What to do with an employee who seems disengaged, disenfranchised or whose productivity seems to be on the decline? Surely the first step is to engage HR and to go down the disciplinary route? But what if he or she is not simply “bored” or dissatisfied with their work, but, instead, suffering from burnout? How can you even recognise team burnout, let alone take steps to prevent it?
Despite Burnout seemingly coming to prominence on the tail of the pandemic, it was identified in 1974 and is recognised by the WHO as a legitimate “occupational phenomenon”, resulting from any of a number of causes, for example, unmanageable workload, lack of challenge, lack of communication with a manager or any number of other contributing factors, either at home, work or a combination of the two, causing chronic stress to the individual.
So how can you recognise team burnout and what strategies can you put in place to combat it?
Spotting Signs of Team Burnout.
Signs that someone might be burnt out include:
Lack of engagement – has the individual avoided taking on new projects, or lost interest in things they previously found enjoyable? Perhaps they socialize less or have stopped participating in meetings.
Decreased productivity – Feelings of overwhelm can prevent employees from focusing and they may feel their efforts are just not worthwhile. Has their quality of work suffered? Perhaps an increase in customer complaints is occurring.
Increased absenteeism – Stressed employees are more likely to take time off in the belief that it will recharge their batteries. They may also wish to avoid interaction with co-workers, or projects that they perceive as “stressful”.
Higher than normal sensitivity to feedback – Perhaps an employee is permanently on the defensive, greeting any feedback with comments like, “It’s always my fault…” “I can’t do anything right”
Displaying signs of emotional, mental, or physical exhaustion – These can include panic attacks, nausea, headaches, loss of appetite and weight loss, or gain.
As an employer or manager, there are a number of strategies that you can employ to proactively address the potential for team burnout before it becomes an issue. Here are 5 ways:
Prioritise your People
Spend time with your employees talking to them and actively monitoring how they feel. This can be as simple as a weekly check-in or sending out a Google survey.
However, in the new business world of remote working, it’s important that you make yourself available to sit face to face with an employee, albeit via an online meeting, and actively listen to how they are feeling, finding ways to support them.
With any atypical behaviour, it’s important that you dig a little deeper to understand the motivating factors. Is the employee having issues in their personal life that are creeping into work? There could be any number of reasons for the behaviour that may, or equally, may not point to burnout.
Cultivate Your Workplace Culture
Create an environment where wellbeing is key. Ensure employees switch off from work when they should switch off, don’t work at weekends, and take time off regularly. Ensure that co-workers are empowered to recognise common symptoms so they can act if they feel they or a colleague may be experiencing burnout.
Have a Coaching Conversation.
One of the best ways to prevent team burnout is to foster the idea that “no one is an island “and to ensure employees realise they are not alone. Creating a company wellness programme can help employees manage their stress, empower them to reach out when they feel overburdened, create, and maintain goals, and improve their motivation to get the job done.
Employing the services of an external coach can ensure an open dialogue without the employee feeling inhibited by what they feel they can and “can’t” say.
Pay Attention to the Workload.
Monitor your team’s workload to ensure that they are not being overwhelmed with a too-long to-do list. It may be worth offering some time-management training, as procrastination or lack of prioritization can mean that work is left to the deadline, resulting in increased stress as the deadline approaches.
Where possible, varying your team’s workload can result in renewed energy. Consider where and how you assign your team’s projects. Sharing responsibility amongst a senior and junior member of the team, rather than the full responsibility falling on the senior person’s shoulders, can create “breathing space” for the senior person, as well as a valuable learning opportunity for the junior.
Conduct Independent Exit Interviews.
One of the most effective ways to gain feedback from employees is to conduct 360-degree appraisals or feedback at exit. When this is managed independently from the organisation it offers the best chance for the employee to respond openly and honestly, for the organisation to obtain valuable data, and to act on it to inform future actions.
It is clear that where team burnout is concerned, prevention is better than cure. This involves identifying the root cause of any burnout as quickly as possible. In so doing, you stand the best chance of not only being able to support your employee but to ensure they return to previous levels of wellbeing, productivity, and engagement.
If you would like to arrange coaching for yourself or your team, then why not book a call? A no-obligation chat will give us the opportunity to discover if we are the right “fit” for each other and to discuss your needs in greater detail. I offer various coaching solutions to support both you, the leader, and your team. Follow the links to find out more.