Once you’ve finished college, the world is your oyster. You send job applications left and right, and after a while, you land a job of your dreams. You start energetically enough, with a sense of pride and accomplishment. You finish everything on time, you do everything you are asked to do, even more.
But, as time passes, you start feeling worse and worse – stressed out, overwhelmed, exhausted. You don’t feel so enthusiastic about your job anymore and you find yourself doing less and less, feeling completely isolated. Soon, you are on sick leave, not being able nor wanting to go back to your workplace, looking for a way to change something, and find a new job…
Many employers don’t realize this but, according to surveys, over 20 % of employees said they were feeling burned out all the time, and over 40 % of their total workforce stated they sometimes felt burned out.
Now that’s a real red flag, come to think of it.
What is Employee Burnout?
Although many employers don’t want to accept it, which is a big part of the problem, employee burnout is, according to the World Health Organization, a real syndrome described as a feeling of physical and mental exhaustion which is caused by continuous work-related stress, and poor working conditions.
When employees are consistently involved in strenuous and emotionally delicate situations at work, they are bound to feel burned out, sooner or later. This can cause major problems for companies, since it can affect both their overall performance and income. Employee burnout ultimately leads to the company having a lower income since the employees are less productive.
Not to mention the fact that burned out employees soon start to look for a new job, which again means more expenses for the company to fill in the job position.
Again, some employers might think that finding a new employee might be a better solution, but, to be honest, this is not true. Apart from the costs of bringing a new employee, the aforementioned percentage is quite disturbing. We are not talking only about one or two employees – we are talking about a quarter of the total workforce. And you simply cannot replace all of them.
Having all this in mind, the best possible solution would be to understand the reason behind employees feeling so stressed, and find a way to make them feel enthusiastic and comfortable at their job again.
The Reason Behind the Problem
Now, while employers may feel like they’ve done nothing wrong and, truly, they may not have (after all, business can be quite stressful in general), they should look at the following list and see if they might find themselves in these few examples.
Impossible Work Requirements
If you ask employees how often they got a demand to finish a particular job with no clear instructions or how often they even got an impossible demand, over 50% of them would say quite often.
With no clear agenda, it is impossible to do the job well, which will again lead to dissatisfaction and underachievement.
And with the impossible demands, if they even try to do the job well they bring themselves at risk of failing, which will end up in criticism, which, again will not sit well on their already fragile confidence.
Frequent, Impossible Deadlines
All of us were, at some point during our working lives, confronted with an impossible deadline, which we managed to meet, with the usual sleep and food deprivation. However, being confronted with these working conditions often would certainly affect both your physical and mental state, and no one wants that, now do they?
Many companies have a period in a year, where everybody needs to work extra hard, accept the extra workload and stay longer at work. This is usually followed by a sense of accomplishment and collective pride, which can be quite beneficial for intrinsic motivation every employee needs to have.
However, if this type of workload occurs year-round, the sense of pride and accomplishment is soon replaced with the sense of overexertion. And that is definitely not the feeling you would want your employees to have.
Harsh Punishments for Failure
All people fail at some point in their lives. Whether it is school or work or family-related, at one point, everybody fails. However, mistakes are a necessary part of learning, because there is no better way of becoming a better worker or a person than learning from your mistakes.
Some companies disregard this essential part of learning and punish their employees whenever they make a mistake. That is not a good working policy. Yes, there are situations when an employee makes a serious mistake and needs to be punished, even fired. However, by punishing everybody for every mistake they make will soon lead to an increase in levels of work-related stress.
There are jobs that are stressful as it is, for example, people working in healthcare experience an incredible amount of stress daily, since their mistakes could lead to human casualties. Imposing even more stress on them by introducing a toxic you-mustn’t-make-a-mistake-or-you-will-get-fired environment would have a detrimental effect on them.
No Rewards…of Any Kind
How often have you worked day and night, having no sleep, in order to finish something at work, and received no reward for that? Not even a kind word or two, a mere “thank you, your work is essential for this company.”
Or, perhaps, a gift card or something. Any type of reward will often do.
Not every company has superfluous amounts of money it could distribute whenever somebody works overtime. However, by disregarding effort an employee has put into finishing something important for the company would not benefit their feeling of work-satisfaction.
Insufficient Financial Compensation
When you start working, you probably believe that the more you work, the more you get paid. You may also innocently believe that the longer you stay at a company, the amount of money you receive will increase, since you showed loyalty towards the company.
Well, that might have been true a couple of decades ago, however, it is, unfortunately far from the truth today. Many companies are trying to get their workers to do as much work for as little money as possible. They don’t want to spend the money they earn to reward their employees, who were the main drive behind the earnings.
Believe it or not, not getting the desired amount of money is the number 1 reason for workers feeling burned out. If they work really hard, but don’t earn enough, of course they will be dissatisfied.
So, What to Do About Employee Burnout?
The stated reasons behind the burnout are only a fraction of all the possible problems existing in a working environment.
In this day and age, there are many, many more.
But, luckily, there are a couple of things a company could do to reduce the number of workers feeling like this.
Make Your Employees Feel Valued
Making changes is easier said than done.
However, there are many jobs people feel happy about doing, even though they don’t earn much. So, it is possible.
By having their say in how the working plans should be progressing, workers feel that they count and they can influence something. Acknowledging their effort by praising them for a job well done will make them feel appreciated, which is, for most workers, a most important aspect of their job expectations.
Give Them a Chance to Earn a Fair Wage
Well, basically, as many of us know, it is impossible for workers to feel completely satisfied and focused on the work they are doing if they have problems providing for their families. If you make them earn enough to leave existential worries aside, it will definitely help them feel more motivated and driven to do a good job.
In addition, rewarding workers for putting in an extra amount of effort should be obligatory. In today’s time, it has become normal for workers to work overtime for the same amount of money, just to keep their job.
This is neither ok, nor desirable for a productive working atmosphere.
If an employee works extra hours, they should be paid extra. This would be a clear company statement that their work matters.
Respect Your Employees’ Time
When employees work overtime, they are separated from their families, which imposes even more stress on their already stressed working day.
Acknowledge that each and every one of them has their home and families they need to go back to, and accept that personal life is as important as their working life. It is what makes them relax and prepare for another working day. They fill up their batteries by spending time at home, with their families, or just resting and watching TV or listening to music.
Employees’ free time mustn’t be disregarded, although modern times have completely put this aspect of one’s life aside.
There are times when they need to take a sick leave or have some personal problems. Help them by giving them the opportunity to establish a work-life balance. They will respect you more and work harder to live up to the trust you put in them.
Show Them a Future in Your Company
To be able to do this, you have to see what it is that the workforce of today seeks.
More often than not, they try to avoid the standard nine-to-five workday and a five or six days’ work week. They are more inclined to look for a flexible schedule where they can do their job more productively but for a shorter period of time.
It is very important for an employee to see a real possibility for advancement. It would stimulate them to work even harder if they saw their position in the company would move upwards. According to surveys, the burnout rate was significantly higher with workers who didn’t see a clear possibility for advancement.
To see a clear future in the company, workers need to see transparent business decisions and honesty in their relationship with the management. If workers don’t know what is happening in the company, they are more likely to feel excluded from the whole process. That could make them feel more isolated, which is not the way to go.
Communication is Key
Having an open and honest relationship with your workers should be a number-one priority on the company leaders’ agenda. Having a closer relationship with your workers will not only make them feel more appreciated, but you will achieve the thing they want the most – a raise in productivity. People like when management knows who they are. They appreciate if they feel relaxed enough to approach somebody and talk to them about some problems they might have encountered in their job.
Communication between workers themselves should also be encouraged. Yes, there is always a competitive atmosphere in a company. However, healthy competition is one thing and unhealthy quite another. Establishing good relations between workers and focusing on their working together and communicating will be beneficial both for them and for the company.
Reduce the Workload
This is not something many companies look forward to, but it is something they need to think about.
Burnout is becoming an increasingly troublesome problem which has to be dealt with. It is an undeniable fact that the workload has only increased throughout the years, making employees stay longer at work, and the benefits for working overtime have decreased. In some companies, the overtime benefits don’t even exist, and the management insists on making you feel it is your job to work overtime if you want to keep your job.
However, the times do change and keeping your job is no longer an imperative, especially for millennials. They cherish their free time and a good business environment and they are more prone to quit their jobs if they don’t feel comfortable, than the more experienced generations.
It is very important to give your employees a realistic workload they will be able to do within the working hours. That way, they will feel more productive.
According to the studies, many workers are not even able to use their vacation time because of the amount of work they have to finish. This can have a detrimental effect on both their mental and physical health, since vacation provides the employees with the opportunity to relax and rest. After a vacation, they can go back to work with more energy and do their jobs more productively.