Burnout is the silent pandemic that’s affecting people the world over.
Stress-related conditions can refer to the physical and mental symptoms caused by stress, such as headaches, anxiety, depression, muscle aches and panic disorders— and are mostly triggered by extreme burnout without even realising it.
The World Health Organisation reports that the global economy loses US$1trillion a year of productivity as a result of depression and anxiety.
According to the Harvard Business Review, an estimated $125 to $190 billion a year is spent on healthcare for the psychological and physical problems of burned-out employees in the US alone.
Another study found that Singapore spends about $3.18billion (SGD) on chronic stress-related illnesses, ranking it second on the list while Australia comes in at a close third.
Another report found that in Australia, almost one in three workers spanning different industries suffer from some form of mental illness.
We are living in a culture that accepts working employees to the point of exhaustion, and where the race to reach KPIs is prioritised at any cost. High achievers with their “I can do everything” attitudes rarely see burnout coming, and can cost a company a significant amount of money when they start to crash, or even worse, quit.
So, what’s the solution?
You could save your company hundreds of thousands—if not, millions—of dollars if you simply do what you can to keep your employees happy. Read that again...
The first step is for everyone—at every level of the company—to recognise that burnout is a serious problem, and that more is needed to be done to remedy the root causes of it all. PSA: Burnout is a problem with the workplace culture, not the people.
How can bosses be more proactive to prevent employee burnout? It’s not quite as simple as giving an additional pep talk and a couple of motivational high-fives here and there—it’s a full-on workplace culture overhaul, including organisational changes and mentality shifts.
Here are some tips for how to recharge and refocus your workforce:
1. Cut down unreasonably long hours
This is the primary cause of burnout. Figure out the best way for your organisation to optimise productivity within standard working hours and discourage unnecessary overtime where the pressure of finishing a task will end up overpowering actual productivity.
2. Set & respect boundaries
The lack of clear, observable and measurable boundaries in a workplace can create an environment of unhealthy competition, power struggles and unsupportive behaviour, which can take a major toll on the peace of mind and self-esteem of staff.
So, it’s ideal to set a clear job scope and expected workload right from the start of each project, and manage expectations as responsibilities increase and change over time. Don’t allow tasks and responsibilities to get too overwhelming, particularly while compensation and appreciation levels remain exactly the same.
3. Spotlight individuals’ strengths
When managers focus on employees’ strengths and give them the opportunity to do what they do best, they are more likely to be (and remain) engaged, driven and motivated to continue achieving good results. Employees feel most valued when their talents are harnessed, and efforts and ideas are recognised.
4. Offer support and sufficient resources
Are you looking to ramp up production or targets for specific seasons? Then you should provide your teams with additional resources. Be it in the form of extra people power (like contractors/freelancers) or remuneration for the additional time and effort invested in the company - providing support as needed shows you see and hear your workers, and value them personally.
5. Initiate flexibility
Asian nations in particular have an inflexible work culture—let’s change that. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we can work from home and on our own time, and still get the work done at the end of the day.
6. Improve staff welfare
Companies that provide employees with the resources to live healthier lives have more productive, passionate and long-staying workforces. If you take good care of them, they’ll take good care of you. Beyond good healthcare schemes, you might want to enhance parental leave, increase paid overtime, offer bonuses (such as performance-based ones on top of mandatory end-of-year remuneration), and extend company-related discounts. For example, if you’re in the travel industry, a good discount on flights, hotels, tours and cruises will give staff more incentive to utilise and appreciate the experiences around their job.
7. Prioritise wellness and wellbeing
Want to re-energise your staff? Why not arrange a group fitness, yoga or meditation class on Zoom (or in the office if you have sufficient space for social distancing)? Is your pantry sad and empty, or could it be stocked up with delicious, healthy snacks and good coffee for that all-important midday pick-me-up? Some companies also offer ‘self-care budgets,’ where each staff member is allocated a certain amount of money annually that can be spent on everything from gym memberships and spa days, to haircuts and fitness equipment to workout at home. Some have even gone to the extent of offering mental healthcare in the form of access to accredited life coaches and counsellors.
8. Check-in with your staff regularly
A regular, open dialogue is better than checking in only once a year during appraisals. Some problems can’t wait a whole year to be fixed, let alone be raised at all if employees (or employers) need to hold in their feedback and feelings until the annual assessment. If staff feel that their managers are always there to listen and have a discussion about any work issues or concerns, this openness allows for problems to be resolved a lot quicker, so work can resume—obstacle-free. It helps to check-in with staff weekly or fortnightly—from directors to new recruits—and take time to share your own struggles every once in a while, so as to nurture a culture of two-way communication.