Six ways to help employees avoid burnout


Work-related stress is common and often considered a normal part of life, but it can so easily cross a line, become too much to manage and lead to burnout, especially when coupled with external pressures and challenges. Described as “a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed” by the World Health Organization, workplace burnout is a widespread problem as a result of our ‘always on’ culture.

Six ways to help employees avoid burnout

Employees suffer from burnout when they have reached their limits. They are emotionally drained, mentally exhausted and the long-term impact can be very damaging to their mental health and overall wellbeing. Burnout is also bad news for your business. Employees that are severely stressed, anxious and unable to cope are very unlikely to be motivated, productive and engaged. Instead of coming up with innovative ideas, being creative and eager to learn and grow, their energy will be focused on simply getting through each day.

What’s the solution?

Over 800,000 workers are suffering from work-related stress, depression and anxiety according to the most recent Office for National Statistics Labour Force Survey. This has increased in recent years and there’s even been a ‘burnout spike’ predicted for January 2021. While you can’t control the external factors that impact your employees’ mental health, you can control the effect work has.

How to help your employees avoid burnout

The good news is that burnout is avoidable, especially if your business provides the right working conditions, culture and support. Here are some valuable things you can do to minimise your employees’ chances of becoming over-stressed.

1. Understand the signs of burnout

Burnout doesn’t happen overnight. It gradually builds over time and displays itself in a variety of ways. But there’s a difference between someone having a heavy workload and when something more serious is going on, so it’s crucial that your senior team and managers know and understand the key signs of burnout so they can be addressed. According to the World Health Organization, the symptoms of burnout are:

  • individuals feel depleted or exhausted
  • employees are mentally distant from their job or have negative feelings or cynicism about their job
  • employees have reduced professionally efficacy.

Other commonly acknowledged signs are:

  • lack of motivation
  • making more mistakes than usual
  • trouble concentrating.

To take a proactive approach to burnout in the workplace, you need to learn these signs, look out for them in your colleagues, and communicate with them if you feel that they might be at risk.

2. Educate and equip your managers

Your managers need to be aware of the warning signs of burnout so they can step in and provide support when it’s needed. It’s also crucial that they have a good understanding of how much work their team members are dealing with and potentially even an insight into the demands of their team’s personal lives. Having this information and an awareness means that your managers will be in a better position to prevent employees from getting overwhelmed by work.

To help managers support their team, provide them with resources, tools and information that they can share with their team to help them manage their stress levels. They also need to understand the importance of regularly checking in with their team. By doing this, they can talk with individual team members at length about how they’re feeling, what their workload is currently like and, if necessary, signpost to relevant support.

3. Encourage your employees to disconnect from work

Working long hours, skipping lunch and answering emails on weekends are behaviours that have, for a long time, epitomised dedication, hard work and engagement. While it might be true of some people, this view perpetuates the troubling idea that people shouldn’t have a good work-life balance. Many people feel that work should always take priority and even invade their personal lives when actually it’s not healthy, sustainable or productive.

Taking time away from work is absolutely essential for employees to avoid burnout. So, make sure your employees know that! Encourage them to take regular breaks and disconnect from work each day. Whether they make a cup of coffee, walk around the block or catch up on some life admin, it’s important that your employees take some time out throughout their working day to refresh and refocus their minds.

Taking extended breaks from work are beneficial too, so encourage your employees to use their holiday allowance and perhaps even spread their annual leave out so they don’t go too long without some time off. Your business’ culture plays a huge part here, so it’s important to make sure that your senior colleagues are leading by example and showing others that it’s not frowned upon to take time off.

4. Be flexible

More often than not, burnout is caused by a combination of pressures that together become too overwhelming for an individual to manage. To help your employees keep on top of the demands of both work and their personal lives, be flexible. Whether someone needs to go to the doctor’s, take their car to the garage, pick up their children from school or work from home to be in for a delivery, your employees should have the opportunity to fit work around their lives.

With any flexible working arrangements, it needs to suit your business and the individual. It might not be feasible for you to allow employees to have complete flexibility over the hours they work, but you can still be flexible in your approach. By doing this, you’ll make it easier for your employees to maintain a good work-life balance because they’ll be able to better manage external pressures as well as keep on top of their workload.

5. Provide wellbeing support

A useful method of avoiding burnout is to learn different ways to manage stress. You can help your employees build their mental resilience and reduce their stress levels by providing wellbeing support. Mental health support apps are valuable tools that give your employees the opportunity to learn strategies to manage different areas of their mental health from stress to anxiety. Whenever they need to, they can tap into the content and access useful advice.

Other elements of wellbeing such as physical and financial wellbeing can also feed into people’s stress levels, so it’s important to take a holistic approach and include a wide range of resources, services and tools.

6. Look at your culture and working environment

Work naturally carries a certain amount of stress, however your culture and working environment will make a huge difference to how much ongoing pressure your employees feel. The notion of a compassionate workplace is hot topic at the moment, and for good reason too! We’ve moved on from the traditional working environment and come to understand that for businesses to succeed and for employees to flourish, we need to treat each other as human beings. This means taking into consideration our emotions, desires and, crucially, our limitations.

So, to truly help your employees avoid burnout, take a look at your business’ culture and working environment. It should have your employees’ best interests at heart. That way, they’ll be able to thrive at work without compromising their mental health.

This article is provided by peoplevalue.


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