In 2018, Gallup enrolled almost 7,500 full-time employees in a study to determine the pervasiveness of burnout in the workplace. 67% of their study participants reported feeling burned out at work. While many jobs come with high performance expectations, high visibility projects, and time-sensitive deadlines, these feelings of burnout reported by employees can have a profound impact on the organization as well as the employees themselves.
Overworked or overwhelmed employees are stretched thin physically and emotionally, which inhibits their ability to excel in their jobs. The organizations they work for are likely to see the effects of their mental and physical state spread pervasively into many areas of their operations.
- Customer Interactions – Employees struggling simply to accomplish tasks and meet deadlines are less likely to take their time when meeting with customers or attempting to resolve concerns. Relationship-building takes a back seat to checking the boxes to get things done.
- Productivity – With more on their plate than they feel they can accomplish, employees divide their attention and efforts over more projects. Between this multitasking and an increase in meetings, emails, and other time-consuming activities, they cannot devote the same amount of time to their work, and the quality of their deliverables is likely to decline.
- Employee Growth – Overworked employees have a full schedule, which leaves them no time to devote to learning new skills and keeping up with changing technologies or market trends. Their learning progression stagnates, leading to a decrease in innovation across all their projects.
- Reputation – Widespread employee burnout is a sure indicator that you need to hire temporary or permanent employees to support your team. However, if your company has a reputation for expecting too much of employees, you may experience difficulties hiring help.
Seeing the Signs
On the outside, a burned-out employee may not appear any different from their coworkers. However, employees who feel overwhelmed by the expectations placed upon them often lose their passion for the job. Instead, work is a source of stress and anxiety that can lead to very real physical symptoms. The 2018 Gallup study also noted that burned-out employees are more likely to call in sick or visit the emergency room.
It is vital to the health and well-being of employees and the organization that managers recognize the signs of burnout and address them appropriately. Watch for these indicators that your employee may be overwhelmed.
- Working more hours, including staying late, coming in early, and working weekends
- Appearing stressed or getting overly emotional
- Unusually poor feedback from customers
- More frequent absences from work or meetings
- Late or unsatisfactory work
Every business owner wants to run an efficient and productive business. The key to accomplishing that goal is balancing performance expectations with the health and well-being of employees.
Analyzing the Problem
To effectively overcome the challenges overworked employees face, you must identify its cause. Is the problem limited to a single employee, or does it encompass multiple people within a department? If entire groups of employees are feeling overworked, it is worth examining the company culture. Do employees believe that long hours are the norm in your organization? Do they feel comfortable raising a concern when they have too much to do, or is working long hours viewed as the pathway to being a better employee?
Changing the company culture is challenging. However, through constant and consistent communication regarding expectations, managers can set a new tone and redefine standards for employees. Reassure them that while you value their time, efforts, and energy and expect their best efforts, that their health and well-being are the highest priority. Let them know that you are there to support them and help them find solutions when they feel overworked.
If the problem is limited to a single employee, you may need to reevaluate their position and circumstances.
- Is the scope of their responsibilities reasonable and typical for their job title? Are they picking up the pieces where others are falling short?
- Where are they spending their time? Are they responsible for too many administrative tasks that could be performed by an assistant rather than focusing on work that requires their unique skills and contributions?
- Are there extenuating circumstances such as the launch of a new product, the addition of an important client, or is it your busy time of year?
While many of the circumstances only cause temporary increases in workload, maintaining the sanity of your employees and the quality of their work may mean you need the help of a Utah temporary staffing firm to hire support staff until the workload lightens.
Even high-performing employees can quickly lose their confidence and allow their work quality to slip when they face an increased workload. The steps that you regularly take to establish lines of communication and keep in contact with employees will enable you to step in ahead of situations before they become problems.
Touch Base – As approachable as managers attempt to be, there are many subjects that employees choose not to bring up in day-to-day interactions. Regular one-on-one meetings with employees create an open forum for communication that may be the only time employees feel comfortable bringing up work challenges. They allow you to monitor the progress of projects and the well-being of your employees.
Be Clear – Straightforward tasks can cause unnecessary stress when the expectations are vague. Communicate expectations clearly so that employees know how to approach projects. If they put in extra time to meet those expectations, be sure to recognize and compensate them accordingly. Overtime pay, providing meals, and expressing your gratitude all let them know that you are aware of their workload and appreciate their efforts.
Make Work Easier – Efficient businesses thrive when employers set realistic expectations and employees rise to the occasion. However, recognizing life continues outside the office and allowing for the contingencies that arise are vital to decreasing employee stress. Consider removing unnecessary meetings from the schedule, allowing employees to work flexible hours or telecommute, and encouraging employees to take time off after big projects.
Conducting business efficiently and effectively while addressing the needs of employees can be a delicate balance. Overworked employees are at risk of a host of physical and emotional problems that can spill over into the work environment and substantially impact your ability to achieve your business goals. Thus, it is vital for business owners and managers to be aware of the signs of employee burnout and implement change whenever necessary to support their most valuable asset.