Employees are burning out at alarming rates. People feel constant demand to deliver, so they’re either burning out or they’re leaving their jobs, due to high stress and burnout. With COVID-19, this is becoming more prevalent and amplified, due to all the demands from working from home (WFH).
A recent Monster.com survey found that 69% of employees identify as being burned out.
Many organizations are slow to address this epidemic (burnout) within a pandemic (COVID), because they don’t see a direct correlation between employee burnout and the bottom line.
However, these costs are becoming more clear as we look deeper into the performance of companies and their employees.
When you have a work environment that is more stressful than typical, companies will see absenteeism of employees rising. Absent employees cannot do their jobs, so the productivity of your company will be lower. This lower productivity means less output, which means diminishing returns on your investments, sales, etc.
Mental health problems and illnesses account for approximately 30% of short – and long-term disability claims every year, and this number is increasing. Increased insurance claims will result in higher premiums your company will pay, which often leads to companies cutting back on the insurance benefits they provide to employees. These cuts impact morale and potentially the physical and mental wellbeing of employees.
Higher insurance, higher turnover, higher HR-related recruitment costs all impact your bottom line. While many organizations focus on increasing their revenues for profits, the agile companies focus on keeping their employees happy and productive, which keeps expenses lower than those companies that ignore the employee burnout situation they are facing.
Reducing and preventing burnout in your company is the right thing to do, and it will make your organization successful in the short and long term.
How to reduce burnout in your company
Companies can reduce burnout by implementing new behaviors in the workplace. Some examples include:
ESTABLISH WORKLOAD AND TIME BOUNDARIES
Humans are not supposed to work long hours and be expected to produce high-quality work. With the WFH environment, we find ourselves working some abnormal schedules, countless Zoom calls, and all the nuances of working from home with others (spouses/partners, and children.)
Instead of focusing on the archaic “time clock” 8-hour shift mentality, organizations should assign manageable tasks to their employees without a time constraint associated with those tasks. Yes, establish the parameters around the work, as well as when the company needs the task to be completed, but after that let the employee perform the task without you or your management team micromanaging the process.
Do you trust your employees to do their jobs? Then let them. If you don’t trust the employees, why did you hire them?
Coupled with the time challenge burned-out employees are facing, is the unreasonable workloads that are being delegated down to them. Companies that lack vision and focus often try (and fail) to do too much and this bad behavior is killing your employees. A wise individual that was a board director for a company I worked for years ago, stood up in a board meeting, and asked the board “Who are we? What does our organization do? We need to focus on our core products and stop coveting every shiny object we think is nice.”
All of those “shiny objects” can overload your employees. Focus on what your company does best and do that.
WALK THE WALK
Management and senior leadership need to stop emailing/texting/communicating with their employees outside of work hours. With smartphones and access anywhere opportunities, companies are burning out their employees by being constantly connected to work.
Unions were formed because of the unhealthy work conditions that employees were facing. Constant emailing/texting/communicating all day, night and weekends are creating unhealthy work environments. Those that don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it.
As a manager or leader, you can control when people are working and when they’re “off the clock.” Do not send messages after 5pm or on weekends, unless it’s a dire emergency. If your workloads require working outside of those times, you better be crystal clear on the work you’re doing, to make sure it’s work you actually should be doing.
TREAT VACATIONS AS THE ULTIMATE DO NOT DISTURB SIGN
Employees need to take their vacations, as do senior leaders. Leaders lead by example, so the C-Suite right down to the front lines need to take their vacation time. When on vacation, you are to vacate work, so that means not working. Again with smartphones this has become a boundary challenge, but one that companies can correct, with strong policies and behaviors that allow employees to take a vacation without work interuptions.
Without employees, your business will fail. Even if you’re a company of one, if you don’t take care of yourself and your employees, the burnout will take a toll, and you could lose your employees to health concerns, or simply by forcing them to leave because of the insane workloads and pressures on them. Employers can do better.