Finding a job that offers a work-life balance is one of the highest priorities for job seekers. Studies show that applicants are more invested in finding jobs that work well with their home lives than they are with higher-paying jobs or even those that offer more PTO. Creating a workspace that avoids employee burnout and provides a healthy work-life balance not only assists in recruitment and retention, but is also proven to increase employee productivity.
Employee burnout is as real as a global pandemic, resulting in lackluster productivity, decreased collaboration, and reduced enthusiasm. These take a toll not only on productivity but also on your employees’ physical and mental health.
Prevention: the Best Way to Manage Burnout
Understanding burnout is the first step to preventing it. If you’re curious or worried about burnout (and you should be), you should know how to recognize the signs, causes, and how to mitigate it in the future.
Employee Burnout Defined
The World Health Organization defines employee burnout as:
“a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- Reduced professional efficacy.”
The definition of burnout is interesting because it specifically defines burnout as a work-related problem. As such, it falls on employers to at least be familiar with the phenomenon in order to address it.
The Causes of Employee Burnout
The causes of employee burnout are not particularly surprising nor rare for modern workers. Common causes include:
- Insufficient resources to fully meet job responsibilities
- Ambiguous roles and fuzzy responsibilities
- Limited feedback from peers, supervisors, and/or managers
- Too much work and not enough time, team members, or resources
- Restricted opportunities for growth or input
- Lack of reward, whether fiscal or otherwise
- Skill mismanagement
These are a few common causes but by no means encompass why an employee becomes burnt out or disengaged from their work. Often, a combination of factors - both professional and personal - cause an employee to exhibit signs of burnout.
A Healthy Work-Life Balance Is an Effective Way to Prevent Burnout.
Here are strategies your organization can implement to create happier, healthier employees and improve your overall company culture.
1. Be Flexible with Schedules
There are a number of ways you can help employees achieve a healthy work-life balance in regards to their schedules.
Offer Flextime Scheduling
Flextime allows your employees to choose the individual start and end times within certain limits that their employer sets up ahead of time. For instance, you could have a blanket rule that states they cannot come in earlier than 5 am and stay later than 9 pm, but employees could work any 8 hour period within that time frame. Flextime periods usually precede or follow a core time during which all employees must be present. This is great for those employees that are part- or full-time students or have family obligations that require them to be home at non-conventional times during the workweek.
Be Generous with PTO
First of all, you could offer unlimited PTO to your employees. While the idea may seem outlandish, in recent years the practice has been picked up by many organizations. Obviously, it isn’t ideal for every business, but for those that could implement unlimited PTO, it would allow their employees all the time they need to ensure they have the time to take care of their home lives while still getting all of their work done.
Assuming unlimited PTO is out of the question, it’s still important to evaluate your company’s time off policy. You don’t have to go too crazy with the amount of PTO you offer, but you should at least be flexible with when and how employees can use it. Your time off policy should be fair and allow your employees to take vacation time without stress.
Your employees will be able to focus on work in a healthy way when they know they have personal days set aside for them to use for family needs, illnesses, and vacation time.
Adopt an Adaptable Workday
Finally, if all else fails, you should at least allow your employees to come in late, take a long lunch, or duck out early from time to time in order to run errands, go to appointments, and essentially manage their home lives as much as possible. Having a rigid schedule without enough PTO to allow your employees to handle everything they need outside of work leads to burnout and vastly decreases productivity around the office.
2. Provide Workplace Benefits for Caregivers
Support employees who care for children, partners, or relatives who are aging or have a health condition. Allowing them to prioritize family emergencies as they arise without fear of repercussions is one of the best ways you can help them avoid burnout. According to a report by Homethrive, one third of survey respondents said that their supervisor had noticed a change in their work habits either because their caregiving responsibilities outside of work was impacting their job performance or because they were noticeably under stress. Further, “despite the growing need for employee benefits that support caregivers, 79% of employers are not yet offering them or are not communicating about such benefits.”
Consider offering employees flexible working arrangements, paid caregiver and sick leave, or even assistance with backup care, especially if your business is returning to an office after a period of working remotely.
3. Reassess Employee Workloads and Tasks
If you’re concerned that the employees on your team are burnt out, take a minute to list out the extra duties each employee has. Is one person shouldering more than their fair share? Can they teach or unload some responsibilities to other employees? If you think there is an imbalance of work, take the time to speak with your team to more evenly distribute day-to-day tasks.
While you’re assessing, consider how you can best align assigned tasks with employee interests. If you know one employee likes to be more organized and in charge of scheduling events, social media, and emails, align their work duties with these interests if they aren't already. If another enjoys improving processes, is detail-oriented, and focused on smaller details, make sure she’s focused and working on projects that require strong attention to detail.
4. Show Gratitude and Recognition
Giving and receiving feedback can make people uncomfortable. After all, it’s a little awkward to dote over small accomplishments if it's otherwise outside of your character. But if you’re worried about a particular employee suffering from burnout, take a few minutes at the end of the day or week to say thank you or well done.
5. Be a Role Model
If you want your employees to lead a healthy work-life balance, you must first make it a priority to do so yourself. You must lead by example in order to set the expectation for your employees’ behavior. If you take a personal day to spend time with your family and still answer noncritical emails and work-related phone calls, your employees will feel expected to do the same. By having a healthy work-life balance yourself, your employees will follow suit and the tone of your organization’s culture and your investment in their wellbeing will be apparent to all.
6. Ask for Employee’s Feedback and Input
Check in with your employees about what is going well, what they wish they could change, and what they’re satisfied with. If you notice an otherwise vocal employee is voicing less and less opinions, it’s a pretty decent sign they’re less engaged and likely burnt out.
Recognizing the causes of employee burnout allows you to act and hopefully mitigate the negative side effects of disengaged employees. Remember, it’s easier (and cheaper!) to speak with and realign a burnt out employee than it is to go through the hiring process to replace them if they decide to quit.
If you want your business to be burnout-free, by offering these solutions and investing in your employees’ personal lives, you’ll see amazing results all across the board. What strategies does your company have in place to encourage employees to lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle?