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Nearly half of HR leaders say that employee burnout is responsible for up to 50 percent of the company’s turnover, according to a survey from Kronos Incorporated. In addition, ninety-five percent (95%) say employee burnout is sabotaging workforce retention. Think about that for a moment, not only is burnout a cause of turnover, but it’s an obstacle to retention. We know what that means. The area between retention and turnover is disengagement.
“Employee burnout has reached epidemic proportions,” said Charlie DeWitt, vice president of business development at Kronos. “While many organizations take steps to manage employee fatigue, there are far fewer efforts to proactively manage burnout. Not only can employee burnout sap productivity and fuel absenteeism but, as this survey shows, it will undermine engagement and cause an organization’s top performers to leave the business altogether. This creates a never-ending cycle of disruption.”
Unfortunately, there may not be a simple solution to employee burnout, but many factors contributing to it are within the organization’s control.
What is Employee Burnout?
According to World Psychiatry, employee burnout is a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job. The response has three key dimensions: overwhelming exhaustion,feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, andasense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.
It’s important to realize that employee burnout is not typically the result of a single factor, such as working too many hours or having a demanding boss. Employee burnout has complex causes, which is why it’s so costly to individuals and organizations.
The Five Domains of Employee Burnout
There are several organizational risk factors for employee burnout, but five domains have been identified by researchers:
- Values are the ideals and motivations that originally attracted employees to the job. They motivate workers beyond money or advancement. A conflict between individual and organizational values forces a trade-off between work employees want to do and work they have to do.
- Work overload is (obviously) having too much work. When employees have work overload, it weakens the employee’s ability to meet performance goals and leaves little opportunity to rest and recover.
- Control and community become a factor when employees feel they don’t have an influence on decisions that impact them, their work, or their career. And that they don’t feel anyone cares. Employees aren’t looking for absolute control. They understand there’s an organizational hierarchy. But they do want to feel that they have a trusting community of supporters.
- Rewards and recognition show employees that they and their work are valued by the organization. The rewards and recognition can be financial, institutional, social, or a combinationof all three. While rewards and recognition are always important, they are especially so when employees have a lot of work to complete (See #2).
- Fairness refers to work decisions being perceived as fair and equitable. Employees tend to gauge their value on the quality of procedures and their own treatment during the decision-making progress. Not being respected can lead to cynicism, anger, and hostility.
Employee Burnout: The (Negative) Business Outcomes
Employee burnout can negatively impact workers and organizations in three areas: employees, teams, and organizations.
Employee burnout contributes to poor health. Physical exhaustion is the most predictive variable of stress-related health outcomes and is linked to symptoms like headaches, chronic fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders, muscle tension, hypertension, cold/flu episodes, and sleep disturbances.
Team dynamics are impacted when employees experience burnout. It is perpetuated through social interactions, personal conflict, work disruptions. Burnout causes negativity in working relationships.
For organizations, employee burnout is linked to job dissatisfaction, low employee loyalty, absenteeism, disengagement, and turnover. Burnout makes it more likely for workers to leave the company, and those who stay tend to have impaired quality of work and lower productivity.
5 Employee Programs That Can Help Reduce Burnout
To reduce burnout, organizations can implement programs that are directed at the major causes. According to human resources consulting firm Robert Half, here are five ways to enhance retention that could also assist in reducing employee burnout.
- Employee Compensation: In the Kronos survey, forty-one percent of respondents said that unfair compensation was the leading cause of employee burnout. Organizations can distinguish themselves in the job market and address burnout by offering competitive compensation and benefits packages.
- Training and Development: Professional development programs can help employees improve their skills, which benefits employees and organizations alike. It not only helps employees manage challenges but it’s a strong way to hire from within.
- Recognition and Rewards Systems: Organizations can demonstrate appreciation through a heartfelt email message, a gift card, or an extra day off. A small budget shouldn’t discourage managers from recognizing hard work.
- Work-life Balance: Flexible scheduling allows employees to arrive at work later than normal for personal reasons or following a late night of work. Another way to enhance work-life balance is with telecommuting. One study in Harvard Business Review found that remote workers were happier, less likely to quit, and more productive than their in-office peers.
- Mentorship Programs: More experienced employees can mentor colleagues to provide them with the guidance and resources they need. By using peers instead of work supervisors, employees can receive help in a less intimidating environment.
Make an Investment in Reducing Employee Burnout
Employee burnout is a multidimensional response to several risk factors. However, the complicated nature of employee burnout is not the reason it has become one of management’s biggest challenges. According to the Kronos survey, the reason that burnout is a major organizational issue is because organizations are not focused on enhancing retention. Approximately one in six survey respondents said that funding is the biggest obstacle in improving employee retention and engagement.
Which is surprising, because turnover in organizations is costly. Research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests that direct replacement costs can reach up to 60 percent of an employee’s annual salary, with total costs ranging to as much as from 200 percent of annual salary. Given the link between employee burnout and turnover, it’s time for organizations to invest in the employee experience and create programs that will help thrive.24