How employers can combat workplace burnout

Burnout can silently stunt growth, stifle innovation and poison a workplace environment. Employees may be reluctant to admit feeling burned out, and therefore managers need to recognise the warning signs and take steps to facilitate resiliency. Lyndy van den Barselaar, managing director at ManpowerGroup South Africa explains, “burnout will not only cause physical and mental health issues for employees, but will also cause ineffectiveness in the workplace. Therefore, it is in employers best interest to ensure they take the correct steps to mitigate this.”

ManpowerGroup and its partner Right Management suggest the following strategies for effectively combating workplace burnout.

Recognise the warning signs

Burnout can manifest itself in a number of ways, including decreased satisfaction and commitment, lower productivity, increased personal conflicts, and a desire to disengage and disconnect. Employees may feel like they can’t admit they are burned out because it feels like a personal shortcoming or shows a lack of commitment. To get around this issue, astute managers will pay attention to changes in employees’ attitudes, which may indicate a deeper issue of burnout.

Offer flexibility

Often, the treatment for burnout can be simple and puts control in the hands of employees. Globally, 40% of people say schedule flexibility — especially flexible start and finish times and the ability to work from home — is one of the top three factors when making career decisions, according to ManpowerGroup research. The SABPP Work Practices report 2018 stated that flexible work practices are reportedly becoming more prevalent in organisations around the world due to technology enabling different ways of working. “This presents an opportunity for businesses in today’s industries to adopt more employee centric work practices which align with the 21st century’s technological developments,” says van den Barselaar. Offering flexibility ensures that when stressful situations hit, employees can bend and not break.

Encourage regular vacation time on regular intervals

The human body and mind needs downtime and regular rest periods. Employees who push themselves for long periods of time and then cram all their time into one vacation – or worse, don’t take their full allotted time off – aren’t receiving optimal recovery. Instead, encourage employees whenever possible to spread out their vacations throughout the year. The rhythms of hard work and rest need to balance over time.

Take something off their plate

High performers are high performers for a reason – they take on a lot, and accomplish a lot. But eventually, even the most productive person can reach a breaking point. Recognise any early signs of stress, and relieve your busiest workers of certain roles or duties that can be reassigned.

Everyone has a finite amount of hours in the day, and productivity without burnout requires strategic cutting back on the activities that consume energy. “For an employee to perform at their best over the long term, they need regular opportunities for restocking their physical and mental energy,” says van den Barselaar.

In the best-case scenario, employee burnout can be addressed, but this is not an issue that can ever be permanently cured. “Managers will do well to observe teams over time to ensure that employees receive the help they need – both now and in the future,” concludes van den Barselaar.

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