When you manage a team of employees, some turnover is inevitable. However, if your work environment is very stressful and demanding, you might be contributing to employee burnout and sending good workers out the door before their time.
What is burnout?
According to Kristina Martic of TalentLyft, the simplest way to describe employee burnout is “the state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion in employees.” While all jobs have some stress or rough periods, burnout comes from long stretches of these with no end in sight. Unlike some issues in the workplace, Amy Blackburn of Business.com reports that burnout tends to target high-performers and overachievers in your office who become disillusioned to the reality of their job, as well as pessimists who are already dissatisfied with their position. While many people point to millennials as the main sufferers, researchers have been studying burnout for decades. In fact, the Center for Disease Control published many of its guides about lowering stress and preventing workplace burnout in the late 1990s.
How not to handle it
When an employee is suffering from burnout, especially the later stages of it, their work will probably suffer. This could mean missing deadlines, decreased quality of work or negativity when working with others. While you might think the best fix is to fire this problem-employee or demote them, Blackburn cautions against it, especially if they started out as a well-performing member of the team. Both of those actions create extra workload for your other associates, and if your company environment already burned out one staff member, the problem will probably spread. At the bare minimum, firing an employee will make your staff worry about their own positions, contributing to employment insecurity that leads to more stress.
Communication is key
It’s hard to prevent all stress in your workplace, but communication goes a long way towards limiting its impact or repairing its damage. If you notice an employee suffering physically, emotionally or mentally from stress and exhaustion, you should make an effort to figure out what’s going on. Martic suggests that you or a human resources manager start a discussion with the staff member, keeping the setting both informal and private so they feel comfortable opening up. She also says that before you leave the meeting to work on the larger problem in your office, you should make sure you support the suffering staffer in the room. Since many burned out employees start off as good employees with lofty goals, reassure them that you are there to help them through this issue and remind them of their value to your team. If possible, see if there’s something you can do quickly, like postponing a project or moving a responsibility, to help alleviate their stress.
After talking with your employees and management, it’s key that you actually work towards improving your employees’ stress levels. If you do nothing, your employees will get more stressed because they think their voice doesn’t matter in the company.
Beyond addressing issues specific to your office, John Rampton, a VIP contributor to Entrepreneur.com, suggests that you take some general action to keep employees as happy and stress-free as possible. If your staff has paid time off, he suggests creating a system to cover their workload that encourages them to actually take the hours owed to them. You also should look into their general work-life balance, as employees tend to be happier if they know they can spend time with their families outside of the office without worrying about watching their work inbox. If their responsibilities makes it possible, you could consider allowing employees work-from-home privileges that would let them escape your busy office and spend time working on projects in a more calming atmosphere.
If you’re worried about employee burnout, take a hard look at your team and identify what stresses them out the most. Stopping the problem before it leads to turnover is essential to a well-functioning business.