One of the greatest risks to employers is employee burnout. And it seems that a lot of employees are feeling overwhelmed at the moment. In a recent 24 Seven survey of more than 2,100 professionals working in the marketing, creative, tech, beauty, fashion and retail sectors, 51% said they are currently experiencing burnout.
And once an employee has communicated that they feel burned out, it’s possible that their next communication could be a resignation letter.
So it is of utmost importance that managers get in front of employee burnout before they get burned by it.
WHAT IS EMPLOYEE BURNOUT?
Employee burnout is the result of chronic workplace stress that manifests into a perpetual state of physical, emotional or creative exhaustion.
Burnout can be caused by several factors, including heavy workloads, unrealistic deadlines, a lack of role clarity, poor communication, an absence of support from management, feeling unappreciated or a toxic workplace culture. One does not need to experience all these things to reach the point of job burnout; sometimes it’s just a couple of these issues that when left unaddressed can light the flame.
Employees who have reached this stage are more likely to leave, and just like a spark in dry brush, once it ignites it can spread. Because chances are if you have one burned-out employee ready to quit, you have others who are feeling the same way.
JOB BURNOUT WARNING SIGNS
To get ahead of burnout, employers need to make sure managers and supervisors understand the warning signs so that when they begin to see them, they can act swiftly.
Here are some red flags that leaders should be keyed into when prioritizing employee burnout prevention:
Suddenly becoming overly cynical, critical or sarcastic
Irritability or lack of patience with colleagues or clients
Disengagement with work and/or group meetings
More sensitive to feedback
A decrease in general productivity
Increase in absenteeism
Vocalization about workload or work stress
Need hiring help?
5 WAYS MANAGERS CAN PREVENT EMPLOYEE BURNOUT
Think of all the work that goes into recruiting new marketing, creative and tech talent, and convincing them that your company is the one to join. All the effort that goes into the recruitment process shouldn’t stop once an employee is officially on board. To boost employee satisfaction levels and retention, strive to continually re-recruit them.
1. PRIORITIZE COMMUNICATION AND ACTION
Managers should have regular 1:1 meetings with employees. These meetings provide an opportunity to not only talk about to-do lists and upcoming assignments, but consider a dedicated check-in to discuss how employees are feeling about their current projects – and work in general. Are there any particular stressors? Does the workload feel manageable? You can also use these touch base meetings to give employees an opportunity to share about their personal lives, within reason, or chat about common interests. You might even ask for advice to show your employees that their opinions are valuable.
But communication shouldn’t stop with designated check-in times. If managers start to notice employee burnout signs, a separate conversation should be prioritized. Managers should ask for an honest conversation and then really listen. Sometimes just having the opportunity to get it all out on the table and vocalize pain points will be all that person needs. But it may also require the manager to take action to address those issues. If an employee tells you that they feel overworked, that the deadlines are stressing them out, managers need to be ready to work through potential solutions, so the employee doesn’t feel like their openness was shrugged off.
2. BE MINDFUL OF EMPLOYEE WORKLOADS
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how much is assigned to one employee, especially if they don’t tell you they feel overwhelmed. Perhaps you have a trusted member of your team who frequently volunteers to take on new projects and assignments. Because you’re busy too you might inadvertently overlook that this person already has a full plate. And then you give something else to that person, meanwhile a colleague asks them for help on a project, and because they’re not the best at saying no, their plate rises so high that that person can’t get out from under everything they have to do, and they hit a breaking point.
As a manager, it is important to step back, look at your team’s individual workload levels and make sure one person isn’t consistently shouldering more than their fair share.
Consider bringing freelancers aboard your team to help alleviate burnout among internal employees. Freelancers can help during big projects and crunch times, but they can also offer creative, marketing and tech expertise that can help lighten the load on your core employees. Highly skilled specialized freelancers can also bring a fresh eye to complicated challenges.
Freelancers can be brought on short-term or long-term. And if you partner with a specialized freelance recruiting agency like 24 Seven, we can have talent at the ready when your company’s workload demands it.
3. LOOK AT YOUR OWN BEHAVIOR
Are you regularly emailing employees after-hours and on the weekends? Perhaps you don’t expect them to respond, maybe you even mention they don’t have to, but you’re the boss and the power dynamic is such that an employee might still assume you expect them to answer. And even if they wait to respond, their time off to rest and recharge has still been interrupted and your request will likely linger in their mind.
Managers need to take an active role in helping set workplace boundaries. Hours and schedules should be set and then honored. Of course, there will be occasional extenuating circumstances – depending on project deadlines and unexpected life events – but work-related communication should mostly happen during work hours.
And during those work hours, communication should be clear and direct. Allow employees to ask clarifying questions. If a new deadline is problematic due to existing priorities, can it be moved back? If not, can you bring others in to help ensure all the work gets done?
4. BE GENEROUS WITH FEEDBACK AND PRAISE
One of the easiest things managers can do to prevent employee burnout is to let their employees know that they’re appreciated.
Feedback is good; positive feedback is generally better. This is not to say that you can’t be constructive with employees on areas where they can grow and skills they can build, but it needs to be coupled with positive reinforcement. This may not always be possible and there are times that call for tough conversations, which is why it’s so important that managers have already set the stage with enough praise to soften those blows. During hectic times, a proverbial pat on the back can lift morale and give a much-needed reminder to employees that their time and effort is indeed valued.
While some people may be shy when it comes to receiving compliments, it’s fair to assume that no one dislikes being told they did a good job. And better yet, when you communicate where your employees shined, you’re also helping them understand what they can do more of.
5. TIME OFF SHOULD BE SPENT OFF
Do you have employees who respond to emails when they’re on vacation? Or employees still chugging along three hours after the workday ended? Or maybe someone who feels obligated to work when they’re sick? Managers need to encourage these people to log off.
Learning to unplug is a critical step for employees to take in preventing their own job burnout, but some people need more of a push than others.
Remind employees to turn their out-of-office reply on when taking time off and designate an alternative point person to deal with requests. If your employee is not feeling well, remind them that self-care is important and that it’s fine to take the day off. And if you see employees staying on way after hours, check in to see what they’re working on and remind them that it can be picked up the next workday. And if they insist on staying on, encourage them to log off early another day in the near future.
And remember, as a manager, you should lead by example. Take your vacations, try not to work when you’re sick, and prioritize your own time when the workday ends. If your team consistently sees you working when you’re ill, answering emails during long weekends and generally burning the midnight oil, they’re going to assume you expect the same of them.
HOW 24 SEVEN CAN HELP
While we may not be able to help you directly manage your teams, we can help you find freelancers that can help reduce the hefty workloads and stress falling on your employees.
24 Seven recruiters specialize in placing freelancers in the marketing, creative and tech space. Our team has access to a wide network of highly skilled freelancers that can assist your teams on a short or long-term basis.
Contact us today to see how we can find you a freelancer to fit your needs.
This post was updated on November 30, 2023.