Burnout is a Systemic Workplace Issue: Four Things Employers Should Do


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Employee burnout existed way before the pandemic. But seeing how COVID-19 introduced new stressors to every aspect of life, it’s no wonder why most of us have reached our breaking point.


About one-third of employees in the Asia Pacific reported escalated levels of stress. According to the 2022 Global Trends Report by Mercer, 85% of Singaporean workers are at risk of severe burnout (1).


The effects of burnout are widespread, as seen through collective health decay to the Great Resignation. That’s why enforcing organizational systems that combat burnout should be among the most critical priorities at this time.


Signs of Employee Burnout Employers should Recognize


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Stanford researchers explored how workplace stress affects health costs and mortality in the United States, they found that it led to costs of nearly $190 billion, and 120,000 deaths each year (2). The American Psychological Association also highlights that burned-out employees are 63% more likely to take a sick day, and 23% more likely to visit the emergency room (3).


Hence, as managers and HR leaders, we need to keep our antennas alert and reach out when employees exude the following signs:

  1. disinterest at workplace

  2. alienation from colleagues

  3. reduced performance

  4. physical symptoms

  5. emotional exhaustion


Generally, if you detect a change in the way someone works, such as repeating errors, consistently missing deadlines, or a sudden absence, extend help immediately. Ultimately, we should be tackling burnout before people enter breakdown mode.


💡For detailed insights about the signs and effects of burnout, read this!


Four Ways Organizations Can Help Employees Combat Burnout


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Once we’ve addressed the signs of workforce burnout, it’s time to take action. Instead of recommending band-aid solutions such as general breathing exercises, it’s time that we tackle the problem from a systemic point of view. And here are four strategies employers can implement to resolve burnout on an organizational level:


1) Educate managers


Managers strongly influence how employees feel at work. Empowered and informed managers don’t just create high-performing teams, they also create a culture of wellness.


Therefore, managers should be equipped with skills to detect and manage burnout amongst themselves and their teams. These skills include setting reasonable expectations, promoting psychological safety, and facilitating collaboration.


2) Revamp organizational culture


When we expect people to work overtime or put work ahead of family, we’re leading people on the highway to burnout. Similarly, a command-and-control or micromanaging culture risks people feeling disrespected and underappreciated.


Organizational culture dictates how employees treat each other and perform. Therefore, when we enforce a culture that champions reasonable hours, flexible workstyles, respectful communication, and inclusivity, employees are more likely to thrive sustainably.


3) Illuminate specific stressors


Many companies today are implementing wellness strategies. But a gap still remains between what companies are offering and what their employees really need. Therefore, 1-1 check-ins or group surveys help identify specific concerns employees are facing.


By auditing specific causes of burnout, companies can then better allocate resources to strategies that will benefit people the most at that time. Whether that’s financial or health support, systemic improvements, or stress-management activities like yoga. Having a safe open-door policy can also help managers gauge stressors that are unique to the employee.


4) Promote flexibility and boundaries


Today, one in two employees is more inclined to stay in a company that provides flexibility and healthcare (1). Hence, if we want to retain our best talent, employers need to embrace flexible work models that align business goals to employees’ needs.


But flexibility also means we need clearer boundaries. Remote workers are more likely to blur the lines between their professional and personal lives. That’s why employers should actively remind people to unplug after work hours and reserve off-time for family or leisure.


Summary


Burnout is preventable and solvable. But organizations and leaders need to act NOW, and from a systemic point of view. With good managerial education, healthier cultures, and better data, we can tackle this herculean task and set model examples for teams worldwide 💪


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Footnotes

  1. 85% of Singaporean workers at risk of extreme burnout | HRD Asia

  2. Workplace Stress Responsible For Up To $190B In Annual U.S. Healthcare Costs

  3. Paying With Our Health | APA





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