Combating Employees' Burnout Benefits Both You and Them

Picture of Gina Blitstein Gina Blitstein combines her insight as a fellow small business owner with her strong communication skills, exploring topics that enhance your business efforts. That first-hand knowledge, matched with an insatiable curiosity to know more about just about anything, makes her a well-rounded writer with a sincere desire to engage and inform.

Combating Employees' Burnout Benefits Both You and Them

The rhythm and pace of the work that gets done is critical to the productivity of your business. But let’s remember: that rhythm and pace is in large part dependent upon the people who make up your workforce. Yes, people - potentially fallible, completely human people. People who could possibly experience professional burnout, which can be personally debilitating for employees and a source of setbacks for your company.

Why is employee burnout an issue that should concern you?

As an employer, you should take the professional attitude of your employees very seriously. As the face, arms and mind of your business, you want them present, content and focused on doing their work well - for both you and themselves. When a divide develops between what the job demands and what the employee is capable of giving to it, burnout is a possibility.

When employees experience burnout, they may feel unmotivated on the job. An unmotivated employee will not be working at the top of his or her game - and that’s not fair to you. At the very least, you should expect a certain degree of commitment and enthusiasm from your staff.

Burned-out employees’ job satisfaction is low, which could lead to them quitting their positions. As you well know, hiring and training new employees has a high cost in financial, time and productivity areas.

Potential reasons for employee burnout

Employee burnout can occur for a number of reasons. Look to the following areas:

You - Are you providing adequate feedback on performance? Employees who feel that their employer doesn’t care about the work they’re doing will feel unrecognized for their efforts. Could you be failing to give employees enough input on their workflow, workspace, working conditions, or benefits? Employees who are deprived of choice in the elements that are crucial to the way they work may feel underappreciated. Are you providing opportunities for advancement? Some of your employees may feel “stuck” in their present job, even if they’re performing well. Where possible, help them answer the questions, “Where do I go from here?” and “Why should I continue working here?” lest they answer by moving on to another company.

Them - Personal, financial, health, emotional, family...any of these areas can take an employee’s mind off his or her work. The demands of the job may put insurmountable pressure on an employee who is emotionally stressed and spent from problems in other areas of his or her life. Outside stressors like these can easily lead to burnout, because the employee’s primary focus has shifted away from business, causing it to be regarded as a distraction rather than a priority.

Just the way it goes - Professionally, an employee may have a career trajectory in mind that isn’t an option in your particular business. Should they stay on, they may feel trapped, uninspired and eventually burnt out. While some employees are content to work in the same job for decades, others identify that situation as a “dead end job” and won’t stay for fear of professional stagnation.

Identifying signs of employee burnout

Discovering employee burnout is usually not difficult, as long as you’re on the lookout. Watch for symptoms such as:

  • Poor performance, either sudden or over a period of time - This indicates that he or she isn’t paying close attention or for some reason doesn’t care to be as thorough as before. Whether the reason is personal or professional, note a drop in performance as the red flag that it is.
  • Change in level of ambition - While everyone can’t always be the one who hatches the creative ideas or follows up to the nth degree, when an employees who has done that consistently in the past seems to be avoiding that role, find out why. It’s possible that the employee feels they haven’t been appreciated for their “above the call of duty” attitude and have scaled back their efforts in a sense of disappointment. Employees who take such pride in their work can easily burnout when they feel their level of commitment is underappreciated.
  • Signs of frustration on the job - Employees may feel boxed-in, by things like a lack of:
    • resources at his or her disposal
    • strong management
    • opportunity for advancement
    • a feeling of direction or overall accomplishment
    • voice in decisions that affect them
    • a sense of company-wide integrity that jives with their own
  • Frequent absences/tardiness - These are clear indications that the employee has lost a sense of respect and ownership for the job he or she holds. Such an employee has in a sense “checked out” of caring about the welfare of the business, because he or she doesn’t feel it’s worth the time to consistently be there.

What you as an employer can do to about burnout

Although there’s not always a remedy for burnout, there are things you as an employer can do to help avoid it, or at least alleviate it once it occurs.

Be vigilant - You don’t want to operate with burnt out employees, so it’s up to you to keep your hand on the pulse of your workforce. Track productivity, attendance and general attitudes. Be involved in the day-to-day work in the trenches as much as possible so you can take the temperature of your individual employees and their enthusiasm.

Know your employees, their interests, abilities and ambitions - Make it a point to know as much as possible about those folks you employ. Learn why they want to work in your company and where they see their careers going. What can you do to help them stay professionally motivated while working for you?

Create paths toward continued success within your business - Recognize the value that trusted, long-time employees have to your operational stability. Surely it’s better to have as many people as possible moving up the internal company ladder. Providing the training and opportunities for those interested in doing so will provide a means to an end for many employees.

Your attempts to combat employee burnout make your company a more productive, efficient, better workplace for both you and your employees.

How does your company avoid professional burnout among its employees?

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