It’s that Sunday-evening feeling of sickening dread. It’s knowing that no matter what you do at work, it’ll never be enough. It’s taking a day off, only to end up fielding work calls and emails all day long.
“Burned out,” like “depressed,” is a term that is often casually thrown around. And like depression, true burnout—a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion—can be surprisingly common and completely debilitating.
With more than 26% of U.S. employees reporting symptoms, burnout is a very real, very serious problem that can have devastating effects on an employee’s productivity, emotional well-being and even physical health: Burned-out employees are at an increased risk for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
But they’re not the only ones who suffer.
Employers are also affected. Customer relationships are compromised, absences increase, distracted employees cause lost productivity, and turnover rates rise.
The effects are serious: Employee burnout costs businesses an average $300 billion yearly in missed work and increased healthcare expenses.
That’s why it’s critical that today’s managers and companies develop and implement resources to help employees better manage both their physical and emotional health.
The Top Causes of BurnoutIndividuals may start to feel out of sync with their professional lives when they are:
· Trying to manage dysfunctional workplace dynamics
· Feeling overworked, underappreciated, and unrewarded
· Lacking control (or feeling like they lack control) over their job and how they do it
· Experiencing a disconnect with their employer’s values
How Management Can Support Burned-Out Employees
If there’s any good news about employee burnout, it’s that it doesn’t develop overnight. It creeps up slowly—which means once managers spot the symptoms, they can take steps to address emerging issues. The question is: What approach is best?
It may be tempting to reduce the workload of an employee who’s showing signs of burnout, but that may only exacerbate the problem. Why? Because sidelining an employee may make the employee worry over whether their performance or even their job security is in question. And that certainly won’t ease their level of stress.
Instead, managers can try these tactics to address employees’ emotional health and foster a culture of wellness:
Talk with Employees
And when they answer, really listen. Feelings of burnout often increase when employees don’t feel like they can talk with their managers about their concerns—or when they feel like the manager isn’t really hearing what they’re saying.
Check in with employees regularly to talk about their workload, their stress levels, and what help they need. Ideally, these periodic check-ins can help stop burnout from happening—or at least prevent it from escalating—by allowing managers to proactively identify problems and implement solutions.
Few things can escalate burnout in an employee faster than watching a colleague improperly take credit for a project’s success or arbitrarily receive a promotion or raise. And perceived inequalities can cause feelings of frustration or despair for an employee who may already feel slighted.
No two employees are the same, which means you can’t treat all employees equally, but you can treat them all fairly. It’s also important to not automatically dismiss complaints about preferential treatment; instead, take the time to see if there might possibly be truth to any concerns voiced.
We’ve all encountered the type of manager who refuses to compliment employees for doing a good job but is quick to criticize any mistakes. This style of management can easily contribute to mass burnout. It’s vitally important to show appreciation for the work your employees do, even if it’s just the regular work that’s expected of them.
And rewards don’t always have to come in the form of promotions or raises (although those are cherished too!). A genuine hand-written thank-you note or a small gift card for a show of major effort is often enough to make employees feel appreciated. Even something as simple as a “Great job!” for a task well done shows employees you value them and what they do.
When employees feel like they don’t have any say in the business or their work, they may start to question how much they matter. Empower employees by giving them clear steps for advancing within the organization, encouraging them to provide honest feedback, and giving them the space and confidence to do (and excel at) their jobs.
Focus on Strengths
When employees do what they love, it shows in the work they do. A bonus: Satisfied employees are 57 percent less likely to experience burnout. Enabling employees to work to their strengths helps to keep them engaged, improves their productivity, and increases the likelihood they remain in your organization.
The Role of Wellness Programs in Preventing Burnout
Managers aren’t the only resource an employer can draw on to mitigate employee stress. Your corporate wellness program can also play an important role in helping employees reduce burnout.
Taking regular breaks from a task in progress helps employees problem solve, encourages creativity, and can reduce the stress and anxiety that often accompanies work projects. Wellness program challenges, like WellRight’s "Stand Up", gets employees up and moving every hour, refreshing the mind and giving them a “quick win” when they accomplish their challenge goal.
Teach Coping Skills
Not every employee knows effective methods for coping with stressful situations. Your wellness program can offer lunchtime sessions on guided relaxation or deep-breathing techniques or feature a local yoga instructor to lead a class on stretching and mindfulness.
Create Stress-Free Zones
Spruce up your traditional break room with soft lighting, comfortable seating, and relaxing music. Promote it as a “stress-free” room (no talking shop allowed!) and encourage employees to drop in when they need to regroup.
Designing Your Wellness Program to Battle Burnout
Employee burnout can have serious repercussions on employee health, productivity, and even the well-being of your organization.
But a well-rounded corporate wellness program that addresses all aspects of health can help create happy, healthy employees. In turn, those employees have a ripple effect on those around them, improving the company’s culture and working environment and fostering loyalty.
Learn more about how work and personal stress can affect your employees’ health and performance with our webinar, “Real-World Applications for Stress Management and Stress Resilience,” as Laurie Warren, MSN, explores why both stress management and stress resilience should be incorporated into your wellness programming.