Nine out of ten HR professionals say poor health, high stress, and lack of sleep negatively affect employees, from a productivity and overall cooperativeness standpoint. Ninety percent! If that’s not a wake-up call to do something to get off the stress-mill, then I don’t know what is.
What is burnout?
Burnout is the state of mind, body, and spirit where you just can’t take anymore. You’re stressed, you can’t eat or you eat too much, you’re tired but you can’t sleep, you feel like you’re always running and pulled in ten different directions, and you’ve just given up. Signs of burnout: uncharacteristic negativity, missed deadlines, communications dropped, lack of motivation, declining health.
It’s not unlike being a cursed pirate.
For employers, burnout is no laughing matter: stressed employees cost companies $300 billion a year in lost productivity.
Burnout in popular culture
The HBO series Enlightened begins with a strong (if not over the top) depiction of employee burnout, as an overly stressed buyer for a cosmetics company calls out another employee and is sent away for counseling. The goal is to avoid employees completely losing their minds over work stress—and interpersonal tensions—and quitting.
But we can’t control how people behave…and we can’t tell when someone is burning out!
No, you can’t. However, you can provide the resources for stressed out employees before they have a meltdown and are submitting their resignation letter or taking an unplanned leave of absence. Moreover, you can encourage employees to take advantage of all of the wellbeing resources at their disposal.
EAP (Employee Assistance Program): Does your company have one, perhaps through a disability or healthcare carrier? Do your employees know they can call the EAP hotline for counseling and other resources? Sending a reminder to your employees about this resource (including phone number or other contact message) not only gives them “someone to call” in their moment of need, it’s also a sign of employee appreciation.
Evaluating company culture about taking breaks and vacations: How does your company treat employees who use up all of their vacation time each year? Are employees encouraged to use their PTO? US employees with paid vacation time generally took slightly more than half their allotted time off in the previous 12 months, according to a Glassdoor survey. Avoid socially “punishing” employees for using their paid time off.
Life-work balance: Is it part of your company culture to keep working, even when the 9-5:30 is over? Some companies institute a policy where employees are not expected to respond to work-related calls or emails once their shift is over.
General wellness considerations: Stock healthy snacks in the break room and vending machines. Engage a local yoga teacher to hold a basic yoga class once a month or even more frequently. Try offering chair massages with a massage therapist, a mindfulness class—allowing employees a little time each month to do these things can pay off in the long run with greater quality of life and job satisfaction.
As your kindergarten teacher probably said to you, “Smiles are contagious!” So are bad attitudes. Prevent burning out employees from setting a wildfire of discontent in your workplace. Fan the flames of enthusiasm and joie de vivre with quality healthy resources instead.