Like the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” And it’s here…
Ellen Warden, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
WorkPlace Synergy, LLC
“Think of burned-out employees as canaries in the coal mine. When the canary keels over, we acknowledge that the environment is hazardous — we don’t tell the canary that it should take a long weekend.”
This quote from Harvard Business Review reveals that employee burnout can come with a hefty price tag for your BV practice. A Gallop survey found burned-out employees are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 23% more likely to visit an emergency room. They are 2.5 times more likely to be actively seeking a different job. Even if they stay, they typically have lower confidence in their performance.
Burnout diminishes the desire to learn and grow since most of their energy and mental focus is on daily survival, not developing for the future. They become resistant to coaching and develop a mindset fixated on problems rather than future opportunities and success. Their decision-making and customer service suffer.
We tend to think of burnout as an individual problem. Many companies offer a host of wellness benefits such as yoga, meditation app subscriptions, well-being days, and training on time management and productivity. But these self-help interventions are band-aids that remediate symptoms. They don’t resolve the causes of employee burnout.
While burnout looks like an individualized problem that calls for an individualized response, it’s indicative of broader and deeper problems. The same Gallup study reported the top five reasons for burnout are:
- Unfair treatment at work
- Unmanageable workload
- Lack of role clarity
- Lack of communication and support from their manager
- Unreasonable time pressure
Practice leaders play a crucial role in helping their team avoid and extinguish burnout by creating a positive work atmosphere and igniting engagement:
- Recognize great work and employee strengths. Let your employees know when work is done well. Talk to them about the specific skills and strengths they have and why you value them and their work. Thank them for their contributions and celebrate wins.
- Set realistic expectations and a clear purpose. Remind employees of the company’s purpose, clarify their role expectations so everyone knows who does what and how they are connected to the organization’s success. Align assignments with employees’ strengths and help them manage their workload. Understand what they can realistically accomplish and that an increased workload may require changing deadlines for other projects.
- Offer support. Create a culture in which seeking help is encouraged. Ask proactively what you can do to help them perform their jobs better.
- Promote communication, honesty, and transparency. Include employees in decision-making processes and ensure they feel heard. Create open relationships so employees feel comfortable speaking up when they’re overwhelmed.
- Eliminate unnecessary tasks. Allocate work to allow employees to be successful, focus on the tasks that really matter and eliminate the rest. Introduce more efficient work processes where possible and reduce mandatory meetings – especially during the lunch hour or late on a Friday.
- Model a healthy work/life balance. Encourage employees to use their PTO. Let them take time to deal with personal responsibilities. Model healthy boundaries, down-time, and unplugging.
Burnout is experienced by individuals, but it is caused by business and management issues. If you want to prevent and eliminate burnout, focus on your organization. As the practice leader, extinguishing burnout in your firm starts and ends with you.
Do you need help designing an efficient and effective strategy for engaging employees and eliminating burnout? Ellen Warden works with BV/LS practices around the country to help them align their HR solutions with long-term objectives. You can reach Ellen at WorkPlace Synergy.