Perhaps you’ve been there. Work is overwhelming, you can’t focus, you always have a headache and all you can think about is going home. Regardless of whether it’s you or your employees, burnout is a serious danger.
When you feel fatigued at work, you are more prone to make mistakes and complete tasks more slowly. This can negatively impact your standing as an employee or boss, as well as harm your company’s success.
Burnout could even result in physical injuries. For example, workers on an assembly line use heavy machinery and, if an employee is fatigued, they may forego safety precautions. This could cause a serious accident, injuring both the burned-out employee and his co-workers.
Most managers are inclined to suspend or fire fatigued employees, but this can often backfire. Other workers could start to burn out if they are forced to take on the workload of the dismissed employee, and they may also begin to worry over their own job security.
If you’re starting to notice signs of burnout, there are several steps you can take to prevent it from continuing — without losing valuable people in the process.
1. Recognize Success
Above all else, employees want to feel needed. They want to know their efforts and hard work are making a difference. Those who feel undervalued or unimportant will be more likely to disengage, which could potentially cost employers 34% of their annual salary. Therefore, making them feel valued is extremely important to prevent fatigue and ensure the success of your company.
One way to do this is to openly recognize employees and commend their success. An unexpected pat on the back or public recognition can work wonders for a fatigued worker. It can also prevent them from ever feeling burned out in the first place.
2. Be Approachable
Your team should always feel comfortable enough to come into your office and talk to you. Many employees experiencing burnout fear they’ll be seen as weak or incompetent if they voice their feelings to a boss. These fears aren’t completely irrational, because employee burnout is responsible for up to 50% of annual workforce turnover.
By leaving your door open and always being willing to lend a listening ear, you effectively create a safe place for employees to be more open and honest with you. Once someone expresses their feelings of fatigue, make sure you pinpoint the root of the problem and search for a solution together.
3. Create Specific Roles
Be clear about employees’ responsibilities. When there aren’t specific roles within a company or organization, it’s difficult to determine who is responsible for a problem. This can create a frustrating environment for the team and can lead to burnout.
The easiest way to avoid this is to assign each person a specific role within the organization. Outline their responsibilities and create attainable incentives to encourage productivity. This will also give your employees a sense of meaning, which ensures they won’t get burned out, even during stressful situations.
4. Provide Sufficient Resources
If your employees are in the right roles but don’t have the necessary resources to succeed, they will tend to fatigue more easily. For example, if a worker is using the web to research a topic and the connection is lagging, this will reflect poorly on his production and efficiency. They may even feel helpless to do anything about the problem, especially if they don’t feel comfortable discussing it with you.
To make sure your workers are performing at their very best, you must ensure office equipment and systems function seamlessly as well. Regularly ask them for feedback on current policies and how the business could improve. This will give both a voice and value to the employee.
5. Take a Break
Too much to do with too little time to do it is the mantra of most employees today. However, spending extra hours at the office won’t increase productivity. In fact, it actually increases the risk of making costly mistakes as fatigue sets in. No question about it, overworking leads to burnout.
One way to combat overwork is to schedule in time for employees to take a break. Unfortunately, 20% of employers say they view workers who take lunch breaks as less reliable. Yet, 90% of workers find lunch breaks refreshing and energy-boosting.
Creating space for lunch breaks, therefore, requires a complete mental shift. If you’re running a business that truly can’t afford to let employees step away for 30 minutes midday, then the problem isn’t your workers — it’s you. Realizing that lunch breaks actually promote productivity and creating time for them is key to preventing burnout in the long term.
6. Support Continual Learning
Learning doesn’t — and shouldn’t — stop after you graduate. Learning new things in adulthood maximizes the brain’s neuroplasticity, forcing it to make new connections. As the brain processes and retains fresh information, it draws upon this newfound knowledge to solve problems and address challenges.
Implementing learning programs ensures employees are constantly growing and promotes creativity and critical thinking in the workplace. It also helps prevent burnout. Those who continue to learn will begin to find innovative solutions and refresh their thinking and viewpoints. This helps them avoid that feeling of monotony that often precedes burnout.
The Power of Prevention
Benjamin Franklin may have said it best: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is especially true in the workplace.
Burnout is much easier a problem to prevent than it is to fix. Without attention early on, a burned-out employee could take weeks, even months, to fully recover and return to normal levels of productivity. That’s why taking immediate action at the first signs of burnout is crucial.
Employers who can stay ahead of the curve will enjoy both competitive advantages and more productive workers.
In addition, employees unaffected by burnout are healthier, happier and remain loyal advocates of your organization for years to come. Preventing burnout can boost morale, along with your company’s bottom line.