Not knowing how to ‘switch off’ during non-working hours; constantly feeling guilty when not working at your ‘to do’ list; waking up in the early hours to think through work problems or reply to emails or messages – do any of these sound familiar?
Struggling with any of these issues in the longer term can lead to ‘burnout’, a state of constant and unending stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion.
The Mental Health Foundation’s 2018 study found that 74% of us have been so stressed that we’ve been ‘unable to cope’. The same study also identified that 49% of 18-24 year olds who have experienced this high level of stress found that comparing themselves to others was a significant cause of stress, considerably higher than any other age bracket.
In this vein, ‘millennial burnout’ specifically has made the headlines over the past few months, in which young people have been identified to be particularly struggling to keep up with the demanding socioeconomic and technological conditions we’re living in. However, burnout is prevalent among a wide age range of workers.
As people in the workplace now are more likely to have their phones with them at all times, this can increase the pressure put on them, often by themselves, to instantly respond to messages whether they’re in work or not. The faster the reply, the more committed the employee – right?
Research shows that burnout has been taking a toll on workers’ personal lives too; they prioritise keeping on top of everything in their job around the clock, but this often leaves their partners, friends, family and other everyday, essential commitments playing second fiddle.
This brings us to the bigger question of how employers ensure their employees have a healthy work-life balance and how they ensure their employees are prepared to thrive.
Our top three recommendations to help prevent employee burnout in your place of work:
- Enforce reasonable working hours
What is perhaps the most important thing is to ensure that you clearly define the hours your employees are expected to work. This can be difficult if you have extended team members or clients working in different time zones but if your senior managers make it clear that they only want emails being sent during office hours, and adhere to this, it can make it a lot easier for employees to follow suit.
Steve Jobs famously handed out t shirts to his employees displaying the slogan ‘90 Hours a Week and Loving It’ – but it is this unhealthy workaholic mentality that often results in burnout. Discourage your employees from taking their work home with them by allowing them to stay late in the office, on occasion, if they’re working on something with a tight deadline to save them taking it home with them. Although late working shouldn’t be encouraged, it is vital to recognise that sometimes it is needed. That way, there is a clear divide between work and home.
- Keep communication open
If you find that certain members of staff are often staying late or are beginning to appear more and more tense and stressed, it is vital to keep lines of communication open and encourage them to let you know when they have too much on their plate. Encourage employees to have boundaries and urge those you manage to say ‘no’ if they won’t have time to complete your, or other people’s, requests.
In a fast-paced workplace, it is easy for employees to ignore the warning signs of burnout and move through the day on autopilot. Training managers to recognise stress and burnout indicators in those they manage can encourage communication, but training employees to recognise these symptoms in themselves is also just as valuable. Ensure that in PDRs, employees are asked about their feelings on their current workloads to open up lines of communication and reduce employee pressure.
- Make sure they have what they need
Have you ever tried tightening a screw using a knife? You might get the screw in but it won’t be secure, the knife will ‘round’ the head of the screw, the edge of the knife will bend and you’ll be angry and frustrated by the whole process. It would’ve been a different story if you’d just used a screwdriver – right?
The same applies to your employees. Without training them to identify and cope with stress and challenge in the workplace, manage their time and have honest conversations about job performance, they won’t have the correct resources to aid them when they really need them.
Get in touch with us today to find out more about the learning and development options we can offer your employees around Stress Awareness and Achieving Balance.