned, culture can play a big role in how people get on with their work, as well as their risk of burning out. Toxic work relationships can play a huge role in that but the way that people with toxic behaviors operate is that they try to keep it as out of sight and beneath notice as possible, so as to prevent people from having any reasonable recourse against them. As such, it’s up to you to get educated on the signs of toxic work behavior and to adopt a zero-tolerance policy against them. Anyone who is exhibiting signs of toxic behavior should be pulled up on them and, if they are unable to address them or stop bringing them into work, they should not work there.
Beware Of Overtime
It’s not always the other people in the workplace that are putting the pressure on, sometimes it’s the sheer amount of work. Aside from ensuring that your team doesn’t have more on their plate than they are able to take on, you should be careful when it comes to expecting or giving overtime. Sure, work will sometimes involve crunch but becoming too overly reliant on overtime is going to give your team very little ability to maintain their own work-life balance. Work is going to take over their life, which is going to mean that they’re not able to enjoy any of the satisfaction that should come as a reward for their labor. You need to know when to put your foot down and to tell people to stop working, even if it affects your future plans or goals.
Ensure Fair And Effective Schedules
The issue with working times isn’t always just that your employees are spending too much time at work. Sometimes, it’s that they’re scheduled in a way that doesn’t allow for much work-life balance even if they’re not taking on any overtime. By creating a work schedule template, you can make sure that everyone is scheduled fairly, and that they get consistent and predictable times to rest and relax away from work. Calling them in for a double shift immediately after another double shift is going to severely put the pressure on them, even if they do technically get enough time off later through the week to “make up for it.” That’s not how it works.
Help Build A Sense Of Purpose
There’s something to be said for making sure that your employees feel that their work has some importance or that it matters. The mental and emotional toll of the work that they do can be influenced by whether or not the work feels worth it in the first place. As such, you must take pains to ensure that your team gets the recognition they need when they contribute so much time to your business. This can mean taking a step as simple as thanking them, publicly recognizing them for the efforts that they put in, or even coming up with some kind of rewards system so that they can feel truly valued for their efforts.
Take A Serious Approach To Mental Health
One of the environments where mental health is still treated with a stigma is the workplace. Rather than just an obstacle you should be trying to avoid, however, mental illness should be treated as something that is both contributed to and managed by the workplace. By creating a mental health wellness plan, you can offer your team access to therapies and techniques that can help them better manage their own working lives, while also allowing you to adjust to their needs, as well. Handle mental health issues through cooperation, not through simply trying to distance yourself from the problem.
Burnout is serious and it requires an approach that uses your help. The tips above can help you conquer it in your workplace.