Employee Burnout: The issue and solution

Employee burnout is a widespread phenomenon in todays workplaces. Companies tend to treat this as a talent management or personal issue rather than a broader organizational challenge for operational excellence and that’s a fallacy.

Leaders need to own up their role in creating workplace stress that leads to burnout – heavy workloads, job insecurity, and frustrating work routines, that include too many meetings and far too little time for creative engagement. Once Leaders confront the problem at an organizational level, they can use organizations management measures to address it.

The book Time, Talent and Energy, by Eric Garton and Michael C. Mankins, states that when employees aren’t as productive as they could be, it’s usually the organization, not the employees, that is to blame. The same is true for employee burnout.

There are three common culprits in companies with high burnout rates: ‘excessive collaboration’, ‘weak time management discipline’, and a ‘tendency to overload the most capable’. These forces not only rob employees of time to concentrate on completing complex tasks or for idea generation, they also crush the downtime that is essential for restoration.

Here’s how leaders can address these glaring issues:

Excessive collaboration

Excessive collaboration is a common ailment in organizations with too many decision makers and too many decision-making nodes. It manifests itself in endless rounds of meetings and conference calls to ensure that every stakeholder is heard and aligned. Together, these structural and cultural factors lead to fragmented calendars and even fragmented hours within the work day.

Companies can address the collaboration overload problem by adjusting organizational structures and routines. One easy step is to look at the number of nodes which are intersections in the organizational matrix where decision makers sit. Companies can also look at how they ‘staff teams’. Instead of isolating star players by distributing them across various teams, companies can often get better results by putting the high-energy, high-achieving players together on the same squad and having them tackle the highest priority task.

Weak time-management disciplines

While executives like to measure the benefits of collaboration, few have measured the costs. There are useful tools to measure how employee time is spent and how that affects burnout or organizational productivity.

By using the data from such tools, leaders can map places within the organization where excessive time is spent in meetings, emails or online collaboration. With this information targeted changes can be made to specific groups and functions, to reduce the organizational drag which in turn hampers productivity and leads to burnouts.

Overloading of the most capable

Employee workloads have increased in many organizations especially where hiring has not matched growth. Companies overestimate how much can be accomplished with digital productivity tools and rarely check to see if their assumptions are corroborated. The overload problem is compounded for companies because the best people are the ones whose knowledge/skill is most in demand and who are often the biggest victims of collaboration overload.

Workplace analytic tools used to measure how much employee time is lost to unproductive activities can also measure excess demands on time of the best ones, enabling their bosses to redesign workflows or take other steps to avoid burnout.

The team at Actuate Business Consulting, a knowledge based management consulting firm in India, believes that companies that giving employees back the time to do work which drives company’s success will pay huge dividends by raising productivity, increasing output and reducing burnout.

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