In this second piece in our three-part series on employee engagement, we’ll look at the topic of burnout at work, including contributing factors and actions leaders and organizations can take to positively address this issue.
Factors Contributing to Burnout at Work
Recent statistics indicate that two-thirds of full-time workers in the U.S. are experiencing burnout on the job. Additionally, multiple studies have found that low levels of employee engagement have a direct impact on company performance. There are many reasons employees may feel less engaged and even burned out at work, and they include the following:
- Lack of Relationships with Peers – Studies have found that motivation at work can come from relationships with others at work. Even the most introverted of us need human interaction. If employees don’t have relationships with peers and colleagues, they often feel uninspired. In fact, organizations are social networks. Leaders must create connectivity at a human level, along with connecting people to their work. Fostering an inclusive work environment is a key capability for managers today.
- Projects with “No End” – In today’s modern workplace, we often are involved in long, complex projects with completion dates that can extend beyond twelve months. Seeing results, and recognizing them, is foundational to feeling accomplished, which drives engagement.
- Time Away from Work – We all want to feel like we’re needed by family, friends, and colleagues. Consequently, we may avoid or delay taking time away from our work, even when we’re approaching burnout. Some employees really struggle to manage work and time off.
- The Role of the Manager – The number one factor that can drive engagement and increase morale at work is the employee’s manager. In fact, one study at the Mayo Clinic found that “…the person you report to at work is more important for your health than your family doctor.”[i] In some ways, the day-to-day manager creates the center of the employee’s universe. Because of this, managers have a critical role in employee engagement. Yet most companies don’t devote time and resources to educating managers in the soft skills needed to minimize burnout. Skills such as communication, empathy, and feedback are all needed to keep employees motivated and engaged.
What Companies Can Do
In order to better equip managers to create an environment that’s supportive of their staff, and to combat burnout at work, organizations have many options to consider, as follows:
- To address a lack of relationship with peers, employers can foster a culture where employees experience a sense of connection with colleagues – one where relationships and helping one another are as important as completing tasks. One researcher recommends a daily practice where employees write down three ways in which they’ve had a positive impact on their colleagues.[ii]
- Regarding projects with no end, employers can create mini-milestones for large, complex projects so that managers and teams may experience some sense of completion. In addition, making time to pause and celebrate the achievement of certain phases and milestones is a great way to insert breaks into big projects.
- When employees haven’t been able to get away from their work and demonstrate or express feelings of overwhelm or burnout, managers can encourage them to take some leave time.[iii] Managers should also recognize that sending emails to staff after hours and on weekends can send the message that they should be “on” during these off times.
- Organizations can designate resources to build the skills of their managers by investing in coaching and technology. Executive coaching is a strong development opportunity for managers, although traditionally very costly, and sometimes limited to senior leaders. However, recent innovations in technology are enabling organizations to scale one-on-one development in new ways, which may benefit a wider range of leaders. A focus on coaching and skill-building can better equip managers of all levels to support and lead their teams and employees.
- After providing training for managers, it’s beneficial to allow time for the practice of new skills. Studies show that we forget up to seventy-five percent of the material taught, and revert back to old practices.[iv] By creating an environment where managers are encouraged to exercise new skills, they’re more likely to be reinforced, thereby enhancing manager impact within the workplace.
- Adopt a strengths-based development approach to focus on building an employee’s strongest capabilities, rather than seeking to develop weaker areas. With this approach, managers enable employees to leverage skills they’re good at, in order to have the most positive impact on their teams. As a result, employees may feel more accomplished in the workplace.
- Finally, create development opportunities for employees as a way to invest in them and build capability at the same time.
The Bottom Line
Focusing on employees and their managers in a holistic manner is a switch that companies need to make in order to drive engagement and minimize burnout. At Capacity Group, we partner with our clients to help them create desired change within their organizations and among their leaders.
For more information, or to continue the discussion on engagement, please contact Marcella Bayer at firstname.lastname@example.org or Megan Staczek at email@example.com. Please also look for the third blog post in this series in which we’ll discuss additional steps leaders and organizations can take to further engage their employees.
[i] Sasser, Christy. “People Managers, The Antidote to Employee Burnout.” Science of Leadership.
[ii] Herrera, Tim. “What to Do When You Feel Uninspired at Work.” The New York Times. August 12, 2019.
[iv] Ibid #1