3 Strategies for Avoiding Employee Burnout Plans and policies for fueling a vibrant, inclusive and wellbeing-based environment that reduces both fatigue and churn.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Long before the pandemic, employee burnout had been an increasing problem. A Deloitte research study conducted just prior to 2020 indicated that 42% of American workers left their jobs due to burnout. But after these last two years, it has reached unprecedented heights. According to a recent Harvard Business Review poll, "over half of all American workers are burned out," and indicated that it was a contributing factor in the Great Resignation.
So how can we as business owners, brokers and managers prevent this from happening?
1. Regularly schedule wellbeing time
It may seem strange, but I've found that many employees (especially in a sales setting) simply won't take time off. So, during one-on-ones with my agents or in meetings, I make it a point to ask about their daily routines. If I hear that someone hasn't taken any breaks or days off, I immediately go into a deeper conversation in an effort to find out why. If an employee feels overwhelmed or stressed, I try to determine what's causing it. I also make it clear that not only am I okay with using wellbeing time, but encourage it — in fact insist that each person take designated time off every week.
The fact of the matter is that, in sales especially, you must respond quickly to inquiries, difficulties, questions and so on. It's a part of the job. However, if you stay in a state of alertness for 24 hours a day, it will eventually catch up with you. The law of diminishing returns will come into play: Beyond a certain point, the more effort you put in the fewer positive results you'll receive.
Everyone needs to have time outside of work to focus on personal relationships, hobbies and other non-work-related activities. Our wellbeing depends on decompressing to stay fresh — using that time recuperatively and constructively. Scheduling regular check-ins with your team will help you stay on top of any burnout symptoms before they become a significant issue.
2. Create positive environments and reward good work
There are several ways to acknowledge and reward success — the most obvious is providing a bonus or other financial reward — but one of my personal favorites is to hold a formal award dinner at least once a year where I recognize top performers and celebrate their milestones and achievements. These are great bonding experiences for a team and help show employees that hard work is noticed and appreciated.
Creating frequent casual social gatherings to talk about the day's or week's events is also a great way to reduce isolation, increase camaraderie and exchange perspectives. Opportunities for team bonding and celebrating success are significant aspects of rewarding good work, but before we get to that point, we have to be mindful of our broader responsibility to create a positive work environment in which employees feel comfortable being themselves. This culture should include staff members feeling safe expressing thoughts and asking questions without fear of retribution or ridicule. They must also believe that they are working toward a common goal inside a collaborative space. There should be a sense of mutual respect, and everyone should feel that contributions are valued and that all make a contribution.
Managers and business owners are ultimately responsible creating and maintaining such an environment. I've found that one of the surest ways of losing top performers is to let a bully loose in a team, for example. Managing the resulting toxic environment will mean spending time, energy and resources on issues that have nothing to do with true objectives, and employees/agents will soon be looking for a more positive atmosphere.
We all want to feel appreciated for our efforts. Acknowledging good work, celebrating successes and creating a positive environment assures employees that you are setting them up to thrive professionally.
3. Develop and mentor employees
Work too steeped in sameness and mundane tasks inevitably results in boredom and dissatisfaction — an environment in which work becomes an emotional drain. I've found this to be especially true in sales roles, where the ambition to grow professionally and financially is a big motivator.
It's essential that we as managers and business owners take the time to develop our employees — help them learn new skills and offer opportunities to expand (including leading projects) — allow them to grow both professionally and personally.
According to Gallup's 10th employee engagement meta-analysis — published in 2020 and which studied more than 82,000 teams in 230 organizations — employees with high levels of engagement produce substantially more, treat customers better (and so attract new ones) and are more likely to stay with a company
While always present and appreciated in rewarding accomplishments, monetary incentives can only take you so far in keeping people satisfied and productive. Those truly engaged are healthier, happier, more effective and far less likely to experience burnout.
How often do you review company objectives with your team? Do you have regular check-ins to see how people are progressing? Are you actively engaging with them from a professional development standpoint? If not, now is the time to start.