Running on Empty
Life is hectic. Everything today seems to happen at a quicker pace, leaving many struggling to keep up. And organizations have been operating on a diet of “more with less” for going on a decade. So it’s not surprising that 75% of organizations are concerned about employee burnout – with 1/3 of those citing it as a critical business issue. It’s clear that burnout can lead to fading engagement, performance and retention. It’s a no-win for individuals and organizations. But identifying and solving for it is a critical challenge – one I’ll be discussing in a webinar on June 29, along with Alex Kerin of Kronos.
What is burnout? To me it’s beyond fatigue or frustration. It’s that moment when you’re so overwhelmed you don’t even know where to turn, paralyzed by exhaustion, keeping deadlines at bay with a whip and a chair, not sure how you’re going to survive the week. And it doesn’t just happen when people hate their jobs. I’d even argue that you’re more likely to feel burnout when you enjoy your work and care about your job. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t be so worried about getting things done. The problem isn’t just about one person burning out either. A recent Aptitude study found that organizations experiencing the highest levels employee burnout were 66% more likely to lose top talent than their competitors. Burnout is contagious.
Burnout is also costly. One of the biggest ways it is costing organizations is through turnover. Who among us hasn’t had a really bad day and wandered over to a job board or career site? Or reached a breaking point and decided to return that recruiter’s email? Your top talent is always being targeted, but they may start listening to the overtures when burnout is eminent.
So what can companies do? Managing workload is one of the keys, which may seem pretty obvious. But it’s not always easy. Organizations with the lowest turnover use task and project management tools to help them manage overload and spot potential problems. They use data and analytics to help identify flight risk. And most importantly, they have managers who model the right behaviors. Managers who are public about taking their breaks and using time off. Who help people find backup and shift workload so someone can actually take a few days off without returning to a situation more overwhelming than when they left. Like engagement, workload tolerance varies, and some of your best people are likely to be the ones that overestimate their own. They need the organizational insight and managerial support to help save them from themselves before it’s too late.