Burnout – The Hard Facts and How to Help Yourself and Your People

Last week, we explored the concept of the three Cs that amplify your leadership – courage, compassion, and curiosity. In the coming weeks, we are going to shift gears to focus on a topic that might be tough for leaders to talk about – burnout. It may also be foreign to others who have never experienced burnout themselves or supported someone who has experienced it.  

This topic personally resonates with me. I have been managing my anxiety disorder since I was 16, and have suffered burnout a few times in the past few decades. I am also seeing it within my own family and circle of friends and have been supporting a variety of my clients through the process on how to manage it themselves or support an employee through it.

Some may view this topic as highly sensitive or taboo, especially if you have never come across it in your own life or career. However, burnout, and all its associated challenges, are real, and we have an obligation to help ourselves and others where we can as leaders within our respective organizations.

Hard Facts

Here are the hard facts about burnout according to McLean & Company’s latest report on extinguishing burnout that comes from a variety of sources:

  • 84% of HR directors either agree or strongly agree that burnout is an issue that needs to be addressed in their organization.
  • 89% of employees said they experienced burnout in the past year. 
  • 60% of leaders are feeling “used up” at work.
  • 53% of workers are reported feeling burned out on a daily or weekly basis.

However, not everyone experiences burnout the same way and the data they included showed that:

  • 42% of women feel burned out compared to 35% of men. 
  • 59% of Millennials report feeling burned out often, meanwhile only 31% of Boomers report the same.

In this article, and in the coming weeks, we are going to highlight some of the core root causes of burnout, how leaders can be proactive and get in front of it, and explore what can be done at the organizational level to address the root causes that trigger burnout in the workplace.

Exploring Root Causes of Burnout

Although hybrid and remote work models provide employees the flexibility to define their work schedules, employees are filling in time that is traditionally used to commute to and from work to get more work done. So, it’s no surprise that hybrid and remote work can exacerbate feelings of burnout.

The report also highlighted the following insights as to why hybrid and remote work may trigger burnout for some employees:

  • People are working more hours as noted above – 84% of remote workers report working longer hours, while only 61% of onsite workers report the same.
  • Screen fatigue: more time spent in front of the screen – from 2020 to 2021, weekly meeting times increased by 148%, and the number of chat messages increased by 45%. Also, the number of emails sent increased by 40.6 billion.
  • Lack of healthy boundaries – 61% of employees working remotely say it is difficult to disconnect from work after hours. 
  • Overtime and availability expectation – over 33% of workers feel the need to be available around the clock for work.
  • Unrealistic manager expectations – 38% of remote employees “say they feel pressure from management to work more hours.” 

Simple Tips to Help Prevent Burnout

As leaders, we are responsible for collaborating and establishing the following expectations with our employees and for ourselves:

  • Establish and agree on work start and end times that will work best for yourself, employees and the organization. Depending on the role, you may have more flexibility to offer or less but figure out what is ideal on an employee-by-employee basis or team-by-team basis.
  • Talk to your employees about establishing healthy work life boundaries by being clear on the expectations, timelines and deliverables for their core responsibilities and appropriate working hours as noted above. 
  • Help them prioritize their workload on an ongoing basis by talking about what is most important and ensure your priorities and expectations are aligned. Do not make assumptions if you haven’t clearly communicated the tasks and timelines you require because lack of clarity causes unnecessary stress. 
  • When overtime is required, be clear about what your availability expectations are and talk to those employees who continuously work extra hours. Why are they always working more hours than expected? Do they need assistance with prioritizing their workload and priorities?  Do they need your support on some tips to help them work smarter not harder? Talk to your people to find out what is happening. It shows you care, and it may help remove the unnecessary pressure and expectations they have put on themselves.
  • If they are overachievers and have established high standards for themselves, that’s great, but be clear about what you expect from them and agree on what is manageable and reasonable to help them better manage their time. Just because you work late into the evening or start earlier than expected doesn’t mean that your people need to follow suit, but they may interpret your behavior as the expectation if you are not intentional about clarifying what your expectations are with them.
  • What might work for one employee might not work for another, so you need to offer some level of flexibility provided the work is getting done according to the desired standards and expectations. These are important discussions that will help set your people up for success. It is your responsibility to ensure you are on the same page if you expect your people to perform to their fullest potential.

In next week’s article, we are going to dive deeper into some additional best practices and look at burnout through the lens of what can be done at the organizational level to best support everyone’s success and create a more balanced and healthy work environment.

What are your thoughts on burnout?  Have you ever experienced it yourself or supported someone else who has? Are we missing any other root causes or tips that have helped you combat burnout? 

We want to hear from you. Please contact me at 416-560-1806, or email me at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca.

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