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Support your ‘always-on’ workforce

Remember when a full-time job was 40 hours a week? It may still say “40” in the contract, but the reality of the modern world – linked up, fully connected, never ‘off’ – is that most full-timers are putting in a lot more than that.

Another indicator of the always-on culture is presenteeism, or turning up to work even when sick (not good for the individual’s performance, and not good for their colleagues if the illness is infectious). And ultimately, at the end of this road lies the possibility of burnout, when previously good workers just can’t take it anymore…

So what can you, as an employer, do? You may be reaping some benefits in terms of extra hours worked but you’re also subject to heightened risks, both of individuals folding, and a longer term impact on your reputation as an employer.

Anti-burnout tips for employers

As first steps in the right direction, try the following:

  • Reasonable expectations – Check your job descriptions, what do you expect of each person’s role? This isn’t just a question of can that person do that particular job, it’s also about taking a broader view and looking at how all the jobs fit together. Is the allocation of responsibilities efficient? Are there points with too much resting on one person? How can you structure the responsibilities so that the jobs support each other?
  • Provide training – Not only training in job responsibilities (though that is, of course, essential) but also in softer skills like communication and teamworking, thereby encouraging a more supportive workplace.
  • Transparency – Your high performers are more likely to put in extra hours. After all, they have the carrot of promotion and career progression to aim for. However, that deserves honesty about their likely career prospects (unrealistic expectations lead to disappointment which leads to burnout and disengagement). Be clear about job objectives and goals, and about how achieving those can translate into ‘getting on’.
  • Performance management – People have a fundamental need to know how they’re doing. And if they’re putting in extra hours, they’ll want some recognition for that effort. Regular performance reviews and feedback enable you to show some appreciation, and also to talk about hours worked and results achieved.
  • Encourage health and wellbeing – Fit, healthy employees are less likely to burn out, it’s as simple as that. Supporting a healthy workforce might include providing information on diet, encouraging exercise, setting up fun games and competitions (which can boost teamwork too), and providing fresh fruit in the staff kitchen. Another part of wellbeing is a good work-life balance and knowing what that overused phrase means to each member of your team is the first step to helping them achieve it.

Finally, don’t forget to lead by example. None of the above will have any impact if the boss is in his or her office 15 hours a day, stressed out and eating endless donuts.

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