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Successful Business Leaders Focus on Preventing Employee Burnout

Frazzled employees are never fully engaged.
Successful Business Leaders Focus on Preventing Employee Burnout
Image credit: Foryou13 | Getty Images

There’s an epidemic in the American workforce. And, no, it’s not unemployment. It’s employee burnout. Unlike freelancers and the self-employed, employees can’t control this. Just try telling your boss that you aren’t going to stay late or take-on a new project.

That’s why it’s the responsibility of leaders to reduce employee burnout by implementing that following tips:

Communicate and interact with your team.

"The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said." - Peter Drucker

Study after study has found that employees are stressed out at work. The Attitudes in the American Workplace VII report found that an astounding 80 percent of workers feel stress on the job. Nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress, with 42 percent saying their co workers need such help.

If you’re not communicating with your employees you won't know that they’re stressed, so ask them. Is it the sheer size of their workload? Their relationship with a colleague? Work-life imbalance? Or a lack of job security? You’ll  learn the answer if you actively listen to your employees. Start by implementing an open-door policy or suggestion box. Join them in the trenches to better understand what they’re experiencing.

Prashant Saraswat, the co-founder of Truegether.com, told Entrepreneur that communicating with his team has assisted him in managing stress. “Managing a growing ecommerce business is not an easy job and employees were feeling the pressure the most,'' he said. "Talking to them and understanding the cause of the low performance helped us tackle it head-on.”

Related: 5 Ways to Reduce Stress for Your Employees

Empower employees.

When employees feel they don’t have a voice within your organization it’s natural that they’ll eventually become less engaged. You will have a higher employee burn-out rate.

In fact, Dale Carnegie Training discovered that 71 percent of employees are not fully engaged with their work, which results in a loss of $11 billion annually due to employee turnover.

Carnegie’s advice is to empower your employees by:

  • Challenging team members.
  • Stoking their passion for the company’s vision.
  • Providing clear opportunities for advancement.
  • Applying the same measuring criteria to everyone.
  • Getting out of their way so they they can do their work.

Pay employees to take their vacations.

Nearly every job offers vacation time but most people don’t use that time, and if they do, they’re probably working while they’re out of town. To change that mindset, companies are actually starting to pay their employees to take vacations.

Evernote, for example, has an unlimited vacation policy. It also offers employees an extra $1000 stipend if they take a full week away from work. They are encouraging employees to take time off. The startup FullContact offers something called "paid, paid vacation" that provides employees $7,500 a year as long as they take time off from work.

Not surprisingly, vacation time reportedly went up after the policy was introduced. If your offering of paid vacations doesn’t work for your organization, then consider shutting down completely for a holiday.

TED, the conference and media company, actually shuts down for a two-week break in the summer. They have an additional one-week break during the holidays, gives employees a fourth paid week of vacation. The company believes that this strategy makes the company more efficient and rested.

"Most of us would feel too guilty to even take two weeks off, if it weren't pre-planned for us," TED Media executive producer June Cohen told Fast Company. "This creates an enforced rest period, which is so important for both productivity and happiness."

Related: 5 Ways to Persuade Employees to Take Vacation Before They Burnout

Support side gigs.

While a much-needed (and deserved) vacation is a start, what about the breaks from the monotony of the daily grind? After all, employees can’t go on a permanent vacation.

That’s why companies are encouraging employees to work on side hustles based on their unique talents or interests. Side projects improve individual creativity and satisfaction, and can even be as assist to the company - that’s how Google came-up with Gmail.

Dropbox is one of many companies that encourages these side hustles by holding a “hack week,” where employees can work on anything their hearts desire.

Related: Why You Should Encourage Your Employees' Side Gigs

Encourage work-life balance.

"In today's tight labor market, proper work-life balance practices are essential for employee retention," says Paul Wolfe. Wolfe is senior vice president of HR for job search site Indeed.

Millennials claim that they would move to another country in order to have a healthier work-life balance. Patagonia is an excellent example of a company that realizes the importance of work-life balance. The outdoor clothing company gives eight weeks of paid paternity leave and provides on-site child care. The result? Every woman -- 100 percent -- who has had a child at Patagonia over the past five years has returned to work.

Another way to encourage work-life balance: make your office disappear. Amsterdam design studio Heldergroen does this everyday at 6 pm. Right on cue, this innovative office has the company's desks lifted by steel cables to the ceiling, then they allow the community to use the space. Instead of tempting employees to stay longer and work, it forces them to leave the office.

“We are able to pull the tables up into the ceiling and make the whole room into a dance floor, yoga studio, trend session, networking reception or anything else you can think of. The floor is literally yours,” says Sander Veenendaal, creative director for Heldergroen.

Related: How to Make a 5-Hour Workday Work for You

Create a less-stress work environment.

Among the ways to reduce stress and curtail employee burnout is to:

  • Allow employees to decorate their workplaces with personal effects. This makes it their own.
  • Encouraging all team members to keep working areas clean.
  • Take daily walks to encourage relaxation.
  • Have quiet places for your team to relax, meditate or nap.
  • If there are problems at work, address them quickly.
  • Decorate in neutral colors with natural lightning.
  • Plants are a soothing presence in the workplace.
  • Allowing employees to bring their dogs to work has been found to make employees happier and more productive.

Related: It's 'Take Your Dog to Work Day': Have You Thanked Fido Today?

Unplug

Smartphones and technology have made life easier. We couldn’t have more flexible schedules without them. However, being connected 24/7 is a major source of stress. Companies like Bandwidth have a strictly enforced vacation embargo policy. No communication with an employee is permitted while they are on vacation.

Enlightened companies are setting time limits on when they can contact employees, such as policies that forbid sending email between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. and pledges from management that nighttime email isn't expected. Some organizations actually silence email servers once the workday ends.

Related: The Legal Implications of Expecting Employees to Work After Hours

Implement wellness programs.

According to a Workplace Wellness Report from the U.S. Department of Labor, chronic “lifestyle diseases”  caused by tobacco and alcohol abuse, physical inactivity and poor nutrition hurt businesses of all sizes through increased health care costs, absenteeism and poor performance.

workplace wellness program builds camaraderie, improves engagement and helps employees manage stress. Companies provide exercise classes, healthy snacks, weight loss programs, health screenings. Consider playing games like capture the flag, or replacing traditional desks with standing desks. Your employees with most likely be able to tell you what will release their stress the best.

Related: Why Your Workplace Wellness Program Is Unhealthy

Be grateful.

Employees aren’t obligated to stay at your company, and they won't if their hard work isn’t valued or respected. Leaders need to show their gratitude with a gift card, shout-out in a company newsletter or a handwritten thank you note. Simple, sincere gestures of gratitude motivate employees and help prevent burnout. This improves overall health and increases the odds of success. It worked for Doug Conant, the former CEO of Campbell Soup, who is now working for Mark Zuckerberg.

Related: 5 Powerful Ways to Give Thanks to Your People

Redefine the 9-to-5 workday.

adoption of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies has increased ease of communication, thanks to email, Skype, GoToMeeting and remote management tools.

Allow remote working if it increases productivity. The 9-to-5 workday is almost a practice of the past. Employees can now work whenever and wherever they prefer.

For example, instead of arriving at the office at 9am and staying until 5pm, they can start working from at 7am and stop at 3pm so that they can spend time with their children.

Related: 5 Ways to Take the Grind Out of Working 9-to-5

Grant more autonomy.

Ayodeji Onibalusi, of EffectiveInboundMarketing.com, writes that,  “as the millennial generation becomes the biggest demographic in today’s workforce, it is important to understand how their minds work. One of the most important factors millennials consider when in search of a job is the workplace environment. They want to have at least some control over what they do, and how they do it.”

Onibalusi said employee scheduling software empowers employees “to switch shifts due to a family emergency” instead of having “to fill out paperwork, submit it and wait for managerial approval.” They are empowered to take care of it themselves.

Automation is also being used to handle repetitive and ongoing tasks like billing, invoicingpayments, communicating with clients, collaboration, and documentation. Leveraging the power of automation reduces the workload for you and your staff so that you can focus on more important and interesting tasks.