Preventing employee burnout in your workplace

Preventing Employee Burnout in your Workplace

More than a quarter of employers surveyed for the 2013 Hays Salary Guide reported that their people are clocking up increasing amounts of overtime and more than 60 per cent say that those extra hours are unpaid.

Pressure on organisations to increase productivity means that in some workplaces existing teams are being asked to do more work with the same number of heads. Managing Director of Hays Nick Deligiannis says this has the potential to cause workplace stress and employee burnout which can cost employers a lot more in the long run.

“Employers need to keep monitoring not just overtime but absenteeism and attrition rates so they know what all that overtime is really costing,” says Mr Deligiannis.

1,600 employers were surveyed for the annual Hays Salary Guide and were asked about the amount of overtime done by their employees in the past year.

Only 11 per cent said they had managed to reduce overtime with 63 per cent saying that the level of overtime or extra hours being performed inside their organisations had continued but had not increased.

“Of particular interest was the 26 per cent of employers who told us that the amount of overtime being performed by their employees had increased in the past year,” says Mr Deligiannis.

“Of those, 37 per cent said the amount of overtime had increased by up to five hours a week and 35 per cent by five to 10 hours a week. A further 10 per cent reported that the level of extra work had increased by more than 10 hours a week,” he says.

The Hays Salary Guide also revealed that 62 per cent of the overtime or extra hours was unpaid.

“Employers are looking for maximum productivity from their existing workforce. The fact that so much of the overtime is unpaid creates the potential for issues around employee engagement and even rising absenteeism due to illness or stress,” he says.

According to workplace psychologist Christina Maslach burnout is the opposite of engagement and in the workplace and can lead to:

  • Job withdrawal: Intention to leave the job, absenteeism, high turnover rates
  • Lower productivity
  • Ineffectiveness
  • Decreased job satisfaction
  • Reduced commitment to the job and/or organisation
  • Greater personal conflict with colleagues
  • The disruption coworkers’ job tasks

Taking steps to prevent and/or successfully manage burnout caused through employees working overtime should work to lessen the effects of the issues identified in the list above.

CEO of Talkdesk Tiago Paiva has compiled a list of 30 ways to prevent burnout in the workplace based on his experiences as an employer and recommendations made by Christina Maslach.

1. Be Realistic When Assigning Tasks. Delegate an amount of work that is challenging, but not overwhelming.

2. Follow the Passion. Ensure that each member of your team is in the position they feel most passionate about. Create new positions or be willing to move skilled employees to different positions if they feel more passionate about them.

3. Allow Side Projects. Allow your employees to spend some time working on a work-related side project that they feel passionate about.

4. Keep Reasonable Work Hours. While developing Macintosh, Steve Job made “working 90 hours a week and loving it” t-shirts. Employees differ on how many hours they can work. Some will devote 120 hours a week and love it. Others will try to get out of working a full 40. Don’t ask too much of your employees. Allow for sick days, paid time off, and holidays.

5. Schedule Breaks. Allow and encourage your employees to have a full one hour lunch as well as 15 minute breaks throughout the day. They should use the time to take a walk, socialise, make personal phone calls, or stretch.

6. Grant Each Employee One “Must Have.” When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer suspects an employee might burn out, she allows them time off if they need to be “home for Tuesday night dinners,” or on time for their daughter’s soccer games.

7. Be Flexible. When a deadline or goal is unrealistic, change it so it is attainable. If someone who is assigned a task isn’t the right person for the job, re-assign it.

8. Don’t Spread Your Team Too Thin. Reduce the number of parallel tasks that an individual or team is working on. Ensure that they are not overwhelmed with their to-do list.

9. Define Concrete Roles. Ensure that each team member has a specific job description, understands their role, and is aware of their expected contribution to the company.

10. Equip Your Team With Proper Tools. Set your employees up for success with the right tools to execute flawlessly.

11. Provide Adequate Resources. Ensure that there are sufficient funds to execute strategies effectively.

12. Train Your Team Well. Ensure that they know their job and they know it well.

13. Provide Ample Support. Managers should spend time listening to and addressing employees’ concerns.

14. Create a Supportive Culture. Make sure that being supportive is a company value. Model supportive behavior and reward employees who exemplify your supportive culture.

15. Encourage Socialising. A moderate amount of socialization is optimal for team bonding to occur. Allow for employees to freely socialize on breaks, at lunch, or after work.

16. Give Them a Treat. Surprise your team with a treat you know they will love after a tough week or meeting a stressful goal. Mix it up with food, gift certificates, allowing them to leave early, or having a party at work.

17. Stock Your Kitchen Well. Take a lesson from the Google playbook and make your workplace feel a little like home. Make sure that your team is well fed and revved up!

18. Be Hands On. Spend time getting to know each employee on a personal level. Take them out to lunch individually and talk about non-business related topics.

19. A Team That Plays Together Stays Together. Build team morale, inclusiveness, and job satisfaction by scheduling company activities like snowboarding, go-kart racing, laser tag, or kickball. Be creative and make it fun!

20. Don’t Tolerate Cattiness. Address any behavior that is not in line with the company value of supportiveness immediately.

21. Be Fair. Always make sure that decisions are fair and ethical. Never ask an employee to complete a task that may challenge their values or elicit ethical concerns.

22. Provide Ample Feedback. Employees must know when they have hit a grand slam and when they struck out. Take time to meet with each employee to provide direct feedback.

23. Acknowledge, Reward, and Promote. Each employee’s contribution to the company should be acknowledged. Reward excellent performances with bonuses, awards, and/or promotions.

24. Allow Each Employee to Make Company Decisions. Make each employee a master of a certain domain and allow them to make decisions that affect the company.

25. Make Their Voice Heard. When an employee expresses frustration or concern, address it immediately. Make sure that they know you are taking appropriate action or give an explanation as to why you can’t meet their needs.

26. Educate Employees on Burnout. Provide information about burnout and how employees can prevent it. Hold a seminar where employees can ask relevant questions about burnout. Consider asking a mental health professional to mediate the discussion.

27. Increase Coping Skills. Help employees increase their ability to handle and prevent stress. Hire a professional to teach coping skills and relaxation techniques.

28. Allow for Paid “Mental Health Days.” This is time that employees can choose to spend doing something that makes them happy. A little paid time off will go a long way.

29. Make Every Employee Responsible for Preventing Burnout. Have a “when you see something, say something” policy. Encourage employees to alert a manager when they suspect a co-worker might be burning out.

30. Create a Fun Environment. Any workplace where an employee is excited to come to work will help reduce burnout. Encourage good times, laughs, and a super-fun environment.


How to Prevent Employee Burnout Tiago Paiva CEO and Co-Founder of Talkdesk

Read more about Christina Maslach’s work

1. 2013 Hays Salary Guide


 This Better Workplace Bulletin was First Published in November 2013