Preventing burnout is a better solution than waiting to treat it after it becomes a problem. The personal and organisational costs of burnout can be extensive in terms of physical health, work performance and psychological well-being. As an organisation, taking steps to minimise the risk of burnout before it happens is a more rational strategy. Building engagement is probably the best approach to preventing burnout. People who are engaged in the workplace are far better at coping with the challenges they encounter, thus making them more likely to recover from stress. So thriving at building an engaged workforce, before any major problems arise, represents a fantastic prevention method.
Organisational intervention can and is more productive than individual intervention. Improvements should be made in job conditions that affect most or even all employees. Generally, these improvements should make changes in the way an organisation works, that it actually begins to change the organisational culture and climate altogether. The importance of the burnout-engagement ‘continuum’ is that engagement represents the desired goal for any burnout case. Through this framework, people will start to consider the factors in the workplace which are most likely to enhance employees’ energy, resilience and drive. According to the survey done by Accountemps, it has been revealed that more than half of employees reported feeling stressed at work on a daily basis, and 6 out of 10 agreed that work-related pressure has increased in the last five years. Some concerned HR leaders have called this a workplace epidemic.
The Costs of Employee Burnout
First of all, it is important to understand what the true costs of burning out are. In a recent study done by Gallup, it has been estimated that employee burnout cost the nation of Germany somewhere around 9 billion euros in lost productivity every year, whilst in the United States, burnout costs have been reported to be around 190 billion dollars in healthcare expenditure, with an additional 120,000 stress-related deaths. In fact, this burnout epidemic has become a nationwide problem in Japan, where they’ve even invented a new word: “karoshi,” aka death from overwork. The latest case was the death of a 31-year old woman who died of heart failure after doing a whopping 159 overtime hours in one month.
How to maintain high engagement without burning out in the process
Here are a few key differences that have been found between the optimally engaged and the engaged-exhausted employees.
Half of the optimally engaged employees reported having ‘high resources’, such as supervisor support, a rewards and recognition system and self-efficacy at work, but experience ‘low demands’ such as low workload, low cumbersome bureaucracy, and low to moderate demands on concentration and attention. The other side of the coin have displayed such experiences of high resources and low demands were rare (4%) among the engaged-exhausted employees, the majority of whom (64%) reported experiencing high demands and high resources.
This should provide managers with an idea as to where to start supporting employees in order to achieve optimal engagement levels. In order to promote and achieve engagement, it is quintessential to provide employees with the resources they need to do their job well, feel good about the work they put in and properly recover from work-related stress.
Many organisations, at the recommendation of their respective HR departments, offer wellness programmes in order to combat stress. While it is common knowledge that chronic stress is not good for employees, these company wellness initiatives are not the most appropriate way to respond to that stress. Studies suggest that while wellness programmes can be helpful, a much bigger concern is the work itself. HR should work alongside front-line managers in order to monitor the level of demands they’re placing on people. The higher the work demands, the higher employees’ need for support, acknowledgement and opportunities for recovery.
What about challenges and goals? Challenges, as we all know it, are motivating. However, we often forget that high challenges usually come at high cost. Challenging achievement situations not only cause anxiety and stress for most motivated individuals but also lead to exhaustion. The research on challenges and goals is mixed – for some people, chasing ambitious goals does lead to higher performance. For most people, however, challenges and goals lead them towards demotivation, take unplanned risks, or even quit.
Managers and HR leaders alike should try and help employees by toning down the demands they are placing on people. They should ensure that employee goals are realistic. Rebalancing the workloads of more skilled employees helps as well, who have been saddled with way too much work. Furthermore, it is recommended to increase the resources available to employees and this does not only refer to material resources such as time and money, but also intangible resources such as empathy, understanding and friendship in the workplace, whilst also letting employees blow off some steam from work when they’re not working.
The data is crystal clear: engagement is the key; it’s what all organisations should strive towards for both leaders and employees. But the target is smart engagement, the type that brings in productivity, enthusiasm and motivation, without any burnout.
There is a real value in providing companies with the tools to carry out regular organisational assessments and this is where Great People Inside comes to your aid. Our online platform offers the best solutions and tools for your company to thrive in every type of industry and any possible situation your organisation may find itself. In terms of lowering your employee turnover rates, we recommend our GR8 Full Spectrum assessment for hiring and 360° Survey for retention. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It requires deep knowledge of your own organisation’s culture and a keen understanding of the candidate’s personality, strengths, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you find employees who can flourish and reach the highest performance required to constantly bring your company forward.
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