Employee burnout is intensifying. One in four employees have felt the signs of burnout, according to a survey from FlexJobs and Mental Health America. And 40% of people say they’re experiencing burnout during COVID-19.
The World Health Organization defines employee burnout as a condition resulting from stress at work, which typically involves exhaustion, negativity, and lower productivity.
Employees who feel burned out are 63% more likely to take a sick day, and — even worse — 23% more likely to visit an emergency room, according to research by Gallup. But even milder cases of employee burnout can be difficult, as people who suffer from burnout are nearly three times more likely to leave their jobs.
Business owners aren’t immune — entrepreneur burnout is just as real. The good news is that you can take steps to create a healthier work environment by putting you and your team more in control.
Here are some preventive steps that can help reduce employee burnout.
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Set and maintain boundaries
Setting boundaries is one of the most effective ways to prevent burnout at your business. Two areas to examine are your employee schedules and work hours.
Offer consistent employee schedules
Regular work schedules help employees plan ahead and add a stroke of normalcy to our lives. It can also force you to implement more forward-looking business strategies, so you’re not doing things at the last minute.
A TSheets survey found that consistency is the second-most important factor employees value in a work schedule. Consistency is also connected to retention — the same survey found that employees with fixed schedules have been at their jobs longer than those with more erratic work schedules.
Encourage clear work hours
As remote work becomes more popular for some businesses, it’s increasingly important to set definitive work hours with clear start and end times. That way, there’s a division between work and personal time, allowing people to be more effective in each area.
Set work hours are also important as caregivers juggle school and daycare closures, caring for relatives, and other situations that are affecting typical work schedules.
To promote this practice, here are a few suggestions:
- Add calendar blocks that indicate when you’ll be available.
- Update your messaging tools with auto-responses to let people know when you’re out.
- Disconnect when it’s not your designated work time.
- Don’t contact people during non-work hours.
To get your team on board, practice what you preach. Communicate about your availability expectations, and encourage them to set their own boundaries.
Meet for regular, socially distanced check-ins
If you only have one-on-ones during performance reviews, you’re likely to miss the symptoms of employee burnout.
Plan weekly or biweekly one-on-one meetings with your direct reports to get a sense of their workloads and stress levels. These check-ins are also a good opportunity to build a rapport with your team, especially if you can’t meet face to face, or have to talk six feet apart.
A Gallup study found that employees whose managers listen to their work-related problems are 62% less likely to feel burned out. When your employees realize that you care about them as people, they’re more likely to talk to you about feeling overwhelmed, giving you a chance to help.
Make it easy to request time off
PTO can be a powerful tool to combat employee burnout, whether it’s used for vacation or a mental health day.
Send out a breakdown of your PTO policy, and encourage employees to use it when needed. Explain exactly how they can submit a time off request so they’re more likely to actually do it. Typically, employees can request time off through your payroll or HR software.
Offer access to mental health resources
There are a lot of resources out there that can help treat employee burnout. The hard part is knowing where to look.
Consider offering your team access to mental health apps, like Headspace and Ginger, to help them handle the stress of this year.
Online courses can also provide support. Through our partnership with Skillshare, business owners can get a free three-month Skillshare membership.
Here are a few learning tracks to help you kick things off:
Focus on the most important tasks
You may be asking employees to take on different tasks as you adapt your business to sell in new ways. Or you may be doing that yourself.
When staff members are asked to take on additional or different tasks, it can put them in a tricky spot. On one hand, they might be excited to stretch and try new things. But on the other hand, if they still have to fulfill their regular duties, the increased pressure can make them feel overwhelmed.
When you ask employees to take on something new, talk to them about what else is on their plates and be clear about what is the highest priority. Then work together to provide training, prioritize existing tasks, create realistic deadlines, and redistribute some of their other duties.
Autonomy is key to preventing employee burnout
A sense of control takes us out of victim mode, and can help us find creative ways to get out of difficult situations. Find opportunities and tools to give you and your team that feeling.
Consistent schedules, flexible PTO, prioritized work, and mental health resources are all ways that you can help yourself — and your employees — create a better, more fulfilling work experience during tough times.