When employees look tired and struggle to be productive at work, there’s a high chance that they’re feeling burned out. According to Christina Maslach, author of The Truth About Burnout, there are six common drivers of employee burnout: lack of control, insufficient reward, lack of community, absence of fairness, conflict in values, and work overload.
Burnout has become even more prevalent nowadays because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world. As most businesses implement remote work arrangements, employees everywhere struggle to see through the blurring lines of work and life. A new study from Indeed shows that 52% of employees are feeling burned out, while 67% believe that the feeling has worsened during the pandemic.
When left unaddressed, burnout can then lead to excessive stress, fatigue, insomnia, heart disease, and other illnesses. While burnout may sound like a problem that only involves employees, the reality is that business leaders have the power to prevent it as well. Effective leadership is the key to helping employees remain productive at work without affecting their physical and mental health.
Below are just some of the ways business leaders can support their employees amidst these trying times, as well as manage teams through crunch time and high pressures.
A personalized approach that focuses on the whole person
Managers may be dealing with employee burnout stemming from different causes such as heavy workload, sleep deprivation, lack of support, or lack of work-life balance. They may also be handling employees who experience different levels of workplace stress and have different coping mechanisms. It’s evident then that implementing a universal approach may not be the appropriate solution to resolving burnout.
Instead, managers should create evidence-based and personalized programs that holistically focus on the whole person of employees, the physical and psychological impacts of work in their lives, and their level of motivation. You can conduct individual interventions such as staff training, workshops, and cognitive-behavioral programs to reduce burnout, as suggested by Dr. James Woodall, Head of Subject in Health Promotion at Leeds Beckett University.
Development of strengths
Past research from Gallup shows that a strengths-based management approach is the best way to improve employee-manager relationship and improve work performance among employees. Managers have the power to motivate employees to maximize and further develop their strengths, as well as lead them to roles that they can confidently and comfortably handle every day.
And when employees are given the chance to leverage their strengths, they’re more likely to engage on the job and respond with increased discretionary effort, a stronger work ethic, and more enthusiasm and commitment. When employees feel that they are in control of their work, there may be fewer chances of them experiencing burnout.
Time for practice and integration
Contrary to popular belief, preventing employee burnout is not as easy as solely giving employees paid leaves—it takes time, skill, and practice to constantly combat workplace burnout.
One of the simple ways that managers can do to prevent employee burnout is to create interventions that are easy for employees to incorporate into their daily lives to help them stay engaged as they work. For example, you can implement walking meetings with small groups to simultaneously keep meetings productive and promote wellness and movement to eliminate workplace stress. You can also provide employees a quiet space in the office where they can rest for a few minutes whenever they’re feeling stressed. Lastly, you can consistently promote open communication in the workplace to assure employees that they can regularly get clear updates and expectations about work and constructive feedback about their performance.
Employees may have a difficult time picking up the energy and motivation to learn and develop new skills when they feel burned out. As a manager, it’s your job to support your team when they’re experiencing intense work periods. Having a trusting and supportive relationship during the process can accelerate learning and progress, especially when they help to deepen self-awareness, incorporate feedback into practice, and stay accountable to goals.
According to cognitive psychologist Anders Ericsson, giving continuous feedback on performance will help individuals master a new skill set. Feedback empowers what he calls “deliberate practice”, which is the process of how people practice their skills instead of how often they do it. When applying this concept in the workplace, managers should create positive channels for feedback so that employees are continuously improving themselves, instead of constantly providing feedback but in a poor, non-motivational way.
Individual coaching in itself has always been a powerful tool in helping employees become aware of their performance, strengths and weaknesses, and behaviors that affect the people around them. By giving them one-on-one advice through individual coaching, employees are able to develop skills and behaviors to reduce their own burnout and also become more effective leaders who can help minimize workplace burnout in their teams. Individual coaching also provides the unconditional support needed to help people do the hard work of behavioral and mindset change especially during challenging times.
Data shows that over 70% of employees benefit from improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills after undergoing a coaching session. Because of its direct benefits to the workforce, 86% of companies report recouping their investment in coaching and more.
There are many more solutions that can help business leaders address, prevent, and reduce employee burnout. The bottom line here is that success is best achieved when there is collaboration and communication at all levels. Employee burnout can be reduced significantly if business leaders have the empathy and initiative to take care of their employees and ensure that they can be the best versions of themselves in their current workplace.
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