Workplace burnout is bad for everyone: it’s debilitating for the employee, and reduces productivity and increases staff turnover within the organisation. So what’s the solution? Will resiliency training help? Yes, but the ideal solution also includes corporate culture change.
Workplace burnout occurs after prolonged exposure to stress at work. Common symptoms of burnout include physical exhaustion as well as a variety of emotional symptoms such as emotional exhaustion, cynicism, detachment, anger, a pessimistic attitude, and feeling ineffective at work. It may also bring forth the loss of motivation to work, meet deadlines or perform simple tasks.
These burnout symptoms are often a result of long-term exposure to one or more of the following conditions: unrealistic workloads, limited autonomy, unrewarding work, feelings of being treated unfairly, work that conflicts with personal values, and the absence of community in the workplace. Employees who find themselves having to deal with these difficult, sometimes contradictory, or even hostile conditions are most susceptible to burnout.
Limitations of Resilience Training
In recent years, the problem of workplace burnout has gained greater visibility, and resiliency training programs have become popular as a way of preventing workplace burnout.
Research into burnout suggests that the employees who are at most risk are those who have high work demands, and those who are preoccupied with thoughts about work during their leisure time. When trained to be resilient, employees may hope to overcome some of these obstacles.
But while improving staff resilience is a great first step, it can’t perform magic. In some organisations, it may be a bit like handing out band-aids at a knife fight. For a more complete workplace burnout solution, resilience training needs to be coupled with organisational culture change.
The ideal solution is to create an organisational culture that fosters a healthy working environment from the ground up, rather than relying on resilience training to try to compensate for underlying organisational problems.
The focus on employee wellness is currently sweeping through corporate culture, with more and more management and HR professionals recognising the benefits of implementing employee wellness programs. It’s fast becoming standard practice to increase employee resilience by training staff to acquire skills such as stress management and mindfulness meditation, and offering workplace yoga and exercise classes.
The next wave of improvements in employee wellness will come as a result of organisations improving their corporate culture. Organisations who create a healthy workplace culture by implementing changes such as better accountability, flexibility, autonomy, better communication and mutual trust, will find that their staff are more engaged, have a more positive and co-operative attitude, and are less likely to leave.
How Can Organisational Culture Help?
Preventing burnout requires more than merely sustaining energy, and involves providing employees with a responsive and fulfilling work environment. Resilient organisational cultures provide employees a chance to adequately tend to their physical, mental, and emotional needs. When this happens, everyone enjoys the benefits of improved productivity, increased job performance, higher retention and engagement, and physical well-being.
Here are a few tips for how to improve your organisational culture and help you prevent workplace burnout:
Employees experience less burnout when they have a choice in what tasks to do and when to do them. Unless it’s essential that things are done at certain times and in a certain order, try relaxing the grip, and allowing a little more job autonomy and see what happens. It’s not always guaranteed to work the first time, so you may need to experiment with how much freedom you can allow, and what works best in your particular worplace situation.
Ensure your employees have the right equipment for the job. Having to make do with inadequate or sub-standard equipment can be a constant source of frustration for staff. It can also make them feel that it’s unfair because they’re being held back by inadequate equipment and unable to achieve their best output.
Lend an ear
A healthy organisational culture is one where management listens to employees, and makes use of the unique skills and perspectives that employees bring to the table. It is important to listen on a regular basis, not just during a monthly or annual meeting. Keep the door open to listening to employees sharing their concerns and frustrations, and encourage them to come up with solutions. Then provide follow up so that employees know about the progress taking place.
A positive organisational culture keeps things moving in the right direction, and helps prevent becoming stuck in a rut.
Implement appropriate performance metrics
Performance metrics are a useful assessment tool to gauge the organisation’s performance and success. They’re an effective means of measuring performance and establishing if individual goals are being achieved.
However, employees may suffer from anxiety if they feel that their work is being evaluated by metrics and circumstances that are beyond their control. Employees tend to lose motivation if they feel they won’t reach their targets regardless of how much effort they put in. If anything, metrics should always be a tool to track success and show improvement, rather than become a source of chronic frustration.
Gallup states that employees who feel that their metrics are within their control are 55% less likely to experience burnout.
Minimize noise and interruptions
Performance suffers when there are constant interruptions during work. Ensure the workplace is a quiet zone with minimal disturbances. A healthy company culture may even allow employees to find their own preferred spot to work and deliver maximum productivity.
Build secure work communities
In most workplaces, employees are often expected to compartmentalize their personal and professional selves. This implies that they leave their emotions and personalities at homes. However, this is not completely possible, and when the demands of their work life start to encroach upon their personal life, it becomes hard to maintain a balance. By building work communities that are safe and secure, management can be successful in creating teams that are more satisfied, productive and high-performing.
Ensure transparency when changing
A lack of control over their job is often quoted as a contributory component to workplace burnout. It’s important to fully explain any changes that are about to happen in the workplace. Staff often feel frustration or imposed upon when changes occur without explanation.
A healthy organisational culture helps connect employees to their team and their manager, bridging the communication and expectation gap, and enhancing performance.
When you couple employee resilience training with a healthy and resilient organisational culture, employees are more likely to have supportive coworkers, supervisors, and work practices, and are therefore, likely to perform better, and experience less workplace burnout.