Ankita has been a star employee in her organisation but from the last few months, there has been a shift in her behaviour.She is late for work on a regular basis. Her enthusiasm has waned, and productivity has dropped. She is shying away from responsibilities and has frequent arguments with co-workers. Her manager is both concerned about her loss of productivity, as well as impact on overall team morale and ethos.

Such cases are not uncommon in organizations. The instances where otherwise high performing employees suddenly demonstrate a dip in their productivity, and commitment should be warning bells for managers and organizations.

Is this a problem with the employee(s)? Or there are other factors influencing their behavior? Are they feeling overwhelmed or underappreciated? Are they seeing value in the work they do? Do they feel supported? Are they going through some emotional or mental trauma, or fatigue, that need to be addressed.

Some Data & Facts

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized burnout as a mental condition stemming from chronic workforce stress.

A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes.

year-long study conducted by the University of Minnesota and the MIT Sloan School of Management found that Fortune 500 workers who were offered flexible scheduling felt more in control of their lives, more supported by their bosses, and more content with the amount of time they spent with their families. They also reported greater job satisfaction, less burnout, and a decrease in psychological distress.2019 State of Remote Work Report found that remote workers were 40 percent more likely to have been promoted in the past year than their in-office peers, and 27 percent more likely to feel they had growth opportunities.

Understanding Workplace Burnout

Burnout is an individual’s response to ongoing and chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors around them.

It doesn’t simply result from working too many hours in a high-demand environment. Rather, it is a multidimensional response with many complex causes.

There are three dimensions to the Burnout:

1. Exhaustion: Exhaustion results from the depletion of emotional resources to cope with the ongoing work and personal demands. This is the stressed out, overwhelmed employee.

2. Cynicism: Cynicism is an individual’s distant attitude toward the job. This is the disgruntled employee.

3. Inefficacy: Inefficacy is a reduction in personal accomplishment. This is the stressed out employee who has developed a cynical attitude and has given up trying.

Common causes of Burnout:

1. Extensive Job or personal demands that the individual might find overwhelming

2. Role Conflict& Ambiguity

3. Lack of Appropriate Resources to deal with demands

4. Lack of Social, organisational or family Support

5. Lack of Feedback/Rewards

6. Little Participation in Decision Making

Signs of Burnout in the Workplace

Burnout not only affects the employee’s performance, but impacts the performance of the team and work environment. Below are some effects of burnout in the workplace:

·        Unexplained absences from work

·        Showing up to work late/leaving early

·        Decrease in productivity

·        Apparent frustration

·        Decline in physical health

·        Lack of enthusiasm

·        Isolation

·        Frequent interpersonal conflict

How Manager / Organisations can prevent or deal with workplace burnout

Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for helping your employees deal with burnout. Sending them off on vacation will not make the problem go away upon their return. A real change needs to be made to their work, their work environment, and their emotional state.

Below are some tips to manage workplace burnout:

1. Offer remote work opportunities: One of the most effective and widely-studied ways to improve employee well-being is to offer remote flexibility. It’s not hard to understand why remote options are such a coveted benefit, commuting has been shown to negatively impact mental health and overall life satisfaction.

Working from home eliminates this stress and gives employees complete control over their work environment, such as location, clothing choice, and potential distractions. Working from home also saves money, time, and other valuable resources, often providing employees the freedom to pursue endeavors that promote overall well-being.

2. Encourage real weekends and holidays: Burnout happens when people aren’t given enough time to disconnect, rest, focus on other aspects of life and recharge. This is why it’s so important for leaders to create an environment where taking time off is not only allowed but championed.

3.Flexible scheduling options: In a flexible environment, your team may still need to come into the office, but schedules are more customizable. While flexible scheduling doesn’t have the same allure as telecommuting, it can still dramatically reduce burnout and job-related stress.

4.Recognize, Reward & Promote: Recognizing employees’ hard work and contribution goes a long way in making them feel valued.Each employee’s contribution to the company should be acknowledged. Reward excellent performances with recognition and awards.

5. Clarify Expectations and Job Requirements: Another common reason that employees experience workplace burnout is because it is unclear what they should be doing. Perhaps their tasks are vague, or perhaps they get instructions and feedback from multiple superiors. Regardless, it is the manager’s job to make sure they know their precise role. Otherwise, money and time are wasted, and frustrations will continue to grow.

6.Encourage Stress Relievers: In addition to directly motivating your employees, encourage them to rejuvenate by allowing stress relievers: Let them listen to music while they work, flex their work hours, create a friendly work environment where people can speak up and engage. This will help your employees enjoy their time at work, while also demonstrating that you care about their well-being.

7.  Encourage Socializing: A moderate amount of socialization is optimal for team bonding to occur. Encourage employees to freely socialize on breaks, at lunch, or after work.

8.Educate Employees on Burnout: Provide information about burnout and how employees can prevent it. It should not be a “Taboo” topic to be pushed under the carpet. Instead, it should be addressed openly, and employees to be made aware that the organization is there to support them should they start to feel early signs. Hold awareness sessions where employees can be made aware of early symptoms, causes and manifestation, where they can ask relevant questions and get answers.

Burnout is a common phenomenon that no one is immune to.In today’s VUCA environment, it is even more of a threat to organizational morale, satisfaction scores and productivity than ever. Keeping Employee Health and Wellness as a priority will go a long way for organizations to build a strong, resilient and dependable work force, which will be the ultimate competitive edge an organization can have.