The discussion around the main cause of burnout is a difficult one, as burnout can be linked to a variety of factors; such as the inability to switch off in regards to technology, lack of support in the workplace, and many other reasons. The Great British Workplace Wellbeing sessions hosted a panel of speakers who discussed this topic.
The panel agreed on the fact that we need to develop greater self-awareness and discover who and what we think is important in both the workplace and beyond.
When discussing the topic of burnout, Alexandra Rafter, Head of Commercial at Remit Training, explains how it can be difficult to compartmentalise aspects of your life, and some people may struggle when juggling many things at the same time. “This can lead to a real pressure for survival as organisations fear that they won’t survive.”
Adding to this point Debbie Bullock, Wellbeing Lead at Aviva, states that benefits aren’t getting used as they should be. “People have a personal desire to do something but have no benefits or culture to support this. The individual then has to take ownership on making any changes.”
When it comes to the question of ‘whose responsibility it is to identify and extinguish burnout’, Laura Ash, Co-Founder of Rock Solid Health explains that there does need to be some responsibility on oneself to manage your own wellbeing in the workplace - yet there is still a greater need to view staff and colleagues as individuals. “Understanding how much workload a person carries and also understanding the factors that could contribute to this in their daily lives is extremely important.”
So, how can you avoid burnout in your workplace?
There are three different categories of burnout; mental, emotional and physical. After discussing the topic, the panel agreed on the fact that the key to extinguishing burnout stems from the development of knowledge surrounding it. If organisations knew what burnout was, how to identify it, and how to help, then employees could feel more understood and supported. Becoming a role model for your team can be a way forward in helping prevent burnout, however, stress is an external pressure that is inevitable - so being prepared and knowledgeable about the situation can help relieve pressure as much as possible for your employees.
Nine times out of ten an individual may not even recognise that they are suffering from burnout themselves as the symptoms are hard to distinguish and recognise. Boundaries need to be put into place and questions need to be asked, such as how do we empower employees to ignore work requests in their downtime and put themselves and their wellbeing first. Recognising when to turn your phone off and creating your own boundaries is a beneficial way to avoid burnout.
Organisations need to look at tools, investments and resources to ensure that they have the facilities to help produce the best employers. One of our human needs is certainty and due to the current global circumstances, we don’t have a whole lot of certainty at the moment, which can be another facilitating factor to burnout. When there is uncertainty in the workplace, making people aware of what is still expected of them, whilst allowing them to create their own routines can lead to a greater sense of stability. Ensuring you have prepared solutions for any upcoming issues is incredibly important, and can help take the pressure off the emotional and mental facets people may face during change and uncertainty.
Adapt and overcome
An example of this kind of uncertainty that caused huge effects was the ‘Great Resignation” which took place last year. As people’s lives, goals and situations changed due to covid, the US saw over 4.5 million people leave their jobs, in November alone. This kind of change to these workplaces that lost employees can be detrimental to the workforce, as encouraging employees to try and switch off whilst working under a reduced team can prove to be difficult. The inability to switch off and increased workload can be a huge factor in the increase of burnout, which can then cause even more people to leave. Therefore, it is important as an employer to reduce workload as much as possible and be understanding of the situation change for existing employees. Ensuring that you are there to support your staff in a situation like this is crucial. Understanding why your employees are leaving in the first place can help you create positive solutions to prevent this in the future - adapting and changing are important. Take advantage of the opportunity as it will give you a chance to re-evaluate and reassess.
Creating a strong work culture
Having strong work culture is incredibly important in the mission to avoid employee burnout. Building an environment where your employees feel they are supported and understood will create a trusting relationship between the employer and employee, which will hopefully increase open conversations, where staff can come to their employer if they have any issues. Honesty is key and as long as you are true to yourself and your organisation then you will attract the right people, and create good relationships with those people. Be real about your expectations, whilst making sure you invest in your people.
Another thing to implement in your own workday, which employers should also inform staff of, is energy management. We all have a certain amount of energy and it is important that we don’t drain ourselves of said energy, as this will be a huge factor in causing burnout. Managing your day better can help you keep hold of energy, as you’re less likely to get overwhelmed with work, and get sidetracked causing you to work overtime. Encourage your staff to create priority lists and ensure there are achievable goals and deadlines in place.
Burnout and stress in the workplace are likely for somebody, at some point, but it doesn’t have to be inevitable. By implementing some of these strategies into your workplace, and daily life you could increase your chances of having a happy working environment.