Burnout is a state of exhaustion and physical fatigue an employee can experience while at work, which has been caused by work-related stress. The reality is that workplace stress will always exist, but what is pertinent is how we handle and manage this stress for our employees, so it does not lead to burnout. As managers, the onus rests on us to acknowledge the presence or existence of stress, address it, and rectify it, to ensure and foster a positive workplace culture. This new year affords us the opportunity to combat burnout for the sake of our employees and our businesses. This article will discuss the causes of burnout in the workplace, its symptoms, and how to prevent or mitigate it.
Root causes of burnout
Sometimes employees can inflict work-related stress upon themselves when they have poor time management, a poor work ethic, or undertake too many responsibilities. Even though this is not caused by management, it is still something that requires our attention as it can affect productivity or the employee’s health. Unfortunately, failure to offer any assistance or solution creates an organisational issue, as it then points to poor management or leadership.
However, something that appears to be prevalent or common amongst several organisations is that, even though burnout can be caused by the employee, many times, burnout is still attributable to the organisation. As employers, we remember that “perspective” goes a long way and is very critical to positive continuity. Viewing things from the perspective of an employee creates the necessary balance between human leadership and making good operational decisions. Failure to create this balance will result in missing the critical organisational issues which can lead to burnout.
It is very important that we assess and analyse certain factors, not just from an operational standpoint, but from a people standpoint as well, to determine the long-term outcome or effect. The onus rests on us as leaders to put strategies in place to mitigate or prevent burnout where and when reasonably practicable to do so. The below causes are primarily linked to the organisation:
It may be a hard pill to swallow, but the reality is that some employees do not leave their job because they dislike their job, but they leave their job because of their manager and the environment their manager has created. The behaviour and leadership skills of management are very critical aspects of preventing burnout as direct managers are the primary source of support and contact for employees daily. Employees need to feel comfortable that they can talk and address any issues with their managers and receive the help which is required or necessary feedback.
An employee can experience an unmanageable workload when it feels like they have too much to do or complete, especially within a certain timeframe. This problem can stem either from the overload of duties and responsibilities on the job description, inadequate staff training to carry out the duties and responsibilities effectively and efficiently, or even having insufficient personnel to carry out the required functions. As employers, it is crucial that we detect the problem and intervene before it leads to burnout or resignation.
Unfair treatment at work
Unfair treatment in the workplace might take the form of discrimination, harassment, or the denial of equal opportunities. When identifying unfair treatment as an employer, whether through observation or complaints submitted through the grievance procedure, it is vital that these issues be handled immediately. Failure to do such can have negative effects on culture and the health and wellness of employees.
Poor communication throughout the organisation
Communication is one of the primary contributors to employee engagement in the workplace. Not only does communication matter but also the quality of such communication, as communication can affect both efficiency and culture. When inefficient, it can increase factors such as workload, leading to unwarranted burnout.
To help you recognise burnout and learn how to prevent or lessen it, please see the table below, which is not exhaustive:
In conclusion, burnout can be about your workplace and when it is about your workplace, there are ways in which it can be rectified and mitigated. When identified, the causes of organisational burnout can cost your business or company money, so it is critical for the causes to be addressed swiftly and effectively. Yes, employee burnout can happen at the fault of the employee when resources, etc. are not managed or utilised properly. However, since it affects the workplace and environment, it is still important for employers to take action to remedy the situation. Together, with the right strategies and action plans, we can prevent both employee and employer-caused burnout in the workplace.
Katriel Pile, Attorney-at-Law and Human Resources Specialist
Dylan Downes, Group Human Resources Manager