Dealing With Employee Burnout

Julie Shenkman
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Employee burnout is a serious problem for fast-paced, high-stress companies. It can reduce productivity, increase health care and sick-day costs, and damage morale. The problem rarely stays contained to the person in question. Instead, it ripples out through the staff and customer base. For a human resources department, finding ways to spot, solve and prevent burnout is an essential step in reducing turnover and creating a happier workplace.

Increase Communication

Employee burnout can result from several factors, some of which may be completely unrelated to work. Before you jump to conclusions, take the time to discuss the situation with the employee. Mention that you've noticed a change in behavior, and point out specific observations without judgement. Ask if there's a problem at work, and communicate your willingness to help find a solution. Ask follow-up questions as needed, and let the person know that you're available as a resource. Once you learn the specific reason for the burnout, you can create a plan of action to solve the problem. If the employee can't or won't divulge his motivation, the conversation lets him know that you're aware and that you care about his well-being.

Enable Work-Life Balance

Personal issues, including family health problems and relationship troubles, can affect an employee's professional performance. If the worker is also afraid of falling behind or losing his job, the situation only gets worse. While you might not be able to solve problems at home, you can make it easier for the employee to do so. If you know that a personal situation is causing employee to burn out, work with him to find a solution. Allow him to work remotely while he tends to a sick family member, offer "mental health days" or allow him to leave early and make up the work at home in the evenings.

Reduce Workload

High-performing professionals often take on heavier workloads. They may deal with more high-profile accounts and carry a greater responsibility, which can push stress levels through the roof. If you notice that your top people are showing signs of employee burnout, reduce their workloads. Hire an assistant to take care of menial duties, or shift a particularly demanding client to another worker. Ask the employee to train a more junior worker; that way, he can offload work but still maintain supervision. If you sense that the employee might resist these changes, work with managers to make it a department-wide effort so that one person does not feel inadequate or singled out.

Provide In-Office Perks

Combat employee burnout by creating perks that reduce workers' personal workloads. Offer an in-house laundry service, for example, or stock the kitchen with healthy foods so that workers don't need to pack lunches at home. During busy high-stress periods, bring a masseuse or yoga teacher for the staff to use during business hours. If workers have long commutes, help set up a carpool or shuttle system. For the most effective perks, survey employees to find out the pain points at the boundary of their personal and professional lives, and find ways to alleviate the stress.

Quick, caring actions on the part of a human resources department can help alleviate employee burnout and prevent it from happening in the future. In the process, you can communicate respect and concern for your workers.

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