In the time of the great resignation, employees have been vocal about their preferences for flexible and human-centered workplaces. It’s a reaction to record high levels of burnout, as 77% of employees have experienced it at their current jobs. Burnout, and the subsequent turnover, are costly.
Burnt-out employees take more sick days and are more likely to actively seek a different job. Yet, 70% of employees believe their employer isn’t doing enough to address burnout within their organization. The Society for Human Resource Management estimates that after accounting for all hiring, onboarding, and training costs, the cost of turnover can be 6-9 months of an employee’s salary.
Companies that can successfully reduce burnout can gain a competitive advantage by putting these five ideas into action.
While trends point to economy-wide burnout, it’s essential to hone in on the reasons for burnout in your own company.
- Train leaders on how to spot the signs of burnout. Equip them with questions geared towards prioritization and time management while also building a personal rapport. My favorite question to ask direct reports comes from Cat Cole, president of Athletic Greens, who asks her employees, “What is one thing I can do differently to be more effective for you?” When you ask consistently, you will learn valuable detail about your employee, their workload, and the company.
- Conduct monthly or quarterly surveys on employee wellness. These anonymous pulse checks allow leadership to determine how their staff is doing and feeling concerning workload, stress, and needed support from leaders.
- Conduct exit interviews. Conducting thoughtful exit interviews will help leaders understand why people are quitting and identify trends in the underlying dynamics. This detail will help companies prioritize their focus to the areas their employees need most right now. These trends can change over time, so it’s important to monitor this consistently to prevent a wave of burnout.
You may not be the highest-paying company in your industry or community, but there are non-monetary ways you can support employees and reduce burnout. Today’s employees demand increased flexibility, shorter workweeks, and companies that move calmly, with clarity on their top priorities.
Fortunately, today’s employees aren’t shy about telling us what’s holding them back. A lack of opportunities for advancement, feeling a lack of respect from their leader, limited flexibility, and poor benefits are a few of the top-cited reasons people quit. Layer economic trends with company-specific feedback from employee surveys and exit interviews, and your company will be armed with the data needed to make changes.
Establish clear norms around when employees need to be available and when they don’t. In many work cultures, the expectation is that an employee should be available at a moment’s notice when the Slack notification dings or their co-worker pops their head over the cubicle wall. Yet, the past few years have shifted expectations, and employees and companies are rethinking their value on hours over outcomes.
When availability timeframes are provided, it allows everyone the option to completely disconnect during off times. Here are timeframes to consider defining:
- Hours employees are expected to be online or in the office each day of the week
- Ideal response time for internal messages (email, Slack, etc.)
- Ideal response time for client communications
- Expectation for availability for urgent needs at night or on the weekend (respond right away, wait until working hours, etc.)
Burnout is exacerbated when roles and deliverables aren’t clear and in companies where the priority list is 10 pages long. (Who are we kidding, it’d probably be in a slide deck.) Being clear on what’s important is vital. As Brene Brown said, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” Here are scripts to help bring clarity to both employees and leaders:
- Employee to leader: “I am working on several projects right now and want to ensure I’m spending my time effectively. What are the most important metrics and deliverables I should be focused on now? Are there any projects or workstreams that can be delayed or reassigned so I can focus here?”
- Leader to employee: “What resources or support do you need to focus on the most important work and deliverables right now? Can I clarify which projects are a priority? Or confirm the key metrics or outcomes?”
Support and nurturing from a leader is one of the best ways to reduce an employee’s burnout. Leaders should get curious about what their employees need, how they can better support them, and what might contribute to their burnout. The burnout trends will surface over time, which allows leaders to address them directly n in conversation and action. Leaders who expect high performance and a holistically healthy employee should be prepared to model healthy boundaries and workplace well-being.