“Burnout” is by no means a new phenomenon.
It’s an issue that’s been around for a long while, and the ever-changing, digital-first workplace, coupled with the added stressors and strains of COVID-19 has certainly exaggerated the issue amongst employees.
In fact, people working across tech and in tech-focused roles are more susceptible to feelings of burnout – exhaustion, helplessness, disillusionment – and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to recognise in teams due to the reduction on physical face-to-face interactions.
Everyone experiences stress in one way or another but when burnout strikes, it’s not a simple as just taking time away from work. With the lines between work life and home life more blurred, companies have a responsibility to act if they’re to reduce burnout amongst their teams.
Therefore, recognising when and how it turns into burnout is crucial for managers and business leaders if they’re to support their staff and prioritise their wellbeing.
What is burnout?
Burnout affects both mental and physical wellbeing and results from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.
People experience burnout differently, but it’s commonly characterised by:
- Physical symptoms – fatigue, headaches, constant illnesses
- Emotional symptoms – a sense of failure, negativity, lack of motivation
- Behavioural symptoms – procrastination, isolating from others, frustration, poor timekeeping
Research suggests that unfair treatment at work, unmanageable workload, unclear communications from managers, lack of support and unreasonable time pressure were the top five factors that correlate with employee burnout.
This shows that ineffective managements can increase the likelihood of burnout and therefore, that understanding the signs and symptoms of burnout is hugely important for today’s leadership teams.
If you manage a team, here are 5 suggestions on how you can stop burnout affecting your employees:
Understand the root cause
Do you understand the contributing factors to burnout within your team? Is it their workload, poor leadership, a lack of clarity around their roles or expectations?
Speak to your teams and get to the bottom of the issue. This will not only help you identify how to best help your team, but it’ll also demonstrate that you’ve noticed they’re not being themselves and want to help them overcome this obstacle.
Have in person conversations (where possible), don’t assume to know what the problem is and ask empathetic questions.
Communicate and connect
Keeping an open channel of communication and providing a safe space for your employees to discuss their worries is an important part of managing stress.
Organise catch-up sessions and regular check ins to find out how they are. If you can foster an environment where your teams feel comfortable voicing their concerns or issues, this will go a long way in getting to the root cause so you can offer support.
You should provide clear expectations for your employees, in terms of their role, how they’re able to work, and when et.
Burnout can stem both from the feeling of not contributing enough to the team, or from feeling like there’s too much unfair pressure on them to perform tasks outside their remit.
Providing clear targets and goals and regularly assessing your team’s workloads, can help combat ease the stresses that come with these uncertainties.
Educate and train your teams
As a business, and in particular, a management team, you should raise awareness of burnout and ensure your employees are trained to recognise signs of it in themselves and their colleagues.
Provide them with the resources and training to better understand when burnout is likely to take hold and what support they can ask for, or what they can do, to reduce the impact.
As a manager, one of the most important roles is to serve as an advocate for your team, meaning they are well taken care of and supported.
This could come in the form of being truly aware of their time and capacity, respecting their boundaries, offering flexible work schedules, addressing unreasonable deadlines and helping people reconnect with their sense of purpose.
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