Want to fight employee burnout? Focus on well-being
Well-being can be described as feeling good and living with a sense of purpose. When employees have higher well-being, they’re more likely to be productive, energized and engaged in their work, as well as feel more commitment to their organization. It’s what all leaders want for their employees. But can there be such a thing as too engaged? Can a superhigh level of engagement actually leave employees susceptible to burnout?
New research shows that burnout is real — and it can happen to anyone. But the saddest part is that the people it affects the most are people that care the most. In other words, your most dedicated people. It happens when highly engaged employees have increasingly low well-being due to overwhelming job pressures, work overload and a lack of manager or organizational support. Prolonged exposure to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job can lead to exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy — even for people who are all in at work. Ultimately, these top-performing, highly-engaged employees will leave — or worse, the burnout will spread to other employees causing a toxic fire across your company. The good news is that burnout is totally preventable. You just have to know where to start.
Employee burnout is actually more a problem with the company than with the person. Both the root causes and the best solutions start at the organizational level. This doesn’t mean we should stop building emotional skills like mindfulness, resilience and fitness. But it does mean that, in order to solve for burnout at your company — or at least extinguish the flames — the organization is driving the bus.
Here are four ways employers can take action by focusing on well-being to extinguish employee burnout.
1. Help employees connect to their purpose. Today, more employees are looking for real meaning and purpose in their work. Whether it’s a connection to a greater mission or following personal passions, purpose-driven employees give more and feel more fulfilled in doing so. In addition to feeling an emotional connection to their work, a sense of purpose also connects them to the company, and ultimately effects their well-being and engagement. In fact, according to a study by Deloitte, 73% of employees who say they work at a “purpose-driven” company are engaged, compared to just 23% who say they don’t.
Helping employees connect to their purpose is key for burnout prevention. Focus on effective communication that linearly connects each employee’s work to the company’s mission. Set clear goals to continue to support employees in not only finding their purpose, but staying connected to their purpose.
2. Foster a well-being mindset. We’re all wired differently — and that’s even more apparent when it comes to the workplace. How people think about stressful situations has an impact on their ability to handle and recover from them. For example, an employee who fears conflict versus an employee who takes it head on are going to have different reactions and recovery times.
As a leader or manager, when you know how people think about stress, you can help them cope with it and prevent burnout. Avoid organizational consequences such as absenteeism or turnover by communicating and encouraging positivity, self-care and weaving well-being into daily tasks.
3. Promote social support and connectedness. At the core, people want to rely on people. Support from an employee’s peers can mean everything. In fact, social support impacts stress, health, well-being and engagement — and ultimately, people feel better and have higher well-being when they feel connected to others. It’s more than a like on a community feed or high-five in the hallway — putting social connections at the forefront of your people strategy or employee engagement program can make a real impact.
Social connections like a company community feed, women in the workplace group or lunch buddies paired up across different departments helps employees get the support they need and guards against burnout.
4. Invest in tools to combat burnout. People who push themselves without taking breaks have a greater chance of being unproductive and burning out. Recovery time from workplace stress is key. Whether physically or mentally, everyone needs a break to recover — it’s natural to need to recharge and refresh. Even small recovery times or breaks can help people deal with the symptoms of burnout. And there are great new tools to make it easy to schedule and take a vacation and “hit refresh” with the full support of your company.
Make well-being a priority to reduce stress by investing in technology that can help you spot burnout, adjust workloads and have awareness of your employees’ stress levels. Take the Limeade burnout risk indicator for example. It allows leaders to see the risk levels for specific groups, and automatically target science-based activities to improve well-being and avoid cynicism (and worse).
When it comes to burnout in the workplace — you can tackle the symptoms to prevent top performers from burning out. Don’t make the mistake of misinterpreting burnout as disengagement. It’s time to take responsibility for burnout and take action at every level.