We all know that
excessive stress is a health hazard. The effects of employee burnout in the
workplace have been seen to affect business performance. Workplace stress has
been seen to make people nearly three times as likely to leave their jobs,
temporarily impairs strategic thinking and dulls creative thinking. Research
has therefore shown that burnout is a threat to an organisations bottom line.
In the US alone the cost of burnout was more than $300 billion a year in
absenteeism, turnover, and diminished productivity, medical, legal, and
insurance costs. Burnout in the workplace usually creeps in subtly, over time,
impacting workers in a way that they almost do not notice.
According to the World
Health Organisation, burnout is defined as “… a syndrome conceptualized as
resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.
It is characterized by three dimensions:
of energy depletion or exhaustion;
mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related
to one's job;
Causes of Workplace Burnout
There are many things
that can lead to job burnout, and it differs for every person. But there are
common factors that have been identified as reasons behind burnout and
stressors at your workplace. Areas of Worklife model (drawn from research by
Christina Maslach and Michael P. Leiter of the University of California at
Berkeley and Acadia University, respectively) identifies six areas where one could
experience imbalances that lead to burnout:
- Workload- When you have a
workload that matches your capacity, you can effectively get your work done,
have opportunities for rest and recovery, and find time for professional growth
and development. When you chronically feel overloaded, these opportunities to
restore balance don’t exist.
lack of control- feeling like you lack autonomy,
access to resources, and a say in decisions that impact your professional life
can take a toll on your well-being. If you find yourself feeling out of
control, step back and ask yourself, “What exactly is causing me to feel this
way?” For instance, does your boss contact you at all hours of the day and
night, and make you feel like you need to always be on call? Are the priorities
within your workplace constantly shifting so you can never get ahead? Or do you
simply not have enough predictability in terms of your physical or people
resources to effectively perform your job?
- Reward- If
the extrinsic and intrinsic rewards for your job don’t match the amount of
effort and time you put into them, then you’re likely to feel like the
investment is not worth the payoff.
- Community-Who do you work with
or around? How supportive and trusting are those relationships? In many cases,
you can’t choose your colleagues and clients, but you can improve the dynamic.
It could be as simple as taking the time to ask others how their day is going —
and really listening. Or sending an email to someone to let them know you
appreciated their presentation. Or choosing to communicate something difficult
in a respectful, nonjudgmental way. Burnout can be contagious, so to elevate
your individual engagement, you must shift the morale of the group. If you’ve
found that once you’ve done all you can, others can’t improve or don’t want
improved relationships, then you may want to consider a job change.
- Fairness-Think about whether
you believe that you receive fair and equitable treatment. For example, do you
get acknowledged for your contributions or do other individuals get praised and
your work goes unnoticed? Does someone else get regular deadline extensions or
access to additional resources when you don’t?
you highly value something that your company does not, your motivation to work
hard and persevere can significantly drop. Ideals and motivations tend to be
deeply ingrained in individuals and organizations. When you’re assessing this
element of burnout, you need to think carefully about how important it is to
you to match your values with those of the organization.
Workplace Burnout Solutions
In a recent study,
researchers found that while there is an expectation that wellness programs
will improve issues of absenteeism and employee healthcare, they often do not.
Instead, employers need to shift to organization-level approaches for reducing
stress at work, ones that foster employee well-being while simultaneously
improving business performance. According to Natalia Peart, a clinical psychologist
and Fortune 1000 executive leadership consultant, burnout prevention requires
reducing workplace stress while also improving employee engagement. She
recommends the following in dealing with issues of burnout in the workplace:
- Create a Work Environment
That Decreases Stress- When
employees are ar4e put in a high-stress situation their ability to think,
strategize and innovate decreases. Organizations need to build a secure work
environment and incorporate stress reduction habits into your team’s daily
- Increase psychological
safety- When an organization lacks psychological
safety it is likely to cause stress for employees as they are not free to share
their opinions and ideas. In her book, The Fearless Organization, Amy Edmondson describes three steps you
can take to build psychological safety. First, make your expectations obvious
by giving your employees clear goals. Second, make sure everyone feels like
their voices are heard, and that everyone knows that you want their voices to be
heard. You can do this by inviting people to speak up in meetings and
conducting brainstorming sessions more than you impose top-down decisions.
Third, develop a work environment that is both challenging and unthreatening.
Let people know it is okay to fail. Recognize team members who think outside
the box, and ask your employees for feedback regularly to show you’re all in it
- Build regular break
times into the workday- The
human brain can focus for around 90-120 minutes before it needs to rest. It’s
important to encourage your employees to take occasional breaks to allow them
to mentally reboot.
the use of private workspaces when team members need to focus- Open offices
are prone to distractions, increasing stress and decreasing productivity.
Encourage employees to find private spaces when they need to focus and get work
done without distractions. They can use a meeting room if available and put a
‘do not disturb’ sign.
- Look into flexible
work policies- If
you want a highly adaptive team, then create an adaptable work environment.
Give your employees flexibility by allowing them to work staggered hours,
taking into account their varying needs. This approach will help employees
maintain a work-life balance.
- Build Employee Engagement- Decades
of data have confirmed that higher employee engagement, or the strength of the
mental and emotional connection an employee feels toward their workplace, has
many positive benefits — including reduced stress, improved health and job
satisfaction, as well as increased productivity, job retention, and
- Be Transparent- If your team members
are confused about how their work connects to and serves both the short- and
long-term company goals, they will naturally become more stressed and less
productive — especially in times of uncertainty. Part of your job is to help
them see the big picture or the role they play in helping the company achieve
its larger goals.
- Make sure people are
in the right roles-If
your team members loathe doing their jobs, then they are naturally going to be
less engaged. To ensure that their talents and strengths are aligned with the
expectations and responsibilities of their roles.
- Give as much autonomy
as you can- When
possible, give your team control over how they manage their projects. Employees
are 43% less likely to experience high levels of burnout when they have a
choice in deciding what tasks to do when to do them, and how much time to spend
a commitment to your employee’s growth and progression-Give
people the chance to move around, or move on, if it’s the right next step for
their careers. Your commitment to their growth will deepen the sense of trust
between you and them.
Burnout may originate
within the workplace, affecting productivity and creating a hostile work
environment- its effects go beyond the walls of the workplace. Research has
shown that burnout goes as far as affecting an employee’s home life. To battle
this growing epidemic and create healthier work environments, leaders need to
commit to changing what “workplace wellness” looks like.
Sayenda-Havire is a consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a
management and human resources consulting firm. Phone +263 4
481946-48/481950/2900276/2900966 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit
our website at www.ipcconsultants.com