How managers influence team burnout, for better or for worse.

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Let’s give credit where credit is due: your employee might be doing everything in their power to control–or at the very least manage–their burnout, they are making an effort doing their breathing exercises, setting healthy boundaries, the yoga classes, the sleeping apps. But what happens if they have to go back every day to a work environment that pushed them to be burned out to begin with

Team work in a healthy work environment can help prevent burnout if managers pay enough attention to it. Tools like Talkit help keep burnout risk in check.

The cost of Burnout

Burnout was officially acknowledged by the World Health Organization (WHO) by entering it in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The problem lies in the confusion it caused in the general public that thought burnout would now be considered a medical condition, when in actuality it’s considered an occupational phenomenon. 

Companies gave a collective sigh of relief because they first thought that their healthcare costs would skyrocket. However, they were not wrong, but it was for the wrong reasons. Burnout is making their mental-health-related costs go up and it’s impacting their teams. A study done by the WHO estimated 1 trillion in lost productivity each year due to employee’s mental health issues. 

Add to that the high turnover rates from companies that don’t focus on their employee’s well-being: constantly training new people and riding a learning curve, as opposed to having happier employees that stay for longer. The American Psychological Association (APA) stated that in high-pressure companies healthcare costs are 50% higher than other organizations–tech industry, does it ring a bell?

Focus on the environment, not the person

Seeing burnout as a disease focuses on the person, and not their surroundings.  Gallup conducted a survey with 7,500 employees and came up with the top reasons claimed for burnout:

  • Unreasonable workload and pressure
  • Unfair treatment
  • Lack of:
    • Role clarity, communication and support from one’s manager.

At the end of the day, no amount of meditation, positive attitude, and gratitude practices can help an employee face unhealthy work environments.

Take a Deep-dive Within Your Company

If your staff is increasingly suffering from burnout, as managers you need to take a deep look inwards and try to see what would make people feel better. On top of basic needs met–like proper salary, work conditions, available resources, and things sometimes people take for granted–to stay motivated employees need to be recognized for their efforts and feel like they are making a difference, that they are valued within the organization, treated fairly, and to be a part of the decision-making.

There are things that you are probably not even thinking about that could make your employee’s days a lot better. You just need to ask the right questions.

If you don’t make your employees participants in the process of improving their situation, you might come up with the wrong answers if you do it yourself. 

Picture this: you see that people are a bit gloomy, looking miserable to be in the office. You decide to surprise everybody with free ice cream, and you go all the way: a buffet with as many toppings as the eye can see. They don’t seem too thrilled, even after this grand gesture! Well, turns out, there are other things that need to be done in the office, and the money spent on that lavish ice-cream party could have taken care of it. If you’re not the person sitting on the kitchen table during lunch break, you’ll never notice that the microwave takes ages to warm up a plate, does a poor job at it, and then you have to go back to your desk unhappy on the one moment you get to relax. Maybe there are 10 little things like that within the office that act little tiny problems that don’t seem like much on their own, but turn into great discomfort when put together.

Create a Safe Environment

If you harvest a work environment where employees feel safe to share their concerns–referred to as Psychological Security–the moment you ask the questions meant to improve their work experience, people will respond with total freedom.

You can ask these questions by creating meetings meant to improve overall well-being; create anonymous surveys if you feel the subjects are of a more private nature; or perhaps something so simple as walking around and talking to people. The most important thing is to keep that psychological security going, so people can tell you what they actually feel and need without being scared of being reprimanded for it.

You’re probably part of the solution already!

If you’re here, reading this, and you’ve made it this far, it probably means that you’re invested in making things better for your team. And even though burnout is spreading like wildfire, the tools and resources to fight it are out there, waiting for you. There are things you can do on your end and even prevent it if you go upstream enough. Tools like the BurnoutIndex will give you a quick read on Burnout Risk levels; and Talkit will give you visibility of what your team is feeling, week by week, and give you time to react, while providing them with complete anonymity to speak freely. 

Not all is lost! And we are confident that you’re capable of making a positive impact on your team, and we thank you for that. 


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