One of the most significant challenges in today’s increasingly fast-paced and demanding business world is figuring out how to balance growing workloads and personal time. A combination of long hours and increasing workload-to-employee ratios are contributing to employee burnout.
Burnout is an issue that needs to be addressed not just by employees, but by employers as well. In this article, we’ll identify some employee burnout causes and cures that your organization can implement to prevent these burnout symptoms.
How Employee Burnout Occurs
According to a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, companies and leaders engage (intentionally or unwittingly) in three behaviors that often lead to employee burnout:
- Always Assigning the Most Challenging Projects to High Performers. It’s understandable to want to put your best employee on the hard tasks, but you risk wearing them out.
- Using High Performers to Compensate for “Weaker” Colleagues. Employers continually told colleagues that they have to “fix” the problems created by less qualified, knowledgeable, or experienced employees.
- Asking High Performers to Help with Efforts Unrelated to Their Work. All of those small one-off requests add up—often reaching a point where the employee feels like they can’t complete their own work.
What Are the Symptoms of Employee Burnout?
When employees feel burned out at work, it can affect their health and wellness. This makes employee burnout a workplace health issue that can lead to decreased productivity and higher health insurance costs, impacting your bottom line.
These feelings can manifest in many ways, including:
- Chronic fatigue or feelings of exhaustion;
- Inability to concentrate or to remain focused;
- Inability to sleep or experiencing decreased sleep;
- Anxiety or feelings of depression;
- Increased susceptibility to illness and increasing employee health-related issues;
- Loss of appetite or overeating.
How to Prevent Employee Burnout in the Future
Unless you work in an industry in which you are on-call 24/7/365 — such as public relations, emergency management, public safety, the military, or politics — there is typically no reason why you should expect to reach your employees every hour of the day. The advances of modern communications technology over the past two decades have blurred the lines between work and leisure time.
U.S. companies can take a cue from the European Union’s Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC) to prevent employees from feeling burned out at work. The regulation “requires a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours in every 24 hours” for organizations in EU countries and limits weekly working hours to no more than 48 on average (including any overtime).
Last year, France implemented a new law that recognizes the importance of an employee “disconnecting” from their jobs during non-work hours. The country’s Labor Code (Article L2242-8) requires organizations to establish regulations regarding the use of digital tools “to ensure the rest of rest time and vacation, as well as personal and family time.”
Another way to help prevent employee burnout is to follow the advice of another Big Think article, which highlights the importance of allowing employees to engage in minor distractions, discover their boundaries, and develop good work habits by telecommuting. It’s unlikely your organization will suffer because “studies show that folks who work at home get more done than those who languish away in offices.”
What Employees Can Do to Prevent Employee Burnout
According to Arianna Huffington, a Big Think expert and CEO of the Huffington Post, employees also can do things on their end to help deal with burnout symptoms and causes. In an interview with Big Think, Huffington recommends getting more sleep, engaging in meditative activities, and leaving electronic devices out of the bedroom.
“Well, the great thing about introducing mindfulness and meditation into our lives is that it does make it easier for us to unplug from our day and actually go to sleep. And having some rituals, a little transition period — could be just ten minutes between our day life and actually going to sleep — is incredibly helpful… And as we learn through meditation — for example, to still our mind — it becomes easier for us to be able to go to sleep.”
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