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Avoiding Burnout at Work

While it may seem that most of America was on leave the last twelve months, the truth is that most people were working harder than ever. This excess in work, combined with the stress of a global pandemic, has led to an increase in employee burnout. According to Dr. Jill Suttie, contributing editor for Greater

While it may seem that most of America was on leave the last twelve months, the truth is that most people were working harder than ever. This excess in work, combined with the stress of a global pandemic, has led to an increase in employee burnout. According to Dr. Jill Suttie, contributing editor for Greater Good magazine, people feel less productive, emotionally exhausted, and disconnected from coworkers. These people are also more likely to suffer negative effects on their health and are more likely to quit their jobs.

A new book titled The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It, by Jennifer Moss purports that none of this is a secret. The issue, however, is that many employers do not want to address solutions to burnout and, in fact, blame their employees. This blame points to a lack of resilience, and employees are often told that “stress comes with the job.” The truth is that the root source of burnout is a work culture that fosters it. Moss argues that to address burnout, we must first recognize that it is caused by the organization, not its people.

The solution to burnout is a bit trickier as few employers are going to be courageous enough to be open about the problem and sincerely work to fix it. Moss believes that key causes of burnout in the workplace include overwork, a lack of autonomy, and insufficient reward.

1.) Overwork – An excessive workload may be the most obvious cause of burnout in the workplace. Most employers know that their employees are working too much and are missing out on time to rest and/or family time. As much as employers promote work-life balance, working long hours is often expected of salaried employees. Some employers will even go so far as to tell employees to say “No” to additional work, but the reality is that it almost always negatively affects the employee in the long run. A possible solution is to identify goals and prioritize them in order of importance. Spending the most time and effort on the most important goals. Also, job tasks can be assigned based on the strengths of the employee, where they will have the greatest chance of success and, thus, enjoyment. Employers may also want to consider implementing a four-day workweek. Some companies have found that employees are actually more productive by working fewer hours, and both company and employee prosper.

2.) Lack of Autonomy – No one likes to be micro-managed, and many employees cite a lack of control as one of the main causes of job dissatisfaction. Giving employees the freedom to work involves a significant amount of trust on the part of the employer. Though the fear of abuse of this trust is valid, most of the time, allowing employees the freedom to make decisions motivates people to do good work and pays big dividends.

3.) Insufficient Reward – In addition to money, compensation at work includes acknowledgment and reward. People need to be paid what they are worth and recognized when they do a good job. Some may argue that good work is what they are paid for and doesn’t need to be mentioned, but that is only part of the picture. Everyone likes a pat on the back now and again or to be commended in front of their colleagues for a job well done. These things are free and often lead to the employees feeling appreciated and valued and improves motivation. Conversely, a lack of recognition or misplaced recognition of lesser employees often leads to resentment. Eventually, the best employees will gravitate to positions in other organizations that they deem a better fit because they are more valued.

While most organizations value their employees, many do not take real steps to retain their best employees and create a culture of well-being in the workplace. Solving workplace burnout will take open, honest conversations between employees at all levels and a willingness to communicate even things that either side may not want to hear. Then, a concerted effort needs to be made so that both sides can come together as one organization. In the end, happy employees make happy customers, and everyone benefits.

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