A misconception we’ve heard enough times can become a belief. One such belief many people in business have accepted is that employee burnout is the result of sheer overwork. In truth, its causes are much more nuanced.
Gallup research shows that burnout is often the result of more factors than the number of hours someone works. It’s about fair treatment, the nature of relationships with managers and workload distribution.
While you no doubt care about your employees’ well-being, you also have productivity and business efficiency to consider. How should you balance these potentially conflicting priorities?
Let’s review strategies for preventing employee burnout while keeping your client work on track.
One of the first preventative measures that may come to mind is to encourage employees to maintain work-life balance by offering flexible working hours. While this approach can be aligned with less risk of burnout for some, it’s not necessarily the most proactive approach.
According to a 2020 Grand Canyon University study, 32.8% of businesspeople identified personal perfectionism as the biggest barrier to work-life balance, and 24.2% of them selected company culture as the problem. Thus, stating that your business believes in work-life balance or giving people control over their time isn’t enough — you have to put policies in place that help your employees overcome these intangible barriers.
One such policy that’s becoming more popular, especially among remote companies, is mandatory time off (MTO) or minimum paid time off (PTO). Instead of giving people a maximum number of days they’re allowed off in a year, you require that they take at least a certain amount. By granting explicit permission to step away from work, you eliminate the guilt that some people feel about using vacation time and reduce the chances of supporting a workaholic company culture.
TIP: Time off and flexible hours are a great move, but there’s another vacation-related element that greatly impacts an individual’s ability to achieve work-life balance: how the rest of the team handles the workload while they’re gone. When one person is out of the office, company-wide protocol should state that they will not be contacted about work matters. Other team members should be given the tools and managerial support to handle their colleague’s work as necessary. Returning from a period of time off shouldn’t be overwhelming.
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The aforementioned Gallup research tells a clear story about the importance of good leadership in employees’ overall happiness. And it makes sense: The people with whom you spend your time are just as crucial to your success in work as in other areas of life.
One of the most impactful tools at a manager’s disposal is personal attention. When people feel someone is there to listen to their concerns — even if not to immediately solve the underlying problem — their stress levels go down.
The value of one-to-one meetings
*️⃣ Monthly one-to-ones reduce the likelihood of burnout by 39%
*️⃣ Biweekly one-to-ones reduce the likelihood of burnout by 84%
- 2020 Global Culture Study, O.C. Tanner Institute
If you’re aiming to avoid employee burnout and help your team maintain an effective pace, invest in leadership training and fill any gaps in your hierarchy with people who care about building strong connections with direct reports. You’ll see higher employee engagement and, ultimately, less turnover.
Smart resource allocation is another key component of employee well-being. Your team could have all the time off and support they need, but they won’t be able to avoid burnout if there’s simply too much to be done and not enough hands on deck.
Even if your employees say they can handle more, they don’t have the perspective offered by productivity or utilization data to understand how their time fits into the business’s goals overall. To fairly assign work and determine when you need to hire, it’s best to opt for numbers over gut instinct.
Collecting the necessary data to support these informed decisions starts with time tracking. When you track billable and non-billable hours, preferably as they apply to each type of task, project and client, you’ll no longer have to guess about how much each person is — or should be — accomplishing.
Today’s employees need and expect digital support to do their jobs. They also look forward to using new tech at work: 43% of respondents in a 2021 Hyperscience report said the employee experience was the most important aspect of technological advancement in the workplace, and 81% believe automation can support more meaningful work.
Employers should pay attention to the potential of this widespread optimism. It’s a sign that there are plentiful opportunities to tighten workflows and reduce bottlenecks with employees’ willing participation. Taking steps towards full digital transformation can make your business more efficient and profitable while making your people happier and less at risk for burnout.
KEEP IN MIND: Your team doesn’t need just any software platforms to be productive — they need the ones that make sense for your industry and their role. In a client-based business, it’s beneficial to seek cross-departmental visibility and customizable automation options rather than singular functionality. Disjointed platforms will only serve to frustrate your employees.
Accelo is the client work management platform that supports professional services businesses seeking results minus the stress. With a free trial or a demo, you can learn how far consolidated tech can go in making your employees feel supported and helping them perform at their best.