Council Post: Employee Burnout: How Leaders Can Tip The Scale

To tip the scale with burnout, leaders must first address its root causes.

Council Post: Employee Burnout: How Leaders Can Tip The Scale

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Overwhelmed leaders and teams around the world are facing increased workloads, constant churn, and increasing anxiety about their families, finances, and future. This has led to high levels of stress in the workplace, and a dramatic increase in burnout. Burnout has a high price. Burnout can lead to exhaustion, brain fog, and mental distance. This makes it harder for people to work together or manage their tasks. Burned out employees are 63% more likely than others to go job-hunting, and 2.6 times more likely to be on the phone. Employers have been warned that burnout is fueling the Great Resignation as well as a wave of 'quiet quitters'. Leaders must address the root causes of burnout before they can tip the balance. Research shows that burnout is often caused by how well someone is managed. Poor management support, poor communication, unmanageable work loads, unreasonable time pressures, and lack of communication are some examples.

Employees can become overwhelmed if they don't have the right information to do their jobs effectively. Clear expectations and clear goals can help reduce burnout as a leader. Although this sounds simple, employees agree that clearer expectations and goals will help relieve stress. It is important to practice empathy and create a safe environment for employees to discuss difficult issues or points. This is particularly important because many employees feel uncomfortable talking about stress or burnout with their managers. Leaders can be more compassionate and open to listening, and some companies even offer coaching and conversation guides to help them foster trust, safety, and open communication among their staff. Burnout is often caused by too many things. Too many tasks can refer to the difficulty and number of tasks as well as the hours needed to complete them. Employees can feel disengaged and cynical when work is difficult. However, trust and autonomy can help teams produce better outputs and result. Give your team reasonable deadlines and pressures. Collaborating with your teams is key to removing on-the-job obstacles, improving incentives, and providing more up-front training when and where it's needed. Communicate clearly that not all requests need immediate attention.

It is also important to look at biases towards a 'hustle-grind' mentality. All employees, regardless of their role or level, should be encouraged and even expected to rest, recharge and recuperate as a matter personal effectiveness and well being and as a means to sustain and maintain peak performance. Leaders are more at risk for burnout. Be sure to keep track of your own fatigue levels and help others do the same.

Increase Flexibility

Although the hours worked each week is important, it may also have an impact on how burnout occurs. McLean & Company found that flexible work environments not only decrease burnout but also lead to greater attraction and retention.

Flexible schedules are a key element of many companies' efforts to engage employees and increase productivity. Slack's engineering manager Shannon Burns says that if employees are unable to meet their basic needs due to their schedules not being flexible enough, it will have a huge impact on their productivity.

These leadership practices support flexibility in Slack:

  • The focus is on the outcomes and not the activities

  • More meetings, but less often

  • Schedule sharing with coworkers

  • Track progress by using written records instead of daily updates.

Strengthen connections

Meaningful connections are crucial to managing stress as teams become more dispersed and routine support systems fall apart. Leaders can strengthen relationships by arranging for check-ins and pulse checks at meetings. Examples of questions are: "What is the workload like this week?" What can we do to help? Meetings that are 'no-agenda’ can be held where teams can discuss current issues, podcasts, and movies. Virtual walking meetings can be used to encourage team members to take screen breaks together and to inspire creativity through movement and exercise.

Organizations can help leaders to set the tone for collaboration, connection and support extended leadership teams in order to help them lead better in uncertain times. Strengthening connections is also possible through diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Many organizations include work location as part of their inclusion efforts in order to foster a culture that values belonging.

Companies that do not support employee well-being are more likely to experience higher turnover, lower productivity, and higher healthcare costs. Research shows that employees desire access to resources, benefits, and support for improving mental health and reducing burnout. A majority of them would prefer to work for companies that have more caring values.

Practices that reward and teach human-centered leadership are key to new approaches that focus on well-being. Businesses can show their commitment to well-being by implementing initiatives such as a global Wellness Week and programs for energy management.

Burnout prevention is not only good for your employees, but also for your company. Although it is important to provide better leadership support, they can't do this alone. The most effective organizations move the needle by moving from standalone wellness programs to integrated well-being strategies that include daily policies, practices, and habits that create accountability for well being across all levels. How can you and your leaders help your organization achieve well-being?

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