Effective burnout prevention is an important part of a good workplace management strategy, especially where job demands often exceed the resources available, and employees are having a hard time juggling their work-life balance. By putting the appropriate burnout prevention strategies in place, management can significantly reduce the workplace stressors that cause burnout, and thus reduce employee turnover, and increase productivity.
What is Burnout?
Burnout is characterised by a set of unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms that can be debilitating for the individual and result in lower productivity for the organisation. The primary cause is prolonged exposure to stress, but there’s usually also a secondary cause that involves lack of hope, lack of purpose, lack of support, or lack of justice.
Employees are able to cope with more stress if:
- they can see that all their effort is producing worthwhile results, rather than when they think it’s just a bureaucratic waste of time that doesn’t improve anyone’s life;
- they feel that their efforts are recognised and appreciated;
- they feel that they are being treated fairly, by management and co-workers.
- They feel that their ideas, suggestions and grievances are listened to and taken seriously;
- They can see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel—that eventually the workload will reduce and they won’t be so stressed.
The common symptoms of burnout are physical and emotional exhaustion, insomnia, higher susceptibility to illness, headaches, lack of positive emotions, depression, impatience and angry outbursts towards co-workers and customers, cynicism, apathy, difficulty concentrating, easily distracted, and therefore, less productive.
When an employee’s work performance begins to suffer, a good manager should always look for other symptoms of burnout in case they need to put in place an effective burnout prevention plan.
How to Prevent Burnout
Not only do employees who are burnt out have lower productivity, they are also 2.6 times more likely to leave their job. Therefore, from a financial perspective, preventing burnout in the workplace is something every manager and employer and should be concerned about.
Here is a list of burnout prevention strategies that can be implemented in the workplace:
As stress is the main cause of burnout, providing your employees with mindfulness training is a good way to prevent burnout at work. Mindfulness training helps staff to be more aware of what’s happening in the present moment so that they spend less time ruminating on past events and stressing about the future. It also teaches them to look at their thoughts from a more objective perspective and to be less judgemental of themselves and others.
Mindfulness training teaches your staff self-awareness and self-management skills that will help them remain calmer, respond with more clarity and confidence, and have more positive relationships with co-workers and customers.
Resilience is the ability to cope with stressful situations: to be able to ‘bend with the wind rather than to snap’, and to ‘bounce back from life’s knocks’. Some people are born more resilient, but everyone can learn positive psychology skills that can help make them more resilient.
It’s important to provide resilience training for all staff, but especially for managers, as not only do they need to be good role models for their staff during challenging times, but if they respond poorly to stressful situations, they may take it out on their staff and contribute to burnout in their staff.
Leaders equipped with an understanding of how to connect with their employees’ values and needs are more adept at keeping their teams engaged and inspired. They are better at managing conflict, supporting inclusiveness and leading their teams. When a leader has these qualities, their employees have a greater chance of preventing burnout at work.
Corporate Culture Change
One way to prevent employee burnout involves implementing an organisational culture change program. Are the workplace procedures creating undue stress, or unnecessarily robbing staff of autonomy and the opportunity to shine? Is the management style demotivating staff? Is there pointless bureaucracy, or workplace rules that have been handed down for decades but serve no real purpose other than to frustrate employees?
High staff turnover and employees getting burnt out are pretty good indicators that an organisation could benefit from a little change in corporate culture.
Provide Meaningful Work
Purpose, meaning, and the value of work is a very important aspect of preventing burnout in the workplace. These factors determine both length of tenure as well as how hard employees will work while on the job.
Ensure that staff understand the purpose of the tasks they are performing, and how their contribution is valuable within the grand scheme of things. If possible, frame their work in terms of who they are helping: on the one hand how they are helping the customers and on the other, how they are helping other staff.
Leaders can make work more meaningful for their employees by giving them room to experiment and grow, instead of micromanaging everything. Innovative leaders will even go as far as letting employees customise their job, something researchers call job crafting.
Foster Workplace Friendships
Workplace friendships play an instrumental role in creating a healthy, dynamic, and productive work environment. Having strong ties in the workplace yields the benefits of fostering collaboration, building engagement, and accelerating progress.
Gallup states that employees who are well connected with their co-workers are more engaged in their jobs, can produce higher quality work, and are more likely to have a positive experience during the day.
Fostering friendships at work also reduces daily monotony, which is an effective way of preventing employee burnout. At corporate social events and off-site retreats can be catalysts for friendships as employees get to mingle and chat.
Corporate team bonding activities are the most direct way that employers can help spark friendships, greater trust, and camaraderie amongst staff. Another way is with end of month informal, stand-up meetings to celebrate successes and positive news, where cake or nibbles are supplied and staff are encouraged to stay and chat to each other while they eat and drink their tea or coffee.
Encourage Staff to Exercise
Along with the usual benefits of exercise such as stress reduction, having more energy, and preventing cognitive decline, workplace exercise also gives employees an opportunity to connect with colleagues outside the formal work environment.
Urging employees to take better care of their health can also help reduce absenteeism, promote better sleep, and keep employees motivated, which are all ways to prevent burnout.
Many well-established companies now provide onsite fitness centres to encourage their employees to stay fit. This is considered a huge perk by staff and can also serve as an employee retention tool. Companies can also provide ongoing corporate fitness classes such as yoga classes, and tai chi classes, which have the added benefit of reducing stress.
Encourage More Laughter
Laughter workshops, known as laughter yoga, provide a full-scale workout for muscles as well as releasing a rush of stress-busting endorphins and being a great team bonding activity. A team that laughs together works well together!
You could provide a laughter workshop as part of a team building day, and then have optional monthly laughter workshops for staff who found it really beneficial.
Maintain Work-Life Balance
The people who are most susceptible to workplace burnout are those whose work/life balance is all out of whack.
One of the ways to prevent burnout at work is to remind employees that getting sufficient sleep works wonders for reducing stress, as does taking an interest in non-work activities. Corporate work/life balance seminars are the ideal way to provide this information to your staff.
When employees feel a greater sense of control and ownership over their lives, they also tend to improve their relationship with management. Balanced employees feel more motivated and less stressed at work which naturally results in increased company productivity.
Companies that have earned a reputation for encouraging work-life balance are very attractive to workers and tend to enjoy high employee retention rates.
There are many different ways that an organisation can help ensure that their staff don’t succumb to workplace burnout. The options fall into three broad levels:
- Organisation level
Have a good organisational culture: make sure the ‘system’ isn’t contributing to burnout.
- Manager level
Provide training for your managers so that they don’t inadvertently become the cause of employee burnout.
- Employee Level
Train your staff in the skills that will help them be more resilient and cope with the pressure of the workplace.