Employee Burnout

Employee burnout is a complaint discussed between employees but rarely discussed between employee and upper management.  Most employers blame the worker for their lack of enthusiasm not realizing that there could be underlying issues on a larger scale.

We’ve all seen it first hand with an overly stressed manager who finally throws his hands up saying, “I’ve had it” and threatens to quit if changes don’t come soon. Or, a supervisor that swears “one more day here and I am going to have a heart-attack.”

There are staggering numbers associated with burned-out employees due to being physically and psychologically exhausted. When Employee Burnout Happens, Who Is To Blame? Some would say the responsibility is fully the employees to stay focused, while others feel the employer should own up to their part of what causes an employee to experience burnout.

What Is Employee Burnout And How You Can Detect It Before It Happens?

Burnout can apply to every category in life, jobs, family, hobby’s, but in the workforce, it is the response to one’s interpersonal stress and chronic emotions that the individual feels. It isn’t just from working too many hours or in a hostile or high-demand setting, but a multidimensional reaction to many complex issues.

The annual cost is estimated to be between $125-$190 billion spent on healthcare alone in the U.S., which is only the defined impacts. Low productivity, high turnovers, and loss of valuable employees are just a tip of the iceberg for internal loss.

Situations that contribute to employee burnout are:

  • Job insecurity
  • Heavy workloads
  • Unorganized work routines
  • Too many meetings and not enough production

Any time there is more “meeting of the minds” rather than creative work, production will slack, causing built-up stress, which leads to mental exhaustion. Once upper management acknowledges and confronts issues, then organizational measure can be put in place to ease the stress.

When there is slack in production, a problem within management is often the problem and not the employee. The same applies to employee burnout. There are three typical reasons why a company will experience high employee burnout, these are:

  • Weak time management
  • Excessive Collaboration
  • Overloading employees with too much work

Anytime circumstances such as these interfere with an employee’s ability to be productive, the stress of not having enough downtime to regroup while concentrating on completing a task can lead to mental and physical exhaustion.

Weak Time Management

At the pace large corporation have to maintain to keep up with production, collaboration typically takes the back seat due to lack of advancements in discipline, organizational skills, and the tools needed to manage.

All too often, employees find themselves on their own trying to structure their time and production while reducing stress and preventing burnout.  With many employees feeling it is expected of them to remain overworked, they tend to stay silent as they have limited ability to fight the corporate culture.

Leaders within a corporation have the capacity to make changes that will take the pressure off the employees that lead to burnout. The first important step is to take control of the problems at hand. While upper management tends to be pleased with the benefits of collaboration, very few take into consideration the overall costs.

With today’s modern technology, there are many available tools designed to measure how employees spend their time and how effective that time is with organizational productivity and burnout. Without the aid of instruments that determine how much time each employee spends on activities, it is almost impossible to determine if the employee is producing more or less than expected.

By using these type of data collecting tools, management can quickly identify areas where too much time exists in emails, meetings, and online collaborations. By gathering this information, leaders are enabled to make changes needed to reduce the organizational struggle that leads to reduced productivity and extreme burnout.

By utilizing discipline with time management, employers can take advantage of freeing up 20% of their employee’s time which can lower stress and reduce the risk of burnout. With gaining control over the situation, the employee feels as though they have some independence in their work day rather than just idol lost time.

Another key element is avoiding micromanagement, another leader of stress; you are giving your employees control of their day as well is the incentive to be more productive.

Excessive Collaboration

You know the old saying, “there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians”? Well, with excessive collaboration, this is precisely what this means. When there are too many decision makers and not many people willing to meet in the middle to make something happen, this turns into a steady flow of meetings and conference calls before something finally gets going.

In return, you will see a constant spin of events that are leading to nowhere. When you find you have too many wanting to add their input, this leads to corporate cultures requiring more collaboration than what is necessary to be successful with a plan.

With today’s compacted daily schedules of upper management, senior executives receive over 200 emails per day. Between needing to read and respond to the large mass of emails, leaders find they are using up at least eight hours per week just for communication.

Cultural and structural factors lead to disarray as well as breakage in production. Reading, sending and responding to e-communications uses up at least 32 hours per month per supervisor, which many are repeating the email or answering many of the same emails throughout the workday.

As you can see, this time could be used more efficiently for organization and production improvement. Burnout often takes place when some attempts to take on more than one task at a time. By adding priorities on top of one another along the expectation for employees to utilize digital tools for multitasking, employees often become overwhelmed.

Multitasking leads to exhaustion and being counter productive as employees go back and forth between priorities before completion. Switching to and from tasks while still working on another increase the time it will take for completing both projects by 25%.

One study performed by Microsoft concluded it takes a person on average 15 minutes after reading and engaging in an email to return to a project with the concentration needed to do the task properly. By adjusting organizational routines and structure, companies can address the collaboration overload issue.

The first step should be to consider the number of bumps in the organization. A proliferation of bumps is a sign of complexity, and the nodes act as a “speed bump” meant to slow down misuse of time and energy while emphasizing on the action of the organization.

Another plan is leaders should examine how systematically their employees are utilizing their work. An example would be to study the meeting calendar to determine which meetings are detrimental, how long they should last, and what employees should attend.

Also, instead of dispersing your key employees across teams, put your best team members together to tackle the high priority work first. Let leaders work on coaching and have them express the importance of time being a valued resource.

Overloading Employees With Too Much Work

A big mistakes organizations make is noting an increase in workloads without increasing their workforce. Most companies assume the power in digital productivity is enough without ever verifying if their assumptions are right.

What typically goes wrong with work overload, is it is common for an employer to compound more work onto their best people. These people are the ones that are the usual “go-to” employees who are highest in demand within the company. The same employees are the people who fall prey to the collaboration overload.

If you have a leader within your company that is using one day per week just to respond to communications and two days per week in meetings, how productive is that manager with production and their employees? The better the employee, the more collaboration time that employee will lose as their workload grows even larger.

Utilizing the same tools that measure how productive your employees are can also guide you in determining if too much work is weighing down your top performers, forcing their bosses to redesign workloads, or taking less productive steps to prevent burnout of overload.

When employee burnout occurs, everyone suffers, not just the person directly affected. By not checking on employees workload and organizational norms, you are creating conditions for burnout. As a leader in your industry, you have the power to change protocols and see less burnout.

When you free up time allowing workers to be more productive, you are ensuring company success, increasing production output, and reducing the avenues where burnouts occur. Overall this is a win-win for everybody concerned.