Have you ever tried walking up a sand dune? It is brutal! You walk two steps and slide back one. It feels like you will never make any progress. About halfway up the mound you are completely drained. That overwhelming exhaustion reminds me of burnout at work. You complete one item on your to-do list only to realize your boss has added three more. You skip sleep to catch up on work, which drains your energy and makes it even harder to get everything done. But the good news about work burnout is that your company can take steps to prevent it.
A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23 percent of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44 percent reported feeling burned out sometimes. That means about two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job.
Another study, found that 80 percent of workers feel stress on the job, and nearly 50 percent say they need help in learning how to manage stress.
According to a blog on Workable.com, employees who experience burnout are more likely to take sick leave or look for another job. Burnout can lead to higher employee turnover rates, lower productivity, and shockingly low employee morale.
While burnout can seem like a supervirus, immune to countermeasures, the following steps can help organizations prevent employee burnout and might even improve productivity.
Most organizations do not provide the skills or support for people to actually take care of themselves and be at their best.
The Energy Project has developed a scientifically-based approach to energizing people physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually so they can perform sustainably at their best. In a video on the company’s website, The Energy Project CEO Tony Schwartz talks about fully investing in employees.
“We need to have leaders who recognize that equipping their people to take care of themselves is as important as giving them the skills they need to do their job,” Schwartz said.
“The best way to create value is to find a rhythmic balance between the expenditure of energy and the renewal of energy. Because the more consistent energy you have in the tank the higher you are going to perform, and the more sustainably you are going to perform.”
ViveTeams Co-founder Alex Bowen says there are simple actions managers can take to combat burnout.
“Passive activities like creating creative environments, giving people time to meditate, breathe or go outside is a huge step towards combating burnout,” Bowen said. “Active renewal activities like working out, yoga or others are also an effective way to gain energy throughout the day.”
Bowen said change must start at the top.
“Leaders have to destigmatize these behaviors by modeling them followed up by encouraging their team to start small and educating them on the benefits of unplugging every now and then,” he said.
“The key here is not to force anyone to do anything – but to find the right changes that work for each individual. Forcing an entire team to do mid-day yoga together is a recipe for disaster. But, allowing the introverts some alone time, the extroverts an opportunity for a group lunch and the more active people an opportunity to workout would be an extremely effective approach to fighting burnout during the workday.”
Bowen said there are two psychological needs that are critically under addressed in companies right now: the first is a need for a feeling of progress and the second is a visible path towards progress.
“If you’re not learning in a role or an organization, the stagnation can wear on you and eventually cause you to be cynical and burned out. Deliberately practicing personal development means that everyone in a company is not only improving their work skills, but also their personal growth,” Bowen said.
“Companies who don’t clearly show employees how to move to the next level, gain new skills or become better in some aspect run the risk of having people who get lost or so frustrated that they abandon ship and find a place to work that has more clarity around progress.”
Often employees’ workload feels more like climbing Mt. Everest than an attainable to-do list.
“Workload is a tough one – I don’t always think it’s the case that people are overworked, but more often that they don’t have the tools/support to work smarter instead of harder,” Bowen said. “Most companies we’ve worked with don’t have a good way to measure workload – so they’re not even ready to address overburden of workload. It’s hard to know and identify burnout when you can’t balance work, measure success or keep a fair workload among the team.”
A good first step for teams, Bowen said, would be to start trying to measure workload per person for two reasons: (1) to understand and identify burnout in individuals and (2) to more closely understand relative workloads between team mates.
ViveTeams hosts three courses to help leaders and organizations manage energy, stress and mindfulness and increase performance, resilience and engagement. Participants learn how to build a powerful foundation of energy that fuels high performance and creates the ability to enjoy work and life more fully.
Is burnout hurting your team? Contact ViveTeams today to learn how we can help bring balance to your team.