Combating Employee Burnout in Your Small Business

If you have had to reduce your employee workforce or held off on hiring because things are slow, your workplace could be susceptible to employee burnout. Asking employees to do more with fewer resources takes its toll. And when it takes a toll on individuals, it takes a toll on the business.

Employees most prone to burnout tend to be the best workers. You know who they are already. These committed employees put in extra time and effort to make sure the work is getting done. You rely on them to go the extra mile, but because they always do, they are also at the highest risk of flaming out.

Employee burnout is not inevitable, nor is it irreversible. Here are a few ways to combat it:

  • Acknowledge it: Burnout is real. Don’t sweep it under the rug. If your organization has gone through changes that have made it necessary for employees to work harder and longer, be on the lookout for signs of burnout, such as less laughter and socializing; lethargy; increased absenteeism; and irritability at colleagues or customers.
  • Communicate: Let your staff know you understand they are being asked to do more with less and that their stress levels may be increasing. Communicate that you are in this together and that if they begin experiencing overload, you want to know about it so you can help.
  • Create balance: Maintain a solid work-family balance policy. For instance, include allowable time off for non-work-related commitments. At work, employees should have varied tasks that are balanced between those that are urgent and deadline-driven and those that have more flexibility and less pressure.
  • Cross-train: One of the surest ways to accelerate burnout is to relegate employees to a single task. Give workers a diversity of duties to perform during the workday. One of the best ways to do this and keep employees engaged is to cross-train them for multiple jobs. This not only engages them but it provides the added benefit of making your organization more productive because employees can share the workload and cover when others are absent.
  • Foster teamwork: Be sure you have functional teams in place that aren’t only task related. To be effective, teams should foster a spirit of togetherness. Do this by giving teams time off together, when possible, at lunch hour or breaks. These personal interactions make it less likely for isolation and, thus, burnout.
  • Deal with control issues: Employees who feel a lack of control over their work lives, from scheduling to income to responsibilities, are more apt to suffer burnout. While you may not be able to address all of these issues, look for ways to give employees some measure of autonomy so they feel more in control. It may be as simple as giving them choices about how to organize the tasks in their day.
  • Have fun: This one may seem simple, but it’s often overlooked and undervalued in the workplace. Employees who have fun together stay together. Look for ways to add elements of fun to the workplace. Even small efforts such as instituting a companywide baking contest or jump-starting an impromptu Frisbee toss at break time can have a big impact.

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