May 28, 2014

How To Deal With Employee Burnout

How To Deal With Employee Burnout

Employee burnout is such an important issue. There are many articles online that talk about employee burnout, but I still feel like it’s not talked about or dealt with enough.

We live in such a fast-paced culture, and the job market is still pretty rough.

Even though the media claims that the job market is improving, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that the type of jobs that are coming back are still leaving people stressed out, and financially struggling.

People work so hard just to maintain, and it inevitably leads to burnout.

It’s sad that we need to have these types of discussions.

I wish we lived in a world where everyone could just relax, and be happy. There is so much anger and frustration out there, and the damages that these things do your health is hard to talk about.

The most important lesson that I’m trying to get across is the need to relax, both for companies and employees, seriously, just relax. I know you think your job is important, but trust me when I say it can wait another day.

The worst outcome for companies of employee burnout is the loss of talent, and loss of productivity.

Signs of Employee Burnout

First, let’s look at some of the signs of employee burnout. If you’re a manager, and you see your employees displaying any of these types of symptoms, do something about it, fast.

If you’re an employee, and you’re noticing that you’re experiencing these things, don’t wait for a manager to notice, do something about it, fast.

  • Feeling tired and drained most of the time
  • Feeling sick a lot
  • Frequent headaches and muscle aches
  • Not caring about your work
  • Wanting to be alone at work
  • Procrastinating more
  • Using drugs or alcohol to deal with work
  • More irritable
  • Coming in late and leaving early
  • Increasingly cynical and negative outlook
  • No sense of accomplishment or pride

I’ve witnessed this particularly with software developers.

Software development is a very tricky industry, because it’s funded and mostly controlled by people who have absolutely no clue how any of it works, leading to giant perception problems and miscommunication.

How often have you heard a business person ask a software developer “how long will this take?”

Spoiler alert – anything the software developer says is a guess. Yes, it’s an educated guess, but a guess nonetheless.

So the software developer, probably just wanting to get back to their desk, says an arbitrary number like 2 weeks.

Now the software developer has to work to get that feature implemented within 2 weeks, no matter how many unknowns, and how many bugs come up.

This is a recipe for disaster.

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The Damage It’s Doing To Your Body

Worldwide, lots of employees are burned out, and some countries in Europe are trying to take some measures, like limiting the amount of time workers are allowed to work in a week.

Surprisingly, the United States is one of the worst offenders, and is the only developed nation that doesn’t guarantee paid vacation, and also the only industrialized country that doesn’t guarantee paid parental leave.

That sucks.

They should really step their game up, and understand the kind of stress that causes.

Let’s look at some of the damage that stress causes to the body.

1. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found a link between stress and cancer. The researchers tested an anti-cancer drug on 2 groups of mice. The group that was more stressed was able to kill less of the cancer than the non-stressed out mice.

2. A study done at Yale University found that stress can actually make your brain shrink, which is pretty scary. The scariest part was that the part of the brain that shrunk, was the part responsible for dealing with emotions and self-control, meaning that they will respond worse to future stressful situations.

3. Research has shown that stress, in children, can literally make them age faster. The cells in 5-10 year olds that were stressed were growing more rapidly.

4. It’s pretty well known that stress will lead to depression, but now we have some science to back it up.

5. The last one, in my opinion, is the craziest. Research was done that found that chronic stress is the equivalent of smoking 5 cigarettes a day. The research showed that the people who were stressed were 27% more likely to have a heart attack.

What Companies Can Do To Prevent Burnout

Here are a few things that companies can do to help better the lives of their employees.

Like I mentioned earlier, burnout is a nightmare for companies, because of the lost productivity and lost talent.

Encourage Side Projects – This can actually benefit the company as well. Google’s famous 20% time produced some of their most popular products.

Be FlexibleBe flexible with your employees, and allow for things like telecommuting and time off. Companies that allow for flexibility end up getting more out of their workers.

Give Autonomy – Even if it’s perceived autonomy, there’s a lot of psychology about why the feeling of autonomy will lead to happier, more productive workers.

Communicate – And be transparent, as it’s incredibly important in maintaining employee happiness. Also provide constant feedback to employees, to make sure they’re doing okay and always improving.

Team Building Activities – This is important for team morale, and that feeling of inclusiveness. It’s also a great way to know better your colleagues while still having fun.

Don’t Micromanage – This one actually might be most important one on the list. I feel like micromanagement is the most damaging thing you can do to an employee, and the amount of stress that a lot of micromanaging brings almost guarantees employee burnout.

What You As An Employee Should Do

Like I mentioned earlier, don’t wait for your manager to fix things. If you feel like burnout is around the corner, do things yourself to fix it.

Relax – Especially if you’re a perfectionist, you need to learn to relax, and let things go. This is a classic type of personality that will burnout, because they’re never satisfied, so they’re always overworking. Just relax.

Take Time Off – Having a good work-life balance is so important for your mental health.

Meditate – I’ve been trying this one personally lately as I’m working on building better habits, and it really works.

Clarify Your Job Role – One of the biggest problems at work is the ambiguity on what you’re supposed to be doing and what your responsibilities are. This confusion can lead to stress, so make sure you have a clearly defined role, and understand what it is you do.

Learn To Say No – You won’t be able to do everything, and taking on too much work is the first step towards burnout, so you should learn how to say no.

Spend Time With Family and Friends – One of the longest studies ever done on happiness found that he most important thing by far, is having good relationships.

How Do You Deal With Employee Burnout?

The truth is, burnout is something that no one is immune to. It’s important to create a work environment where every employee feels happy and motivated. What do you do to create that type of environment? Let me know your thoughts on twitter @JacobShriar or @Officevibe.

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