It’s all over.
They took everything from the file folders in their desk drawer to the cute little succulent on the windowsill. They’ve left a hole in the office, a hole in your workflow, and in your budget as you scramble to find a replacement.
When fantastic employees quit, it can leave HR managers rushing to find a replacement while wondering if they could have done something different. If you’d recognized the signs of employee burnout, you might have been able to stop them.
Though it can be difficult to spot employee burnout before or while it’s happening, once you know what it looks like, you can take a few basic steps toward prevention.
At its core, preventing burnout-related turnover is about employee engagement, which can be as simple as ensuring your employees feel supported, no matter what area of their job is causing burnout.
Why burnout happens
Burnout is when an employee feels stressed by their work environment, disconnected, or “checked out” from their job, to the point that their performance suffers and they may be driven to quit.
Sure, some work-related stress is normal, as long as it’s fleeting. Burnout is different; it’s a sustained, ongoing pattern that comes in many forms. Employees can burnout on a heavy, intensive workload (the top reason for burnout among North American employees as of 2017), but they can also burnout on people, especially coworkers or managers.
We broke down burnout warning signs in “The Burnout Epidemic Part 1: Why Good Employees Quit.” Today, we’ll focus on solutions—three, in fact—to stop burnout in its tracks.
Let’s get started.
3 ways to combat employee burnout
The most important part of stopping burnout is having a plan in place before an issue arises.
That way, when you realize that an employee is going down the dark road of job stress and a sudden job hop, you won’t feel blindsided. You’ll know you have a method ready to roll out.
Your plan should always start with a form of prevention that, if deployed correctly, will keep you from ever being afraid you’ll lose an employee to burnout in the first place. This form of prevention? Communication.
When you’re in the throes of burnout, it may feel so obvious that you can’t imagine everyone around you doesn’t notice. Burnout creates a persistent feeling of stress that can lead to being short with other employees, demotivation, and procrastination.
If you’re not familiar with this feeling in a professional setting, think back to your school days. I would classify the dreaded “senioritis” as a form of burnout.
While these feelings are overwhelming if you’re the one having them, they can be much harder to identify in someone else. Even if you’re a well-trained HR expert, identifying the difference between a bad day and burnout from a distance is tricky.
This all leads to a rather simple conclusion: Just ask. If you’re worried that an employee is burning out or isn’t as happy as they used to be, talk to them, in person or via email.
The answer might not be burnout; there may be something going on at home or they may just be temporarily swamped. But whatever the answer, knowing that someone sees them and cares is usually enough to give employees a mood boost.
What to do:
Communicating can be difficult, especially when you’re asking awkward questions. I wrote up a quick email template in case you don’t know where to begin; use it to draft a personalized email or to start a conversation in person.
Whatever you say, don’t make your employee feel attacked or insulted. “Hey you look tired!” is not a great opening line, and “Do you think you’re burned out?” sounds a bit harsh.
Don’t put your employees on the spot. Start the conversation naturally and focus on the whole reason you’re having it: You care about them and their job performance and want to help them succeed.
2. Track employee satisfaction
Wouldn’t it be convenient if you could track employee satisfaction on a number scale day to day, staying on top of trends and spotting sudden stress spikes or dips in happiness?
You’d know when to reach out and offer that extra level of support or identify growing problems and stop them before they result in an employee departure.
Though that dream might be asking a bit much, employee engagement software exists, and it’s a great tool that you can use to stay on top of how your employees are feeling, how happy they are at work, and what you can do to help them.
What to do:
The part of employee engagement software that’s going to mean the most for burnout prevention are the reporting features. These features often include a visual reporting feature that lets HR managers see, at a glance, how employees are doing.
Most also include hard data that you can crunch to come to your own conclusions. Then, you can act on that info to gain a better idea of how staff members are performing, and how you can best assist them.
If budget is the only thing holding you back from great employee engagement software, GetApp has a great list of free options. It’s hard to say no to that!
Visual reporting in Motiosity, a popular employee engagement software option (Source)
3. Find out what employees really want
A big part of having an active and engaged staff is offering rewards and benefits that make everyone feel satisfied and appreciated.
How can you figure out what benefits and rewards will motivate your employees? You can read up on it, and you can simply ask them.
Send an email, strike up a conversation, or run a survey. The responses you get may not all be actionable (at our office, we’ve got a running joke about installing nap pods for collective use), but you might find some gems you wouldn’t have come up with on your own.
Be prepared for answers that you may not like, or that may be inconvenient. If a gripe is severe enough that an employee is considering quitting over it, it’s worth addressing in some way.
What to do:
Be ready for your questions to prompt a longer conversation about rewards and benefits. If you really want to promote engagement (and not waste money), you’ll probably need to hold a few meetings to hammer out the finer details of why employees want these things, and try to get the most out of changing your benefits packages.
One great way to get feedback and find out how your employees are feeling is to send out a survey. It’s faster and easier to reference than walking around the office to collect personal stories. This list of popular survey software choices can help you find the best way to poll your team.
How are you lowering your burnout rate?
Have you got a tried and true trick to fighting burnout? A secret weapon? Brag about it in the comments below, or tweet me @CapterraHalden.
And if you want to find a great tech solution to your burnout problems, check out this list of the highest-rated employee engagement software on the market. Your employees are worth it.