How to Put Out the Flames of Employee Burnout
Employee burnout continues to remain a top concern for operations leaders today. A persistent labor shortage means many employers are struggling to meet hourly labor demands, which is putting added stress on the existing workforce. Burnout can also be a top reason for churn, as employees search for more job satisfaction and work-life balance. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) reclassified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon,” describing it as “a syndrome…resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Primary symptoms include exhaustion, negative feelings about work, and decreased productivity.
The Truth about Burnout
Findings from Shiftboard’s 2023 survey of more than 2,000 American workers revealed an urgent need for businesses to fundamentally change the way work is scheduled or risk losing more workers to burnout (or more progressive employers). Other findings include:
- 49 percent of hourly workers say that they’d be willing to take a reasonable pay cut if they had more control over their work schedule.
- Influencing their schedules is nearly as important to workers as health benefits. 56 percent say they’d be willing to take a pay cut for better health benefits.
- 87 percent of hourly workers say it’s extremely important to them to have control over which days and times they’re expected to work.
- 55 percent of hourly workers say they’re at least somewhat likely to leave their current employer for another job if they lacked flexibility in setting their work schedule.
The Price of Employee Burnout
The truth is that burnout increases hourly employee turnover. It leads to less satisfied, and less productive workers. One of its many traits is disengagement. Engaged employees are 17% more productive and 21% more profitable. Actively disengaged employees have the opposite impact.
In addition to reporting difficulties with focusing on tasks at work, employees report that stress was responsible for errors and/or missed deadlines (21%), trouble getting along with co-workers/superiors (15.5%), missed days (14.9%), and lateness (14.4%).
Burnout not only challenges your employees, but it can also have a negative effect on your company’s bottom line. One study suggests that over-stressed employees can cost companies between up to $300 billion a year in lost productivity.
Feeling burned out has a negative impact on employee stress levels and mental health. Burnout — as opposed to more run-of-the-mill stress — can cause employees to “feel utterly depleted,” says Susan David, a founder of the Harvard/McLean Institute of Coaching and author of Emotional Agility. And it “can permeate all aspects of your life. You are overtired and under-exercised; you’re not attentive to food and nutrition; and you’re disconnected from relationships.”
How to Prevent and Reduce Burnout
If you’ve noticed signs of burnout at your organization, it’s time to set a good example for your team. In other words, before you can help your team members manage their stress, you need to manage your own.
- Take good care of yourself and share your favorite stress-reducing strategies with your team.
- Avoid thinking of burnout as a personal failing. Recognize, both inwardly and publicly, that people are doing the best they can with the resources they have.
- Support your team with inspiring language. Your message should be, “We are in this together.”
Think about implementing some of the following methods to help reduce employee burnout.
- Options: Offer employees options, including work flexibility, and opportunities for career growth when possible. When such options aren’t available, help them understand why.
- Communicate: Use regular, two-way communication to let managers know about questions before they become problems and problems before they become messes.
- Choose the Right Talent: Understand what your prospective employees want and expect from their job to build healthy teams.
- Streamline & Optimize: Look for ways you can improve processes and reduce time spent on tiresome or repetitive tasks. Small, daily inefficiencies add up.
- Community: Help your employees feel they’re part of something bigger. Some organizations do this through a common mission, others through competition.
- Make Rest & Relaxation a Priority: Encourage your team to take regular breaks and seize opportunities to rejuvenate. Employees also need to have a life outside of work. Businesses affect work-life balance by the way they schedule work and through policies surrounding the ability to take time off.
Retention Strategies 101
Employee burnout is real and handling it properly can improve worker retention, boost employee satisfaction, and increase your bottom line. But you must be willing to look past pay and benefits to realize the central role that work schedules play in overall job satisfaction and productivity.
Recommended Additional Resources
What Do Hourly Employees Want in Their Work Schedule?
Understanding what hourly employees want in the work schedule is important in a scheduling strategy that meets employee needs and organization goals.
The 5 Myths of Overtime Management: How to Make OT Work for Your Business
Managing hourly worker overtime is a complex workforce challenge, but it’s not impossible.