3 Strategies to Fight Burnout and Create a Happier, Healthier Workplace
Burnout can surprise us. Leaders who want to get to the root of the problem and help their team members avoid it can follow these three tips.
It’s safe to say that many of us have felt overloaded and burnt out at some point in our careers. But when these feelings go from intermittent to chronic, we are at high risk of developing burnout.
Virtually anyone can experience burnout, but research shows it’s more prevalent among women than men. Additionally, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z are more likely than their fellow baby boomers to experience burnout. And in the past two years of pandemic life, the pervasiveness of burnout has only increased.
Regardless of the demographics or drivers of our exhausted workforce, the effects can be detrimental to business operations. For example, when chronic stress at work leads to burnout, people end up turning away from their roles. According to Gallup, someone who is burnt out is 63% more likely to take sick leave, and (perhaps more concerning) they are more likely to have less confidence in their performance and are less likely to discuss it with its leaders.
Ultimately, if our team is exhausted, we are likely to see increased revenue, lower satisfaction levels, and a downward spiral in profits. So what can leaders do to make a difference when it comes to helping their team members who are at risk of burnout?
- Keep an ear to the ground.
In the case of burnout, ignorance is not bliss. We don’t want to find out that someone is burnt out when they’re already halfway out the door, yet nearly half of workers say they only check in with their bosses a few times a year.
Instead of formal performance reviews or check-ins, develop the habit of simply reaching out via quick text, ping, or voice note (my favorite) regularly. Keeping communication channels open and less formal, while regularly asking how our team members are doing, can help create a safe and more accessible environment to discuss burnout before it becomes a bigger issue.
Individual records are truly one of our most important and fundamental leadership responsibilities. They are also one of the best ways to strengthen relationships, solve problems together, and maintain alignment. Additionally, research shows that the more frequent one-on-one meetings, the more engaged our teams are.
We are all driven differently, and as such, we will have different conversations with different team members. It’s also worth considering that many of the younger members of our team are more driven by purposeful and impactful work. Similarly, how people fully receive encouragement will vary. By recognizing the love languages of our team members, leaders can communicate in ways that ensure each person fully receives the praise they deserve.
- Helps establish healthy boundaries.
In many ways, the widespread adoption of remote working has been a boon. For example, one study found that remote workers are between 35% and 40% more productive than their office colleagues. At the same time, however, working from the comfort of your couch has created an interesting dilemma around the end of work life and family life.
Fearing that those who work remotely are constantly burning midnight oil, some companies have attempted to cut off access to work systems outside of 9 to 5. However, such a solution does little to tackle the root of the problem. Instead, when you see signs of unhealthy behaviors that indicate excessive stress (for example, answering emails outside of work hours), set boundaries to help everyone create a healthier approach to work.
Healthy work boundaries are one of the many conversations leaders should have with their teams when checking in. However, as business leaders, we need to lead by example by embodying healthy boundaries ourselves (e.g., logging off at 5 p.m., allowing 48 hours to respond to emails, taking an unplugged vacation, etc.) .). If you find yourself exhausted, chances are your team will end up in the same boat.
- Take a nuanced approach.
You probably care about the health and well-being of your team members, so you want to solve the burnout problem once and for all. But burnout is ultimately a complex issue that requires a nuanced approach.
Although it can be related to corporate culture and a high pressure environment, it can also be a personal pattern of the individual. It is important to differentiate between the two. Take the time to review the expectations you set for your team and their individual workloads. Assess whether burnout occurs at an individual or team (or company) level.
If burnout turns out to be a company-wide issue, it’s a strong indicator of a company culture issue. Conversely, if the issue only affects one or two people, it’s important to change your strategy to help those people create healthier working approaches. At my company, for example, we offer coaching as a benefit, so that our team members can, among other things, learn how to set healthy boundaries.
Business leaders worried about the impact of burnout on their staff can start by implementing these three strategies to open up lines of communication, create healthier approaches to work, and address burnout individually. Take the time to be patient and compassionate in the changing labor economy. This can be an effective way to not only combat burnout, but also to retain and sustain your employees for years to come.
Written by Sarah Hawley.
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