When an employee succumbs to stress and experiences burnout, it has a direct impact on their colleagues, the business and the individual’s long-term mental health. Robin Damhar explores both sides of the issue.
Good employers take steps to prevent their staff overdoing it and ending up so stressed that they’re completely burnt out. It’s not a situation that is good for anyone.
Burnout – and the time leading up to a complete breakdown – can result in decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher turnover rates. No manager needs to be told that none of these are good for business, let alone for the individual team member who is suffering.
For employees – it means time off work, potentially a reduction in income, a feeling of failure and more. This is far from ideal as a lower income just results in more stress and that feeling of having failed often manifests as depression, which then requires medication and potentially therapy to help to work through the problems.
Prevention is better than cure. As an employer or manager, it’s important to recognise the signs of impending burnout. If members of your team start showing a big difference in their behaviour, exhaustion, lack of motivation, and a decrease in output, don’t wait until that person’s mental health results in serious illness.
Each of us has a different capability to deal with stress, while one person may thrive on working under pressure, others need a more structured environment and clear expectations to achieve. Your job as a manager is to know your team and spot the signs early so you can address the root causes.
Burnout can be caused by a variety of factors, including high workload, lack of control over the workload, and poor relationships with co-workers or managers. There’s nothing like having a conversation with people who seem to be struggling. You may need to reassure them that the conversation is not a reason to put a black mark against them, but to help them to deal with their stress levels.
Of course, not all stress stems from the work environment. It can be outside situations, perhaps a relationship breakdown, family illness, money problems or something else. If there’s a reluctance to share personal information, it may be useful to refer the individual to a counsellor, an employee assistance programme or a coach.
And if the worst happens and a team member ends up taking time off to recover from burnout – ensure that you stay in touch with them. Let your employees know that you support them and are there to help.
Encourage work-life balance: Employees who are overworked and don’t have enough time for rest and relaxation are more likely to experience burnout. The days of working long hours, evenings and weekends are long gone. They may have got short-term gains, but the long-term results weren’t good for the business or the people in it.
Ensure your team take breaks during the working day, go home on time and use their vacation time. It all contributes to a healthy work-life balance. If employees are struggling to manage work and personal responsibilities, it may be worth considering flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting or flexible hours. Whether this is a temporary or long-term solution it can reduce stress and improve results.
A positive work environment can help prevent burnout by improving job satisfaction. Recognise and reward good work, and provide opportunities for professional development and growth. If you’re there for your individual team members as a support, cheer-leader and someone who will listen you’ll find the rewards are worth the investment of your time and energy.
Preventing burnout and supporting employees who are experiencing burnout is a collaborative effort. Ideally, your company should have these strategies as part of how the company operates. By working together everyone benefits – the employees get the support and working environment that makes work a pleasure and managers get productive people who deliver great results and reflect well on their management skills.
Robin Damhar is CEO of Nest Healthcare, offering a range of therapies, treatments and professional development, both on an outpatient or inpatient basis. www.nesthealthcare.co.uk.