By Loren Smalley
During COVID, employee burnout hit a record high and company culture began to shift. Staff numbers decreased and for many remaining employees, it felt like their employers expected more without additional compensation or changes to their job descriptions. Consequently, people reported working harder and putting in longer hours to keep up with their workloads and show their worth, leading to chronic workplace stress and burnout.
Burnout is one factor that has led to the great resignation movement. Employees who feel overworked, overwhelmed, and undervalued tend to experience higher rates of burnout. It leaves people feeling exhausted, unmotivated, unaccomplished, disengaged, and resentful. Keeping up with the demands of their job becomes increasingly more challenging.
It can be difficult to speak with your supervisor/manager/employer regarding your workload and responsibilities. Employees want their employers to know the effort they are putting in, not the challenges they are encountering completing their work. Unfortunately, many people do not come forward to ask for help. In the past, burnout may have been seen as an individual issue that could improve with better time management and planning. Most of the time, that is not the case. As a society, we talked a lot about fixing people, but spent little time evaluating company culture and expectations, or considering how to fix the job. The pandemic has brought much needed attention to the subject of workplace burnout. There is greater awareness among employers that they play a significant role in safeguarding the emotional wellbeing of their employees. There is responsibility on both sides. While good supervisors will take the initiative to check in, they aren’t mind readers and are often also juggling competing demands. You have a responsibility to speak up and to appropriately advocate for yourself. Let your supervisor know that you are struggling and ask to work together on an action plan that will help you get back on track.
Not sure if what you are experiencing is burnout? We’ve all experienced varying levels of stress, but overwhelming, chronic stress can lead to burn out. Watch for these symptoms:
- Lack of motivation, energy, or enthusiasm at work
- Exhaustion and Fatigue
- Feeling cynical and disengaged
- Change in sleep/eating patterns
- Reduced proficiency and efficiency
- Feeling ineffective or unaccomplished
- Difficulty focusing and concentrating
What factors contribute to burnout?
- Struggling to juggle unrealistic workloads and responsibilities
- Feeling undervalued and undercompensated
- Being exposed to an ongoing toxic work environment
- Experiencing a lack of support and leadership from management
- Seeing little opportunity for upward mobility or advancement
What else can you do about it?
Burnout spills out into other aspects of your life and can impact your physical and mental health, so it is important to get it under control as soon as possible.
- Share your concerns with your supervisor or your human resources representative
- Compare your regular job description to your daily duties. If what you are doing now is significantly different than what you were hired to do, bring it to your supervisor’s attention.
- Take time off to recharge and refresh yourself
- Reframe how you view work; find more enjoyable and engaging projects and tasks
- Actively and consciously pursue a better work/life balance
- Set boundaries; do not overcommit yourself and learn how to say no
- Speak to a licensed therapist
- Reach out to your family, friends, and co-workers for added support
- Practice self-care and relaxation techniques
- Try to exercise regularly
If circumstances do not improve, you may decide to explore a job or career change.
If you are an employer or supervisor, how can you help?
Burnout can be a systemic organizational issue. Be open to doing an honest assessment of your organizational culture and your leadership style. Left unchecked, burnout will spread throughout your workforce, creating a morale crisis that will affect productivity, quality, retention, customer satisfaction and profitability. It will also negatively impact your reputation as an employer, making it extremely hard to recruit new talent, particularly in the current job market. If an employee broaches this topic with you:
- Listen carefully and empathetically
- Work with them to develop an action plan for alleviating some of the workload
- Analyze your workplace; Are you finding a trend in reports of chronic stress, burnout, unmanageable workloads?
- Revisit job descriptions, staffing, and budgets. Are there ways to reallocate funding to increase compensation, provide training, or hire additional staff?
- Provide tools and resources employees can use to make their jobs more manageable and more enjoyable.
Now more than ever, employers and employees need to be having open dialogue and collaborating on solutions to avoid burnout in the workplace. By creating a culture that cares, your employees will respond with loyalty and longevity.
Loren Smalley is a Career Coach at the Ignite Career Center of JCS.
Whether you are new to the job market or a seasoned professional, the Ignite Career Center, a program of Jewish Community Services, can help you go further and get there faster. Our highly experienced Career Coaches provide individuals of all backgrounds and abilities with the customized services and tools they need to stand out from the competition. To learn more, visit ignitecareercenter.com or call 410-466-9200