19th December, 2023
In today’s fast-paced business landscape, the wellbeing of your employees is paramount.
While you can provide subsidised gym and health insurance access, offer free massages and healthy food at your business premises, and work to reward employees effectively for their hard work, keeping your personnel thriving comes down to keeping issues at bay, too.
As a business owner or manager, you’ve likely heard the term “occupational burnout” thrown around, but do you truly understand its implications and how to prevent it in your workforce?
Occupational burnout is not just ordinary workplace stress.
It’s a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion, often accompanied by feelings of cynicism, detachment from work, and a reduced sense of accomplishment.
Consequently, burnout can result from prolonged exposure to excessive job demands and insufficient resources or support.
Burnout typically progresses in stages, making it crucial to identify early signs.
Here are the three main stages:
The initial stage involves feeling overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and physically fatigued due to excessive work demands.
Also, this is often accompanied by sleep disturbances and mood swings.
In particular, individuals may become increasingly detached from their work, colleagues, and clients at this stage.
As a result, they might develop a cynical attitude and a sense of hopelessness.
Finally, there is a noticeable decrease in productivity and a diminished sense of personal accomplishment.
Also, employees may question the value of their work and experience low self-esteem.
When physically and emotionally drained, employees struggle to maintain their usual work standards.
As a result, this reduction in output directly impacts the bottom line as projects get delayed, and errors become more common.
As burnout takes its toll, employees are more likely to take time off work due to health issues or simply to escape the relentless demands.
Increased absenteeism then also places additional stress on colleagues who must shoulder the workload.
A workforce plagued by burnout is more likely to experience high turnover rates, which are not only costly in terms of recruitment and training but can also harm team morale and disrupt the flow of projects.
Prolonged exposure to chronic stress and exhaustion can lead to more severe mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
If reports of burnout and a lack of concern for employee wellbeing become public or are known within the industry, it can tarnish the organisation’s reputation.
Labour laws and regulations in many countries require employers to provide a safe and healthy work environment. As a result, failing to address burnout can result in lawsuits, fines, and damage to the company’s reputation.
When employees are burnt out, their ability to think creatively and contribute fresh ideas diminishes. This loss of innovation can be especially damaging in industries that rely on creativity and adaptability to stay competitive.
As employees become more stressed and irritable, disagreements may escalate, impacting teamwork and collaboration.
Burnout can lead to various physical and mental health issues, resulting in increased healthcare costs for employees and the company.
Dissatisfied, stressed employees are more likely to convey their frustration to customers, leading to a decline in customer satisfaction and potentially lost business.
Recognising the early signs of burnout is crucial for prevention.
Keep an eye out for the following indicators:
Employees experiencing burnout often take more sick days or unplanned absences.
A decline in work quality, missed deadlines, and a drop in productivity can signal burnout.
Watch for changes in behaviour, such as increased irritability, withdrawal from team activities, or reduced participation in meetings.
Burnout can manifest physically with symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, and increased susceptibility to illness.
Be attuned to signs of emotional distress, such as frequent frustration, sadness, or anxiety.
Burnout can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or poor-quality sleep. Employees may arrive at work fatigued and unable to concentrate.
Preventing occupational burnout requires a proactive approach and a commitment to creating a healthy work environment.
Here are some practical steps you can take:
Employees should feel comfortable discussing their workload, concerns, and ideas for improvement.
Ensure workloads are manageable and provide the necessary resources and support for tasks.
Empower employees to say no when they are at capacity.
Promote work-life balance by offering flexible work arrangements, encouraging employees to take breaks, and respecting personal time.
Invest in training and professional development opportunities to enhance employees’ skills and confidence.
Plus, provide access to resources such as counselling services or stress management programs.
Regularly acknowledge and celebrate employees’ achievements, both big and small.
Recognition boosts morale and reinforces a sense of accomplishment, reducing the risk of burnout.
Encourage healthy habits by offering wellness programs, access to fitness facilities, or healthy snacks in the workplace.
Teach employees effective time management techniques to help them prioritise tasks and reduce work-related stress.
Encourage team collaboration and mutual assistance, reducing the sense of isolation that can contribute to burnout.
You should get into the habit of regularly assessing employee workloads to ensure they remain reasonable and aligned with their skills and capacity.
Lastly, leaders and managers should model healthy work habits and demonstrate a commitment to employee wellbeing.
When leaders prioritise self-care, employees are more likely to follow suit.
Consequently, occupational burnout is a challenge that every business owner and manager should address.
Finally, if you prioritise the wellbeing of your employees, you can create a more productive, engaged, and goal-kicking team now and in the years to come.