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Paying Attention to Burnout
Renée Gendron

A burnout occurs when there is chronic exposure to stress, overwork and difficulty maintaining a work-life balance over a long period of time. A person experiencing a burnout exhibits many of the symptoms as depression. The person living a burnout can display cynicism, come across as cold and bitter, and ineffective. Working with such a person can drain morale, cause distraction and increase the likelihood of workplace accidents resulting from loss of attention.

Renée Gendron
These reasons alone should prompt employers to pay more closely attention to the mental health of their employees. But they are not the only reasons why companies need to be pay attention to the possibility of burnout.

Some jobs are simply more stressful than others. Some work environments are more hectic than others by nature of the industry, the location, the serviced clientele or a combination thereof. It is also possible that the person is not a good fit for the nature of the work or for that particular work environment. That said, employers do need to take note how their employees are handling the stress and what supports there are in place. One employee having a burnout may be the result of how that particular person handled or couldn’t handle stress. Several employees exhibiting disengagement from stress, significant changes in their weight and demeanor, gradually appearing haggard over time, or their performance suddenly plummets should cause concern.

Companies need to take note of these circumstances because of the following business reasons. You may be exposing your company to a lawsuit or a human rights complaint and with all of the related costs associated with those processes. Having underperforming employees hampers the performance of their colleagues, reduces productivity and ultimately lowers the bottom line. There are significant costs associated with recruiting, hiring, training and onboarding new employees, regardless of their position in the company. It’s costly to replace anyone. It’s even more costly to ignore the reasons people are leaving your organisation.

Repeatedly stressed employees leading to exhaustion or burnout is an indication that a business process or workflow isn’t working well. When employees are routinely worked to the brink of collapse or depression, it is incumbent on the company to investigate why that is the case and what supports are needed to ensure meaningful stress reduction, and evaluate how it can redesign workflow to make it more employee-friendly. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

Bottlenecks
Sometimes workflow depends on one or a select group of people to get things out of the door creating unrealistic demands. Seek out the point of view of the employees to identify such bottlenecks and tricky workflows.

Stretch goals that become herculean goals
Having goals that are slightly out of our reach puts outside of our comfort zone. This can be a good thing as it can help us learn and group. Having goals that are unreasonable and unrealistic puts undue pressure on employees. Herculean goals have two simultaneous consequences: employees work very hard trying to achieve them. The harder they work over a long period of time, the less resilient they become to the setbacks, stress and problems they face as their energy, patience and focus wane.

Daily routine becomes the daily grind
Routines help people master a skill and develop knowledge. Routines can also sap the energy and enthusiasm out of the most enthusiastic person because nothing changes. When they feel stressed after a day’s work, they return the next day knowing it won’t get better. Most jobs have some degree of flexibility over which tasks and responsibilities will be carried out during the day. Change up the work cycle to ensure that as many employees as possible have a regular change in scenery that is in keeping with their overall job description.

Supporting instead of impeding
Each work environment has its own particular challenges and stresses. Many employers extend benefits to their employees, such as access to counselling and psychological services, massage therapy and so on. Routinely check with your employees to see what kind of support they need to better handle workplace stresses and work-life balance matters.

Sometimes there is a mismatch between what you are currently offering and what your employees would find beneficial. It can be that you can extend what they want at a price that is more competitive than your existing package.

By paying attention to and reducing the organisational causes of burnout, you are enhancing the general health and productivity of your entire workforce. Examining workflow and pressures from the point of view of the employees gives voice to their concerns and creates opportunities for them to impact their workplace.

Renée Gendron, Principal, Vitae Dynamics Inc., is an engaging speaker(S), creative mediator(M), published researcher (R) and dynamic trainer(T). She applies her SMRT skills in support of professionals, entrepreneurs and organisations. Renée is keenly interested in helping professionals and firms create and thrive. @vitaedynamics



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