Employee Burnout: Taking Action in the Real-Time 1

EMPLOYEE-BURNOUT-TAKING-ACTION-IN-THE-REAL-TIME
In the last year, we all have gone through many work changes and these changes have resulted in fatigue and burnout. Tapas Acharya reached out to senior leaders and asked them what they are doing/what they believe we should do to reduce employee burnout in the current changed scenario. Let’s look at a few insights that he got.

Leadership communication should encourage and reiterate organizational performance and job security. Leaders and Managers need to be made more accountable for their team results on engagement.

The term employee burnout over the years has gone through changes. With time the term became big as our way of working kept evolving and kept changing. The demand to be present for the work 24×7 was the new mantra. The mantra meant that you have to be effective in every aspect of your work. It means that you have to be superhuman at work by doing more and asking less.

Few organizations defined what they meant by 24×7 rest kept it open for people to interpret. I remember one organization that I worked for, this term was used and had to communicate, communicate and communicate what we meant by 24×7 working.

Employee burnout is both physical and psychological burnout. If I look around in my last few years of work, the physical burnout primarily linked to the travel time spent reaching offices. In these cases, people knew that it was impacting their performance and state of well-being. Where the work was repetitive, it resulted in fatigue and led to physical and later psychological burnout.

The psychological part of well-being went through regular studies in the last few years. We saw the emergence of various organization case studies and surveys. I experienced Gallup, Hewitt, and Great Place to Work surveys and administered these surveys to my employees. These surveys brought out the elements that we needed to focus on to have an engaged workforce.

In the last year, we all have gone through many work changes. These changes are based on our experiences so far and what we expect to change. I started writing on the subject. I also thought it is good for me to connect with my professional friends and take their views. I asked them what they thought the reasons for employee burnout are, taking into account the last year of impact.

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Based on my conversations with them, below are the reasons they believe was the result of the employee burnout in organizations–

  1. Organization environment – unrealistic expectations, micromanagement, hierarchy, role fatigue, job stability
  1. Poor communication
  1. Employee connects – a feeling of isolation and no recognition
  1. Leaders accessibility and their behaviour
  1. Empathy
  1. Work-life balance- personal time is reduced
  1. Pandemic fatigue

In one of the conversation, it came out that, routine & multiple communications sometimes lead to employee burnout as employee loses the focus and miss deadlines. A Microsoft study found that it takes people an average of 15 minutes to return to an important project after an interruption.

Breakout rooms are crucial. Man is a social being and needs friends and colleagues besides family. One can join to connect with others, timeslots defined. Smaller Team off-sites can help connect employees. Teamwork remains critical.

So what do you think we should do?

I decided to reach out to senior leaders and ask them what they are doing/ what they believe we should do to reduce employee burnout in the current changed scenario. These are the few insights that I got.

1. Realistic work targets

Often stretched targets and goals cause burnout. Mutual discussion and target fixing need to be encouraged. Organizations should ensure an objective and fair assessment of performance.

2. Communication

regular channels and the DOA matrix needs to be known to employees. Open and transparent communication is encouraged in the organization. Leadership communication should encourage and reiterate organizational performance and job security. Leaders and Managers need to be made more accountable for their team results on engagement.

3. Personal time and space

Employees need to learn and sensitize themselves to personal time-space. Managers should be trained and sensitized on the subject. Organizations are defining the core hours when an employee is supposed to be available for call/ meetings/ connect. NO activity time is equally important and should be informed. HR policies have to change and communicated to build awareness. There is a culture change that is required.

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4. Work-life balance

Employees are allowed real off on weekends. Limited or no emails and expecting reverts on off days, needs to reduce. Employees are encouraged to take leaves and time offs.

5. E-culture

Because it is easy, one requires to join anytime and from anywhere. Organizations have to focus on meeting disciplines more now. Meetings slots are fixed in advance and need to be adhered to. IT functions can help by enabling calls and monitoring the employee screen space. Voice calls have to be equally encouraged wherever possible to appreciate personal privacy

6. Employee Connect

Breakout rooms are crucial. Man is a social being and needs friends and colleagues besides family. One can join to connect with others, timeslots defined. Smaller Team off-sites can help connect employees. Teamwork remains critical.

7. Mental Health & Well-being

Employee mental health and well-being are severely impacted in this changing time. Organizations should tie-up with health and wellness experts to provide the support the employees need. Reaching out to Counsellors and Therapists is no longer taboo. Employees have to be encouraged to reach out to them for help.

Coaching & Mentoring programs will help enhance the productivity and professional well-being of people managers. It helps in improving people’s outlook in the changing times.

These may not be the complete list of activities that can be done but can be a beginning for some who believe that employees are assets.

Harvard published, “It is a common phenomenon that psychological and physical problems of burned-out employees cost an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending in the U.S.”

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Every contribution and every attention works in enhancing the capabilities of our people. I have enjoyed writing this and hope you enjoyed reading this write-up. Do share your views, insights, and things that you are doing currently on this subject.

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Seasoned HR Professional Tapas Acharya is the Founder of 'The Acharya' and works in the area of Leadership Coaching, HR Advisory & Consulting. He has led Human Resources practice across industries and geographies in his 29 years of corporate work. He has held senior leadership roles in various companies like ReNew Power, MTS, Aditya Birla Retail Ltd., Airtel, and Spice Communications. An alumnus of XLRI Jamshedpur, he specialises in Strategic & Tactical Planning, Organisation Design, Channel Management, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Change Management, Employer Branding, Recruitment & Selection, Industrial Relations, and Team Management.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this insightful article, my family has experienced the joys of being part of a wonderful organization that has shown deep compassion for ALL their employees in these chaotic times. My spouse was offered to work remotely till December, given mental health days where all employees (globally) were to spend the day doing something that brings them joy. Extra financial benefits were given to cope with these hard times. Not just my spouse but our entire family is very grateful for the work life balance opportunity that this organization provides. He’s been with them for 18 years and continues to grow with them.

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