There is widespread agreement that employee burnout is a symptom of modern workplaces that are becoming increasingly fast-paced, complex and demanding. The pressure to address the issue became so intense in 2019 that the World Health Organisation declared burnout an occupational phenomenon in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases. Signs of burnout typically include employees feeling depleted or exhausted, mentally distant from their job, cynical about their role and reduced professional efficacy. Gallup research found five factors that correlate most highly with employee burnout: unfair treatment at work, unmanageable workloads, unclear communication from managers, lack of manager support and unreasonable time pressures.
Employees who say they very often experience burnout at work are 63% more likely to take a sick day, 23% more likely to visit a doctor, 2.6 times more likely to be actively seeking a new job and 13% less confident in their performance. With absence and presenteeism estimated to cost the UK economy £73 billion annually, ensuring employees’ wellbeing is a business imperative. But managing and reacting to burnout isn’t just essential to retaining current workforces – it’s also important for bolstering your organisation’s reputation and attracting future talent.
Here are five steps that HR can take to reduce employee burnout at your workplace.
1. Improve your recruitment process
The best way to address employee burnout in any workplace is to prevent the likelihood of it occurring in the first place. Unsurprisingly, a recent study showed that people who worked in a job they were well-suited to were less likely to experience burnout. While that’s rather obvious, it does suggest a lack of synergy between a person’s anticipated role and responsibilities and their daily reality. Spending some time reviewing your job description and person specification templates, as well as speaking to current staff about how well their actual role matches their description and making any necessary adjustments to your documentation is a great place to start.
2. Offer excellent initial and ongoing training
To excel in their roles, employees require the correct skills, knowledge and behaviours. While many will be well-qualified when they join your organisation, solid initial training and regular further development helps to align their professional journeys with the business and its specific objectives. Sometimes an organisation’s goals shift and change, requiring staff to undertake further development. Ensuring that adequate training is provided will remove the stresses associated with struggling to fulfil objectives without the necessary skills.
3. Prepare and educate your managers
Managers are responsible for generating positive employee experiences and learning how to reduce stress at work for employees. It's their duty to set clear expectations, remove barriers, facilitate collaboration and ensure that employees feel fully supported to do their best work. When they do, managers can pretty successfully prevent (and reverse) burnout. Ultimately, the leadership team (in collaboration with HR) is responsible for empowering managers with the necessary tools, services, development and resources to create a successful work environment. Managers are your best solution for burnout when you give them the time and opportunity to learn and identify the causes and are open to changing how they manage their teams. Taking ownership of their role in preventing burnout shows they are fully committed to helping every employee excel. While managers who are intentional about reducing burnout and increasing engagement set the stage for a high-performance culture, the support and tools available for them to achieve this are largely the responsibility of HR.
4. Create a culture of wellbeing and support
Organisational culture is based on the norms that define why your company exists, what it believes in and how things are done. It dictates how employees treat each other and experience the workplace. When an organisation makes wellbeing a priority of its culture and provides resources for employees to live healthier lives, they take better care of themselves. Employees should be actively and regularly supported to pursue their ideal work–life balance, whether that means working reasonable hours, taking advantage of a flexible work environment or enjoying their annual leave. When this happens, your workforce will collectively model making healthy choices. Employee experience is a key component of workplace culture and organisations can systematically target burnout by improving it at every stage of the employee life cycle, from attraction, hiring and onboarding to engagement, performance and development, and eventually throughout departure.
5. Open doors and open ears
Every effective HR team will aim to make itself available to employees when needed, and it’s important that this opportunity is clearly communicated to your workforce as often and genuinely as possible. This is where an open door and open ear policy can be of immense benefit, ensuring employees have someone they can talk to with a professional but understanding ear and a whole toolbox of resources they can leverage. We all know that employees, especially in times of stress, look to HR for advice and resolutions. They look for direction when they feel uncertain and overwhelmed with their position or responsibilities. As a starting point, HR should be a beacon of clarity and truth. Open the channels of communication between HR and employees by introducing opportunities and forums to talk openly and regularly. Make sure your employees know that HR is there to hear their concerns and, where possible, offer solutions, services, products and initiatives that will help stave off burnout before it’s an issue.
How can we help you?
If you're looking for exceptional new talent in Surrey, we can help. Here's how we can work with your business to support your recruitment as an extension of your HR team. You can call us on 01932 355000 or email email@example.com.