Author Glenn Bertha, is a Success Coach with LandOpt an NALP consultant member.
It is estimated that the mental and physical effects of burnout cost employers between $125 billion and $190 billion annually. There’s no doubt: employee burnout is a problem. And, as statistics tell us, it is a problem the employer often causes. Stay with me here – the news isn’t all bad, and there is hope.
The 2007-2008 recession illustrated an important point about employee burnout: it often results when team members are hit with increased demand on their time but offered decreased resources and support to be successful in their roles.
Work-Life Balance is Crucial
Of course, the economic crisis of the early 2000s was largely out of the small business owner’s hands. But there is one cause of burnout that is fully in the owner’s hands, as well as the hands of upper management: neglecting and failing to prioritize a healthy work-life balance. When those at the top of the org chart don’t honor or model the balance, their team members tend to follow suit, either willingly or unwillingly. A colleague once shared that the manager at a past employer routinely told the team: “I put in eighty hours per week. If you’re not willing to put in at least that many, you know where to find the door.” Needless to say, she practically skipped through that door toward her greener pasture at the first opportunity. She said it took her several years to fully recover from the burnout that resulted from her time there.
Here are three things you can do to reduce employee burnout:
Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s bliss you and your business can’t afford. The more you are aware of potential contributors to burnout, the better prepared you and your team members can collaboratively combat it. One impactful and easily implementable way you can ensure your awareness gauge stays on high is to hold regular check-in meetings with each member of your team. If these are already part of your daily and weekly operations, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. There is nothing wrong with leaning on your team and holding them accountable for telling you when you’re in danger of hitting the boiling point. In fact, it’s this sort of symbiosis that is the cornerstone of strong, trusting teams.
Regular check-in meetings are a step in the right direction, but they should not be the only means of supporting your team members who may be teetering on the brink of productivity-killing burnout. Meetings tend to be more a burden than a boon for team members who have already fully fallen in the ditch and who have already lost valuable time and motivation as a result. When it gets to this point, more direct and dynamic intervention is needed to pull them out and help them find their footing again. Aside from the obvious support – assuring them you are there for them – you can help them to restructure and prioritize the items on their calendars, encourage them to build regrouping time into their daily schedules, and call in reinforcements as needed to assist or take on tasks and initiatives that are proving overwhelming to the team member. You can also encourage your team members to seek the services of a mental help professional when the demands of the job begin to take a psychological toll, and ideally before. Often, an objective third party can offer perspectives, tools, and insight beyond what you or others on your team can provide.
Be the Change.
It’s so common you can easily find it in Internet memes and on bumper stickers: Be the change you wish to see in the world. It’s well-known because it points at an important truth. Authentic and lasting change, whether in the world or in business, begins at the individual level and ripples outward. Effective management is as much about teaching as it is about managing. The best teaching, the kind that is meaningful, relevant, and lasting, is done in subtle ways. When you model a healthy work-life balance, your team members learn how to build and maintain healthy balances of their own. When they see that you take time to regularly rest and replenish yourself, they will learn to take better physical and mental care of themselves. When they see that you honor commitments to family, friends, and loved ones, they will learn the importance of keeping commitments to important people in their own lives. When they see that you genuinely love what you do, and that you are consistently focused and productive at work and able to leave your work at the office, they will learn the value of having passion and focus for their work and the equal value of being able to effectively separate it from their personal lives.
The financial horizon might be sunnier for many businesses these days but for far too many team members, burnout remains the fog that stubbornly refuses to dissipate. This may be due to businesses’ reluctance to find themselves blindsided by another fiscal storm, causing them to avoid proactive recruiting and to reactively bring on team members only when it becomes absolutely necessary. It may be due to ownership and management’s insistence on multitasking and filling multiple roles to streamline processes and preserve the bottom line. If either of these sounds like your business, it’s likely time to make a few important changes.
By being continually aware, providing necessary support to your team members, remaining willing and open to being the change you wish to see in your business, and taking a consistently proactive stance toward identifying and mitigating potential causes of burnout, you ensure your business remains a place people want to go to each day, and that it remains healthy and vibrant in a competitive market.