Preventing employee burnout when you have a skeleton staff

By Robert Half on 11 March 2020

Helping your employees avoid work burnout isn’t just good for morale, it’s also good for your organisation’s bottom line.

Overwork or stress leading to physical and mental exhaustion can produce disengaged workers who will start looking for other jobs.

And staff turnover can come with a high price: It takes time and money to find, hire and train new employees – especially when a company has earned a reputation as a tough place to work.

When some of your employees are on vacation, out on sick leave or have recently decided to leave the organisation, it’s likely your remaining staff will feel overworked. Not only is your business’s productivity diminished, but additional stress can produce exhausted workers who will soon become increasingly disengaged.

Here are some tips to help you prevent or counter employee exhaustion and exasperation:

1. Reassess roles

Make sure your employees are in positions that suit their strengths and interests, and provide them with clearly defined roles and expectations. Taking these steps will help ensure workers don’t become frustrated laboring at tasks they’re not well-suited for.

Also be sure to communicate with your team on a regular basis and keep members in the loop when priorities change. Including employees in the planning process allows them to become invested in a project’s success, and by soliciting their expertise, you are reinforcing their value to the organisation.

2. Be realistic

Take a step back and ask yourself some questions. Are your employees tackling doable workloads? Does everyone have all the resources and information they need to handle their projects? One fast path to burnout is to consistently dole out overly ambitious or unclear assignments that even the most skilled professional would have trouble completing.

3. Support — and model — work-life balance

Employees who like their jobs consistently cite work-life balance as one of the most valuable aspects of their organisation’s culture. Respecting the obligations and interests that occupy workers outside of the office helps prevent burnout at work.

Where possible, consider offering alternative working arrangements, such as telecommuting or flextime, to help your employees juggle personal and professional responsibilities. Remind both remote and on-site employees to take care of themselves. Unrelenting stress doesn’t exactly fuel happiness or efficiency. Encourage your team to take periodic breaks to go for a walk or simply step outside for some fresh air.

Perhaps most importantly, serve as a role model. Manage your time effectively so your employees see that you take your commitment to work-life balance seriously. Don’t encourage your direct reports to leave at 5:30 p.m. only to stay late yourself. Also, don’t make your team members feel tethered to their jobs by sending late-night or weekend emails.

When it comes to vacations, manage schedules so employees can truly enjoy their time off without feeling guilty for unduly burdening colleagues.

4. Recognise hard work

Feeling appreciated and well-compensated can make challenging workloads easier to take.

Put simply, a competitive salary is critical for keeping employees happy. And in today’s employment market, your ability to retain talent is tied closely to the salary, benefits and perks you provide. Is it time for you to raise salaries?

Also, remember that frequently saying “thank you” can go a long way toward preventing burnout. Offering appreciation can be as simple as a mention at a staff meeting or as involved as a nomination of your team for internal and external awards.

If they do something well, take notice. If you implement ideas submitted by your employees, give them credit.

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