Are you burned out? If you’re like as many as 60% of the American workforce, you probably are - or at least headed that way.
We’ve explored what burnout is, how it happens, and the warning signs of burnout, but if you’re teetering on the edge or stuck in full-on burnout mode, what can you do about it?
Unfortunately, much of the advice we found online leaves us wanting. Our workplaces are primary sources of burnout, but how many of us can simply up and quit our jobs or take an extended sabbatical? (Though if you are burned out and have the resources to take a break, we highly recommend you do so!) And, as many people who face job-related stress and burnout realize, finding a new job isn’t always the solution.
Yes, we all must take responsibility for the way our personal habits and relationships contribute to burnout. We won’t tackle tips for combating burnout in your personal life here. Instead, we want to address some of the organizational factors that contribute to employee burnout and how you as a boss, manager, or team member can influence your work environment to eliminate it.
Establish organizational values and norms - and stick to them.
One definition of Burnout Syndrome is “psychological syndrome emerging as a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job.” This leads to exhaustion, cynicism, detachment from the job, and decreased job performance. These “interpersonal stressors” can manifest in many different ways, from micromanaging to toxic workplace culture. That’s why establishing organizational values and norms is key to reducing interpersonal stress and conflict and preventing burnout. This is one of the first things we tackle with clients: identifying core values of the organization, along with norms about how work is done so both managers and employees understand exactly what is expected of them. Establishing values and norms can be a heavy lift, but this important work is necessary to foster a healthy work environment and help all team members do their best work.
Use those values and norms to enforce clear boundaries.
One of the most stressful experiences at work is not knowing exactly what is expected of you. This goes beyond establishing clear job descriptions and preventing “scope creep.” Organizational values and norms are integral tools for helping employees understand expectations, from how to communicate and when to ask for help, to how to track time and when they’re expected to be available and responsive. Establishing clear boundaries around workplace expectations may be the most important tool for keeping employees engaged and preventing burnout. If your organization is suffering from a lack of established norms and boundaries, we can help!
Encourage - or even mandate - taking breaks.
Another key organizational norm to establish and enforce are breaks. Our brains and bodies weren’t designed to be constantly engaged in work, and breaks - whether a lunch break, weekend or vacation - allow us to process information, recharge and creatively problem solve. If employees don’t know when they are allowed to take a break, they aren’t going to take one. And if they are expected to be always “on” and responsive, they’ll end up on the path to burnout. By setting norms around taking breaks, holding organizational leaders accountable to those norms and going as far as instituting paid vacation and requiring (yes, requiring!) employees to take it, a culture of healthy work-rest balance will protect your organization from pervasive burnout and help everyone do their best work.
What values or norms can you help develop today to protect yourself and your organization from burnout?