Most Workers Experience Burnout -- and the Companies That Employ Them Need to Address It

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It's not uncommon for workers to experience periods of stress or dissatisfaction on the job. But when that disillusionment crosses a line, you, as a company, run the risk of your workers suffering from full-fledged burnout.

Though the term might read like a buzzword, it's a serious problem in the workplace. The Mayo Clinic defines it as "a state of physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion, combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work." And that certainly doesn't sound like something you want your staff to fall victim to.

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Yet 77% of workers say they've experienced at least one bout of burnout with their current employer, with over 50% citing more than one occurrence of it. That's the latest from a Deloitte study, which also found that nearly 70% of workers feel that their employers aren't doing enough to prevent or address burnout.

From an employer perspective, that should serve as a wake-up call. And the sooner you take steps to address the problem, the greater your chances of nipping employee burnout in the bud at your company.

Why do employees burn out?

There are numerous factors that can contribute to employee burnout, and according to the aforementioned study:

  • 31% of workers point to a general lack of support or recognition from company leadership.
  • 30% blame unrealistic deadlines or expectations.
  • 29% cite consistently long hours or the need for weekend work.

Clearly, workers are pretty quick to point a finger at their employers for contributing to this unfortunate phenomenon. But that underscores the need for businesses to take action or risk a major drop in productivity. After all, it stands to reason that when workers don't feel motivated or good about their output, they're apt to slow down. And that could really hurt your bottom line.

Addressing and preventing burnout

So how can you, as a business owner or manager, determine the extent to which burnout is impacting your staff? It's easy: Ask. Circulate an anonymous survey and ask employees to weigh in on their stress levels and (dis)satisfaction. If the results aren't too positive, you know you have a problem on your hands.

If you run a smaller company, you have the option to survey employees individually and ask for their input. Either way, the key is to get ahead of the problem as early as possible.

How might you address burnout once it does rear its ugly head? Here are a number of tactics you might employ, such as:

  • Publicly acknowledging employees' hard work.
  • Giving out spot bonuses for stellar performance.
  • Being reasonable about deadlines.
  • Hiring more resources to share the load so that your current employees can work fewer hours.
  • Bringing in temporary staff during busy periods to ease the burden on full-timers.
  • Instituting an on-call system so that weekend work is something employees only need worry about when it's their turn.
  • Encouraging workers to take vacation (or even mandating that employees take time off).
  • Offering flexible work arrangements.
  • Giving workers a forum to share their frustrations rather than bottle them up (this could come in the form of regular meetings or even an anonymous tip line).
  • Insisting that managers make themselves more available to their teams.

These are just some of the steps you can take to prevent or alleviate burnout at your place of business. You may need to play around with different approaches, but the key to is make it clear to your staff that you're aware of the problem and are invested in improving the employee experience at your company. Burnout isn't a fad, and it's not the sort of thing that's likely to go away on its own. The more you make an effort to combat it, the more you and your employees stand to gain.

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