Employees are overwhelmed. Managers are overwhelmed. And, businesses are being pushed to the brink. Stress, fatigue, and employee burnout have become common in the workplace. In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) revealed in early 2022 that “nearly 3 in 5 employees reported negative impacts of work-related stress, including lack of interest, motivation, or energy (26%) and lack of effort at work (19%). Meanwhile, 36% reported cognitive weariness, 32% reported emotional exhaustion, and an astounding 44% reported physical fatigue—a 38% increase since 2019.”
While it may be normal for employees to feel stretched during a sprint, the APAs data suggests the problem has become persistent. It’s no wonder we’re seeing record-level turnover within many occupations. So, what can you do to support an overwhelmed team and prevent employee burnout during these rocky times?
1) Know the signs of employee burnout
You can’t fix what you can’t see. Examples of employee burnout include: Diminished energy levels, decreased desire to perform job duties, reduced productivity and quality of work, and lack of desire to advance within the organization. Simply knowing what to look for could make the difference between greeting an employee in your next meeting or staring at an empty seat.
2) Establish an open-door policy
It’s one thing to advertise an open-door policy, and it’s another to implement and live by it. Show employees that you care by making yourself accessible for one-on-one communication. Then, take the time to have a meaningful conversation, even if you only have 15 minutes. Take the time to listen, empathize, and reassure your employee. Doing what you can today, could very well prevent a time-consuming and expensive vacancy in the future.
3) Act swiftly to prevent employee burnout
If something seems a little off, it most likely is. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s work-related but it certainly could be. Irritable attitudes, short emails, and tired faces are signs that an employee is feeling spread thin. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Ask the employee for feedback right away and let them know it’s okay to be candid. Get to the heart of the matter and determine what can be done to support the employee. For example, is it possible to reallocate some of the employee’s tasks or adjust project timelines? Would it be helpful to consider a production incentive for specific employees or even the whole team?
4) Encourage time off
Qualtrics found that “only 27% of employees used all their paid vacation time in 2021. That’s roughly 1 in 4 workers who don’t even use their paid time off (PTO). Yet, taking time away from work is absolutely essential to forming strong bonds, increasing workforce productivity, and maintaining a healthy and fulfilled life. If your company offers PTO, make sure your employees are using it. If your company has an unlimited PTO policy, identify the baseline for what is considered acceptable. Take just a few minutes each quarter to determine how much PTO has been used, compared to what has actually been used. Then, make a conscious effort to encourage your employees to schedule the downtime.
5) Improve organizational processes
Stress doesn’t just occur from being assigned too many tasks. Disorganization can have the same effect, causing employees to feel unsure of their responsibilities and how to prioritize. Conduct an internal survey to identify any internal systems or processes that could be streamlined to enhance your employees’ peace of mind. And, don’t forget to open the door to suggestions! There’s always room for improvement, so create meaningful dialogue. Create an environment where employees are encouraged to provide suggestions to better their experience while improving the company.
6) Communicate your appreciation
Overwhelmed employees need to be extra seen, heard, and respected. Remember: You never know what an employee might have sacrificed to go the extra mile. Are they receiving a little extra recognition and appreciation in return? Forget conventional “wisdom” and consider the following ideas:
- Award a merit increase now. Why not? Especially if the workload has increased indefinitely.
- Reevaluate PTO policies and flexible work schedules. Refer to item four above.
- Give praise. Post a shout-out. Send a company-wide kudos.
- All of the above.
What would a new employee consider to be an attractive offer? Consider making the same offer to your existing employee now, especially if they’re feeling overwhelmed. After accounting for all direct and indirect costs, turnover can range anywhere from one-half to two times an employee’s salary. So, budgeting for a little extra “appreciation” could very well do the trick. Plus, it sends the message to your team that your company values commitment and loyalty. Experienced employees are priceless. Vacancies on the other hand? Just pricey.