Employee productivity and well-being should be at the forefront of any successful employer’s mind when they consider how effective their policies are. The issue of burn-out, when staff are overworked & their productivity drops and/or they need time off to recover, is one that is growing in the UK. A culture of ‘presenteeism’ employees coming in even when they shouldn’t e.g. if they are ill) and increasing workloads is a concern and is adding to the problem.
Why does employee burnout happen?
Burnout can be a result of a number of things; being overworked, under-appreciated, having poor job security, insecurity about performance quality, lack of clarity on job expectations and being under-stimulated. These concerns can lead to staff members to work excessive amounts of over-time, stop producing the same quality output and/or take on over-ambitious workloads.
This then leads to the over-worked employee being unable to function the same on both personal and professional levels. Mental stress, fatigue and anxiety are common symptoms, it is a problem that tends to creep up on someone, it does however show warning signs before it fully hits. The most cited causes of stress in a survey undertaken by employees themselves included; their workload, people they work with, work-life balance and lack of job security.
Signs of Burnout
It is key for employers to be able to spot the signs of burnout, particularly be able to catch it before it becomes a more severe issue. It can be hard to prevent all the causes of burnout but it is not hard to spot the symptoms. The signs include; Unexplained absences from work, showing up to work late/leaving early, decrease in productivity, apparent frustration, decline in health, lack of enthusiasm and isolation.
How to stop or reverse burnout
Stopping your employees suffering from burnout is easier than you would think for such a complex issue;
Fairness: Staff who aren’t being treated fairly are at risk. Giving other staff members preferential treatment, not giving the right person credit, pay inequality and random promotions can cause many personal issues with certain staff. Employees must bottle up many of these feelings, can show them as animosity or will take on excessive work to earn their justified recognition. Ensure that everyone is paid the right amount, take notice of the market and going rate people in these positions are normally paid at businesses of a similar size, this ensures no one feels left out or under-valued.
Fun workplace: Employees should enjoy their job and coming to work, this can be helped by maintaining a good working atmosphere free of excessive pressure; including providing appropriate food and drinks throughout the day.
Recognize success & rewards: Employees want to feel needed and appreciated, this can be verbal and helps if it is done in front of colleagues, it can boost self-esteem and confidence. This appreciation lets the employee know there will be rewards for their hard work. Other rewards include gift baskets, coupons, memberships, awards and additional time off following good performance (this can even just be the odd half day off).
Manage workloads: It is crucial not to let someone take on too much work. Whether they are a very productive employee, someone people go to with problems or are trying to get promoted, emphasise the focus is on quality not quantity. They will fatigue and grow frustrated if this goes on too much, decreasing their original level of productivity drastically.
Take into account peoples strengths, if someone hates a certain task of the job then why not give it to someone who is really good & potentially passionate about the particular task? It makes business sense but also lets frustration not become a factor in performance, mix and match your employees strengths to the tasks you give them.
Survey your staff: Make sure you are keeping check of your employees mental and personal wellbeing. They should have a forum to voice any issues and frustrations they want to discuss; it is your job to make yourself approachable to them but also invite the discussion occasionally with each staff member to make sure everything is okay. Anonymous surveys are also a good way to get opinions, particularly on sensitive issues, analysing the data can help you make more informed decisions to better the company.
Company culture: Company culture is a key aspect of any successful business model. Staff can’t fear for their job if they need time off from being overworked, they need to feel comfortable that they can come to you on a human level if it is needed. Encourage all staff to put health first in their life, above work. The balance between home and work life is crucial in avoiding a number of stress related issues, particularly for parents with families that rely on them. Another good idea would be to Invite a mental health charity such as MIND into the workplace to provide staff with information and support.
How not to handle burnout: Burned out employees are not only less productive but it can harm your business. They can become worse at their job, be harder for customers to deal with and lower office morale if their mood is negative. Some of the more common manifestations of burnout include increased anxiety, irritability, weight gain or loss, frequent absences, and/or susceptibility to illness. Burnout can kill someone’s career if you don’t deal with it early enough or don’t handle it correctly when it occurs.
Most managers are inclined to demote or fire an employee who is burning out, but this can often backfire. Other employees can start to burn out because they are now forced to carry an additional workload or they begin to fear for their own jobs.
Conclusion: Keeping the prospect of burnout at bay is hugely important for your business and it highlights the importance of a fair, open, understanding, strong and adaptable company culture. This allows employees to voice any of their issues with management, stopping the pent up emotions that manifest themselves in a number of negative ways.
If you have any questions or queries on the issue of burnout the get in touch with HPC. We offer advice and guidance from a leading specialist in UK Employment law, HR and Health and Safety Services. Contact us on the form below or call us on 0844 800 5932.