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Look out for burnout

A new survey from salary benchmarking site Emolument has found that employees earning the least are the most likely to suffer from ‘burnout’ at work. In fact, a whopping 92% of those earning under £20,000 per year said they had actually experienced burnout. And although there are undoubtedly stresses in higher management and leadership roles (as they say, it’s tough at the top) the further up the salary scale respondents were, the less likely they were to feel burntout.

What do we actually mean when we say ‘burnout’?

It’s tempting to say burnout is what you experience when you feel, ‘you just can’t take it anymore.’ But really, it’s more than that. We all have those frustrated moments but real burnout is when that’s a continuous state of mind and being.

Burnout is a combination of three chronic states: exhaustion, poor performance and cynicism. And if you’re wondering what the signs are, any of the following might indicate an employee heading for burnout:

  • Indifference to work
  • Frustration with work problems
  • Constant irritability
  • Confrontational communication (inc. anger, sarcasm, argumentativeness)
  • Working excessively long hours
  • Absenteeism

Tips to help avoid burnout in your team

The causes of burnout can include excessive pressure and expectations, conflicting or ambiguous demands, a lack of support, a lack of resources, and too-tight deadlines. All these can contribute to pushing anyone towards ‘the edge’. To avoid employee burnout, consider the following:

  • Agree clear definitions of roles, responsibilities and expectations
  • If you find you cannot stick to that agreement, renegotiate (don’t just impose unilateral changes)
  • Implement a workplace culture of support and wellbeing (i.e. emphasise health, work-life balance, etc.)
  • Consider your policies on flexible working
  • Where possible assign responsibilities that match employees’ interests and enthusiasms (not always possible but even 5% of somebody’s day spent on something they genuinely enjoy can make a difference)
  • Carry out an employee survey or other consultation to find out how people view their stress levels, health, job satisfaction, etc
  • If workload goes up and resources don’t then at the very least acknowledge that the job will take longer

If you’re wondering how at risk your business is, the Emolument survey found that some sectors were more prone to burnout than others, with healthcare being the joint worst with services, tourism and restaurants (82%), then construction and real estate (77%), banking and financial sectors (56%), energy, mining and chemicals (55%) and finally, insurance (51%).

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