Now, some of you may be thinking “But wait, isn’t burnout just a fancy way of saying I hate my job?” And to that, I say “No!”. Burnout is more than just the Sunday scaries or the occasional “I don’t want to adult today.” It’s a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion caused by chronic workplace stress.
In this article, we’ll explore how leaders can help their employees navigate burnout and find balance in their work and personal lives. We’ll discuss practical strategies for managing burnout, the importance of self-care, and the role of company culture in promoting a healthy work environment. So grab a cup of coffee (or tea, if that’s your jam) and let’s dive in!
Recognizing Burnout in Employees
Recognizing burnout amongst workers is crucial for leaders to prevent it from becoming a major problem. Some signs of burnout to look out for include:
- Decreased motivation
- Chronic fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling detached from work
It is essential to address burnout early as it can lead to absenteeism, high turnover rates, and decreased productivity. Encourage your employees to speak up about their struggles and provide them with support and resources to manage their stress levels. Providing mental health resources, flexible work hours, and encouraging a healthy work-life balance can help them feel supported and valued.
All that is good and well, but how can you actively support your employees’ wellbeing and prevent burnout?
Be proactive about checking in with employees regularly and making sure they are not overworked or experiencing excessive stress. It is vital to recognize that employees are human beings with lives outside of work, and supporting them in their personal lives can have a positive impact on their performance at work.
So remember, a leader is like a gardener – it’s all about providing the right conditions for growth. Water your ‘plants’ with support, give them ‘sunlight’ in the form of encouragement, and most importantly, don’t forget they need some ‘shade’ too – a balanced life outside of work. After all, no one ever thrived in an office jungle where it’s high noon all day long!
Understanding the Root Causes of Burnout
We all know that burnout is a real issue in the workplace, but what causes it? The root causes of burnout include both external (think environmental) and internal factors. Some of the most common factors that contribute to burnout include workload, lack of control, and poor work-life balance.
Workload is a big one. When an employee feels overwhelmed with their responsibilities and the number of tasks on their plate, it’s easy for burnout to set in. Another factor is lack of control. When employees feel like they have no say in their work or can’t make decisions, it can lead to a sense of powerlessness and contribute to burnout. And then there’s poor work-life balance. When employees feel like they can’t disconnect from work and have no time for personal pursuits, it can be a recipe for burnout.
Another external contributor to burnout includes company culture. A toxic work environment can lead to burnout, while a positive and supportive culture can help employees stay engaged and motivated. Leaders, your employees are looking up to you to lead! You may or may not be the cause of the toxicity at work, but either way, it’s your responsibility to have your employees’ back and ensure there is psychological safety.
But it’s not just about the job itself. The unique causes of burnout can vary from person to person, and even from role to role within the same company. That’s because burnout is created from chronic stress and everyone gets stressed out for different reasons. In fact, there are three main burnout profiles or personal tendencies that we bring to work that can make our situation more stressful and put us at higher risk for burnout.
The more you can recognize these unique factors, the better you’ll be able to address them in yourself and your employees. So, put on your detective hat, decode those individual ‘melt-down’ patterns, and turn the workplace into a ‘no-melt’ zone!
Strategies for Preventing Burnout
People don’t typically care about prevention. But if you’re a leader, you need to have that zoomed out view of what’s happening in real time because as your workers start to break down, you’ll be able to spot it and help redirect them to prevent burnout.
Strategy #1: Promote work-life balance
We’ve all heard about work-life balance ad nauseam, but do you have policies that promote this way of working in your place of work? That means no more sending work emails at midnight or expecting your employees to be on call 24/7. It’s all about creating boundarie.. And if you’re a manager who struggles with boundaries, just think of it this way – you wouldn’t want to date someone who was always texting you, right? Same goes for your employees.
Strategy #2: Create a supportive and inclusive work culture
These days it seems everyone’s talking about culture in the workplace. But what does it all mean? We’re talking about valuing diversity, listening to employee feedback, and fostering an environment where people feel comfortable being themselves. And if you’re still unsure about how to do that, just remember what your mom always said – treat others the way you want to be treated. It worked in kindergarten, and it’ll work in the workplace.
Strategy #3: Provide resources for stress management and mental health support
We all have our moments where we feel like we’re about to lose it. Whether it’s a meditation app, therapy sessions, or just a good old-fashioned nap, make sure your employees know that it’s okay to take care of themselves. And who knows, maybe you’ll even start taking your own advice and finally learn how to meditate without falling asleep!
How Leaders Can Help Employees Get Unstuck
Ah, yes, the dreaded feeling of being stuck. It’s no surprise that employees who feel stuck or unfulfilled are more likely to experience burnout. So, as a leader, it’s your job to help them get unstuck and find their way to the surface.
The first step is identifying the areas where your employees feel stuck. And no, I’m not talking about the printer jamming or the vending machine being out of snacks (although those are equally frustrating). I mean, what aspects of their work or career are leaving them feeling stagnant? Once you identify these areas, you can start brainstorming ways to provide opportunities for growth and development.
Maybe that means offering training programs, mentoring, or cross-functional projects. Or, perhaps it means supporting career changes or transitions within the company. After all, sometimes the key to getting unstuck is just shaking things up a bit. And don’t be afraid to encourage creativity and autonomy in the workplace. Your employees might have a brilliant idea that could take your company to the next level.
Limitations on What Managers Can Do
As a manager, you want to help your employees avoid burnout, but let’s face it, you’re not a magician. You can’t make their personal problems disappear with a snap of your fingers, no matter how much you wish you could.
Yes, you have a role to play in helping your employees avoid burnout. But it’s important to acknowledge that your employees have agency and control over their own lives and careers. So, as much as you want to swoop in and solve all their problems, sometimes you have to step back and let them take the reins. Encouraging them to take responsibility for their own well-being can go a long way in preventing burnout. And, of course, you can start by modeling what that looks like by living in balance yourself.
Burnout is prevalent and costly to both workers and businesses. That’s why it’s crucial that leaders take steps to prevent it from becoming a problem. From encouraging self-care and work-life balance, to promoting open communication and flexible schedules, there are plenty of ways to support your team’s well-being.
Take action now to keep your team fired up and motivated. And if all else fails, just remember that a little bit of humor can go a long way in boosting morale and reducing stress (unless your jokes are as bad as mine, in which case, maybe stick to the more serious stuff).
Want me to speak to your organization about managing stress? Check out my keynote, “Flip Your Mindset.”
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Dr. Sharon Grossman, AKA the Burnout Doc, is a clinically trained psychologist and subject matter expert in burnout and mental health. Associations and Fortune 500 companies hire her to be their closing keynote speaker, to help their members and executives crack the code on burnout, and create custom-tailored solutions for recovery.
Over the past 20 years, Dr. Sharon has been helping high achievers who are struggling with anxiety, overwhelm, and burnout go from exhausted to extraordinary by better understanding how their brain works and how they can design and run their programming on purpose to live the kind of life they want to live. She is the author of several books on burnout and mindset and host of the Decode Your Burnout podcast. Through her speaking, training, and coaching, she helps organizations keep their top talent.