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4 ways leaders can prevent burnout in the workplace


While ensuring employees feel comfortable discussing mental health and workplace burnout is a great start to addressing a company culture of burnout, there is more to it than mere communication. Leaders are ultimately responsible for protecting and preserving their present and future workforce.


Before workplace burnout can be addressed, it is important for leaders to know how to accurately identify an employee who is coming close to, or has already passed, this point. An empathetic leader can recognise changes in their employees’ behaviour that may be indicative of a pending burnout such as lower levels of motivation, irritability, and reduced energy and efficiency.


According to the National Library of Medicine, “burnout is a psychological syndrome that emerges as a prolonged response to chronic interpersonal stressors on the job.” There are three key dimensions of this response: overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job; a sense of ineffectiveness; and lack of accomplishment.


To have a successful and effective workplace culture, boost employee engagement and strengthen the resiliency of the organisation, there are several practices that leaders can implement to help mitigate employee burnout.


1. Communicate policies and procedures


It is essential to create and, most importantly, implement clear policies and procedures regarding workload and workplace processes. Policies and procedures are excellent to have but if employees are not aware of them, the impact it has is less meaningful. Organisations should have in place an employee handbook that is easily accessible to the team members. The less time employees need to spend trying to figure out what to do, the more beneficial the processes work in the favour of the organisation. When the opposite is true, it can often result in what is known as “decision fatigue,” causing undue stress on co-workers and resulting in unnecessary mistakes in the long run. Having clear, organised policies and procedures can reduce workload and time needed to complete tasks, ensure tasks are done correctly and help eliminate confusion and stress.


2. Implement flexible schedules


Organisations should consider implementing flexible working hours in the new world of work as there are employees simultaneously juggling work, childcare, or supporting other family members. Many organisations have realised that the traditional 9 – 5 no longer exists due to the rise of remote work and that employees can be productive no matter their location. It is important for leaders to offer their employees leeway when it comes to setting their schedules to avoid burnout, fatigue, and dissatisfaction. In return, employees will feel trusted, heard and appreciated, and an essential part of the organisation's success.


3. Offer benefits


At the moment, organisations need to mobilise and do everything they can to support their employees by offering benefits that truly make a difference in their lives. Health and wellness benefits are becoming more and more important, and organisations should consider implementing wellness initiatives that allow employees to take advantage of stress-relieving offerings such as exercise, yoga, meditation, and personal health coaching. Leaders can also offer other perks to their employees such as offering an extra day off. Not only will offering beneficial perks help employees to unwind from the daily stress, but it will also allow them to prioritise themselves and return to work with a refreshed mindset.


4. Set workload boundaries


Leaders can help prevent burnout from happening by implementing changes in the way the organisation operates and setting better workload boundaries and guidelines. The benefits of this are twofold. Having clear workload boundaries allows leaders to better plan and carry out projects and assignments. It also reassures employees that they do not need to have unrealistic expectations of the work volume that they need to handle to satisfy their job requirements. This alleviates stress because employees see that leaders value the balance between wellness and productivity. Workplace boundaries can be better managed by limiting the number of large projects an employee is permitted to be a part of at one time, avoiding adding work email to mobile devices, creating guidelines for meetings to make them as productive as possible or relaxing the guidelines in other areas to allow for better work and home life balance (e.g., offering flexible schedules or remote work arrangements).


At the core of employee engagement is a sense of employee autonomy and control. When leaders allow employees to contribute, be creative, and make decisions they will feel more invested in their work and therefore will be more engaged. It is essential to allow employees to have “downtime” where they can give back to their lives outside of work. This helps prevent burnout by revitalising them physically and emotionally.


At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering training and development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops, and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at simon@askacumen.com.


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