Feeling the Burn(out)?

October 14, 2020 Mina Morris

First Published on LinkedIn

Employee burnout was reaching crisis levels across the U.S., even before COVID-19. Burnout has been declared an “occupational phenomenon” by the World Health Organization, and has been linked with a decrease in productivity, and physical and mental health issues. 

Since the start of the pandemic, the problem is even more acute. Months of working from home have blurred the lines between professional and personal lives, and have resulted in employees feeling fatigued, overwhelmed and in some cases lost.  

Organizations are recognizing the risk that burnout poses and are looking for ways to give workers more control and balance in their lives. This helps employees to better manage workplace stress and empowers them to prevent burnout before it sets in.

Here are three ways to fight burnout before it becomes a drain on your team’s creativity and productivity.

Assess Candidates for Resilience

Our current environment is filled with challenges, both short term or ‘periodical’, for example, dealing with an instance of negative feedback. As well as long term, like continuously working under a difficult manager or working though sustained uncertainty and pressure. Challenges can also be outside of an employee’s control, like going through an organizational or team restructuring, or even dealing with virtual schooling. Burnout is more likely to happen when someone is exposed to these factors for a sustained period of time. 

One thing that moderates burnout is resilience: our capacity to recover from a challenge, to effectively move forward despite difficult circumstances, and to build confidence for dealing with future obstacles.  

In recruiting people into the organization, or setting up teams or work groups, it’s always worth assessing a candidate’s resilience. This gives you an indication of how likely they are to perform well in a high-stress environment. As you set up work groups or develop teams, an assessment of each individual’s personality and natural preferences can help you determine how much and what type of support each person might need. 

As the saying goes, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Design Jobs with Clear Missions and Expectations for Performance

Job stress and burnout are often derived from unclear purpose and performance expectations. Employees are left to wonder what truly matters to the organization, and they wind up wasting energy that could be better spent on other efforts.

 One way to reduce burnout is to be thoughtful about these types of issues upfront and be clear on what good performance look likes.  That way, employees are not left second-guessing what they should be doing and managing to the wrong goals. 

Responsibilities and rewards should be linked to clear KPIs, for example, to show how an individual can contribute to a broader team or organization’s success. 

Give Employees Control Whenever Feasible

Aon’s recent COVID-19 Pulse Survey results indicate that less than 30% of organizations anticipate their entire workforce will return to the workplace by the end of the first quarter in 2021. This indicates that for the foreseeable future, most of us will continue to work remotely in some capacity.  

With this in mind, placing people in the right jobs, and giving them the space to own and master their role is going to be essential to minimize the chances of burnout. When given control over their work, employees are more likely to find innovative and efficient ways to achieve their goals. In turn, this helps increase the feeling of control over their circumstances and enables employees to set their own pace, helping decrease the chances of stress and burnout.

Tap into the diverse creative power of your team to drive your organization’s goals and growth. Give your people a voice in your organization. Investing in your organization’s success means creating a sense of inclusion, purpose, fulfillment and autonomy among your employees. Keeping your workforce engaged can be the difference between mission failure and success.

For more helpful tips for leaders managing in times of crisis, Read my latest paper, What psychology teaches us about managing crisis: A manager’s guide to building resilience.

About the Author

Mina Morris

Mina Morris is a Partner with Aon’s Assessment Solution Practice. As an organizational psychologist, Mina works with clients to maximize the effectiveness of their talent selection processes, implement talent management systems and helps organizations manage change. Mina has extensive global experience partnering with clients in North America, Asia Pacific, and Middle East to deliver human capital solutions that help deliver business results.

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