When you are looking to avoid burnout, agency and flexibility is key.
Stress is a normal and often appropriate response to challenging interactions or heavy workloads at work, but it has also become increasingly more common and chronic since the beginning of the pandemic. With the rise in working from home or hybrid setups, workers are now expected to be online longer, whilst also juggling other priorities outside their employment. This long-standing stress on the individual, when mismanaged, often leads to burnout and can lead to an increasing number of people taking extended time off or leaving their job altogether. No one wants to lose staff, so what can be done to prevent burnout at work?
The first step to managing burnout is recognising the signs
Whilst stress and burnout are closely linked, they do differ, and it’s important to recognise the signs of this occupational phenomenon in your employees. The most common symptoms of burnout are:
- Energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from, or increased cynicism towards, one’s job
- Reduced professional efficacy
- Increased sensitivity to feedback
- Cognitive decline, including forgetting things or loss of concentration
Setting realistic expectations has been shown to hinder incidences of burnout, such as allowing flexibility in deadlines or revisiting policies to allow for arrangements that accommodate both the employee and employer. The concept of agency, referring to an individual’s capacity to make their own decisions at work, has also been shown to prevent chronic stress, often promoting meaning and motivation in one’s career. Permitting employees to take control over their own schedule and encouraging them to set boundaries when necessary are all examples of agency that can aid in preventing burnout in the long term.
It’s important to implement and promote a mental health strategy amongst your staff to prevent burnout
A major step in helping or reducing incidences of burnout is to enact an official mental health policy and ensure all employees are aware it exists. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is the most obvious example, in which staff can access free counselling through an external provider.
On a micro level, it is also important for your staff to feel comfortable opening up to their managers when struggling mentally and/or with their workload. Encouraging staff to take mental health breaks at their own discretion throughout the day, or scheduling 1:1 sessions for open discussion are examples of creating a psychologically safe and open environment.
Boost workplace wellbeing to reduce stress and create a mentally safe culture
Having healthy supportive relationships, feeling a sense of purpose and implementing a physical activity regime are all helpful in eliminating stress and burnout, and can often be encouraged through workplace policy. Providing opportunities for employees to get active, scheduling catch ups and events, as well as organising wellbeing or mental health workshops are all examples that companies can encourage, both in-person and virtually, that aid in burnout reduction.
As you begin to think about strategies you can implement in the workplace, it’s important to put yourself in the position of your staff – what would help you in managing your stress? Ask your staff if there is anything specific to your industry or company that could aid in their mental health and ensure they know management is there to help.
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