Burnout is becoming pervasive across the US workforce, costing employers productivity and innovation, and leading to employee turnover. It disproportionately impacts our younger workers and women. However, companies can reverse this trend.
A recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23 percent of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44 percent reported feeling burned out sometimes.
The study discovered that burned-out employees are 63 percent more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job. And even if they stay, they typically have 13 percent lower confidence in their performance and are half as likely to discuss how to approach performance goals with their manager.
NBC recently reported the following:
- A recent study by Mind Share Partners, Qualtrics and SAP reveals that younger workers disproportionally suffer from burnout. Half of millennials and 75 percent of Gen Z have left a job for mental health reasons.
- In addition, the American Psychological Association found the percentage of people dealing with suicidal thoughts increased 47 percent from 2008 to 2017.
Other studies have found that women suffer from burnout disproportionally more than men.
Burnout costs the U.S. approximately $315 billion per year, according to the Harvard Business Review. The article’s author, Eric Garton, blames excessive collaboration on work teams, weak time-management discipline on the part of employees, and management’s tendency to overload the most capable.
NBC reports that burnout is an alarming trend due to rising workloads, limited staff and resources and long hours. Jean Twenge, author of iGen, a book about the effect technology has on this generation, says, “The rise in the use of smart phones and social media is also having an impact, as young people spend more time on their devices and less with face-to-face interactions.”
But Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College, said that it’s not social media or young people’s fractured attention spans that are causing their anxiety; it is the result of the environment they experienced while attending school.
He traces a progression from the mid-1950s in which society has gradually taken away children’s internal locus of control (Locus of control is the belief that both successes and failures are due to one’s efforts).
As a result, many young people today are lost. “Since the mid-1950s, when they began taking away children’s play, people haven’t learned to take control of their own lives.” Gray said that control is essential to ward off excessive anxiety.
With burnout affecting the workforce in general and at higher rates on younger workers and women, what can employers do to reduce the causes of burnout? Here are six steps to consider:
- Recognize burnout is a problem. It costs employers real money in absenteeism and lagging productivity. It should be treated with the urgency of any initiative to improve productivity and employee morale and retention.
- Provide metal health coverage. If you don’t already, start offering mental health coverage as part of your health care plans and start support groups for employees who want to discuss their burnout and solutions for it. As an example, Cisco launched #SafetoTalk, which it calls the first virtual community for employees to come forward and connect weekly with others to share their struggles.
- Offer on-site counselors. I encourage large companies to provide on-site counselors who are easily accessible and can offer confidential and face-to-face guidance to employees. I know from first-hand experience the benefit of having on-site counselors. In companies where I worked, the offices of these counselors were never vacant, and they provided one of the most popular benefits we offered.
- Allow flexible work arrangements. About 40 percent of jobs are conducive to flexible work where the job incumbent can work from home three to four days a week. The advantage for employees is that it eliminates long commutes from their day and allows them more options to integrate their work and family lives, significantly reducing stress. The advantages for employers are also significant with improved productivity and morale and lower costs. There are also benefits to global warming, with lower carbon emissions. Learn more here.
- Encourage employees learn to set limits to work and insist that their managers to listen to them. We have a culture that honors being busy. The US has shot by the 40 hour work week to an average of 47 hours week according to a recent Gallup survey, and I know many work sites where more than 60 hours per week are expected of employees. Management needs to take charge! From the CEO on down to first-line managers, companies should encourage their employees to set limits at work for their mental health while still achieving their work goals. The limits may include not being available for emails, texts, and calls during “family hours” or other “downtime.” In addition, employers need to permit workers to come forward — without detriment to their careers — when they feel burned out and decline requests to do more projects..
- Provide paid time off for paternal leave and baby bonding leave to both genders. These leaves reduce the stress associated with missing time due to pregnancy and allows both parents to share in the infant’s care.
Employee burnout is a real issue that costs companies real money. It is time to take steps to reduce stressors at work and the feeling of being overwhelmed with no way out—or employers will lose valuable employees. What have you done to reduce employee burnout?
Victor Assad is the CEO of Victor Assad Strategic Human Resources Consulting. Today’s blog has excerpts from his new book: Hack Recruiting: the Best of Empirical Research, Method and Process, and Digitization. It has received great reviews and five-star ratings on Amazon. You can buy it online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Archway Publishing.