Burnout is the result of extended periods of stress.
It is a debilitating condition that is identified by the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases as an occupational phenomenon. Burnout typically results in exhaustion, sapping of energy, insomnia, and irritability. These combined factors severely hamper productivity and result in poorly produced work.
Burnout is the responsibility of both the employer and the employee.
There are three types of burnout, and each one can be prevented by employers and employees working together and taking steps to prevent stress from escalating into burnout.
Is probably the most recognisable burnout and probably the first one you thought of. This type of burnout is brought on by a drive for success (hustle culture, anyone?). However, this drive is at the expense of your health and personal life. It’s the most common type of burnout.
While this type of burnout is more caused by internalised pressure that the employee is placing on themself, employers can still help. One way would be to avoid praising and encouraging “hustle culture” and admonishing those for leaving work on time. Additionally, while a healthy dose of competition is good, be sure to prevent it from becoming toxic. Ways to mitigate unhealthy rivalry include:
- Not taking sides of competing colleagues
- Avoid incentivising it
- Talk to the concerned employees before it escalates
Allow yourself time to relax. If you’re struggling to do that, schedule it in your calendar. Taking time out to go for a walk, go to the gym, read a book, or do anything besides work or career development will help. Also, remember the only important competition is within yourself.
Is caused by the feeling of being underappreciated or bored (due to not being challenged enough). This can be the result of not having career growth or learning opportunities at work. This kind of burnout also leads to a loss of passion and enjoyment for work, especially if the job role is menial and doesn’t involve taking on new opportunities or risks.
Providing learning and growth opportunities at work is key to preventing under-challenged burnout. Additionally, these trainings should be offered and encouraged to be used during work hours. Employees will be more willing to participate if it’s not viewed as extra work. Encouraging training and development in the office is crucial to making this effective.
Talk to your manager about expanding your role. Or undertake your own training and development to build up your skillset. You don’t even have to pay for them. With the internet, there are so many options available to you. And there are also so many different mediums. Whether you’re a visual, auditory, or reading learner, there’s something out there for you.
Is brought on by a job that is too demanding. This results in the employee being unable to keep up with tasks, subsequently becoming overwhelmed, and eventually just giving up. Usually, this causes the employee to feel incompetent and unmotivated.
While it could be the consequence of a mismatched role for the candidate, it could also be the lack of training in the onboarding of the role. If it’s the latter, the stress can be alleviated by offering classes or training guides to the employee. These guides could be hard or soft-skill focused, depending on where the employee is struggling. Internal company skill-building is an excellent program to have at your company. It helps with succession planning, and it’s seen as a benefit by employees, thereby increasing retention.
Additionally, this could be the result of a job being too big for one person. If you’re finding that new employees are struggling to fill the job requirements, perhaps the job needs to be split into two or another employee needs to be brought in to help.
If the job is too overwhelming, try to understand why. It’s much better to identify specific reasons. This is important as, you could just be experiencing imposter syndrome, meaning you’re perfectly capable for the role but don’t believe in yourself and are therefore struggling. Or it might just be small parts of the job that you just don’t understand that well and require further instruction.
For example, perhaps you’re not used to a certain program; finding training or videos on how to use it could save you a lot of stress. It’s also up to you to speak to your manager and even ask them about training opportunities. However, it will be a lot easier to specify which areas you need help with. As mentioned in the employer’s role, this could be a job that isn’t feasible for one person to do. If you truly believe that is the case, you should talk to your manager and ask if you can get some help.
Prevention: What Can HR Do About Burnout?
Burnout can be extremely hard to identify if those who are experiencing it are unable to recognise it themselves. However, HR can help with prevention. There are a number of ways to do this, including:
Trainings are simple and effective. And nowadays, they’re so easy to access and flexible! No longer do you have to choose a specific time and have staff all in a room. They can be done online at a time that suits your employees best. Instructional classes offer new skills, give employees confidence and a better understanding of their job role, and can (sometimes) be a fun reprieve from work.
Having dedicated time for employees to either meet with their managers or with HR can help significantly in identifying and communicating issues. However, be sure not to overwhelm managers with extra duties. You don’t want to stress them out! Before implementing a check-in system, talk with the managers and make sure to come to an agreement that satisfies both parties.
Fostering an open-communication culture in the workplace can help significantly. Creating an environment that encourages communication can be achieved through having an open-door policy, offering regular updates about the company and its performance, fostering psychological safety, and being open to feedback. All of these can make employees feel comfortable and less stressed.
Encourage Work-Life Balance
Everyone needs to rest. Encouraging (but being sure not to force) employees to take their annual leave can help significantly. For some, they might not even realise that they’re due for annual leave or be frightened about taking it and being poorly looked upon by their managers. Also, fostering a culture that makes employees feel comfortable about leaving on time and not staying late unnecessarily is crucial to actively preventing burnout. While taking holidays is great, there can be a large gap between them, so having employees leave the office on time can drastically help in maintaining work-life balance.
Encouraging this requires setting an example. Leaders and managers should also, when they can, leave on time. They should also encourage their colleagues to leave on time and discourage unnecessary overtime. Managers have so much influence over their teams that having them on board is crucial.
Burnout is only increasing in the corporate world and it’s crucial that companies combat it through intentional plans and programs. Preventing it is better than reacting to it. The consequences of burnout are too great for the employee and the company. Above all, communication is key.