Employee burnout is a serious problem for workplaces. It’s like a virus that can spread across your team and entire company.
Specifically, burnout refers to the stress your employees feel, which can lead to diminishing performance, bad company culture, and even their departure. According to Gallup, employees are:
- 63% more likely to request off
- 2.6x likely to actively look for a different job
- 50% as likely to approach their manager to discuss their performance goal
However, you don’t need these statistics to tell you. Just take a look around your workplace. Are your employees enthusiastic about their job or drudging their work?
Unfortunately, companies tend to put a simple band-aid solution by offering “wellness days” or “mental health seminars” to solve employee burnout. Trying to ‘manage’ employee burnout won’t work. For example, encouraging employees to improve their self-talk can work, but it doesn’t address the root cause of employee burnout.
The root cause is that they feel like they are spread too thin, meaning they can’t handle the workload and struggle to hit performance metrics. This leads to stress, anxiety, and guilt.
So instead of looking for creative solutions like mental health seminars, fun social outdoor activities, or other company perks like massage chairs, it’s better to tackle the issue from an operations perspective first.
Make their lives easier by increasing efficiency. When employees feel like they’re hitting their performance goals and doing a great job at what they do, they’re less likely to feel burnt out.
However, this doesn’t mean ignoring HR-related objectives. For example, you should still set a great company culture, enforce a positive work environment and help your employees reach their own professional goals. But, addressing employee burnout should be done by first fixing its root cause.
Let’s dive into how you should really solve the employee burnout problem.
What are the Reasons for Employee Burnout for Your Organization?
We need to clarify the problems and understand why employee burnout exists in the first place. Once you can identify which problems your employees are facing, you can quickly address them.
Leadership sets lofty objectives, while directors set the strategy to carry out these goals. Managers can break down these strategies into tasks for employees to do. However, often, leadership doesn’t consider the time it’ll take to complete a given project or hit their desired goal.
Marketing is a great example of this. How long does it take for marketers to set up a completely new marketing campaign or build an entire nurturing sequence?
Managers break down all the little tasks that are required in each project. A marketing campaign means setting up a landing page, writing the ad copy, gathering testimonials, and many other small details.
So how can you solve this problem? Be realistic with allocating tasks. Try to track their time to see how long these projects take. And if the work is too much to hit your goals, it’s time to make their lives easier or extend the deadlines. You can delegate the tasks or hire more people to help them with the project, which lightens their workload. Or you can even invest in automation tools.
For example, let’s say you want your marketer to create an entirely new marketing campaign. Rather than throwing more work onto his already busy schedule, you should find ways to alleviate some of the responsibilities in his job description.
You could hire freelancers from other countries to do the small tasks. For example, managing social media, posting, replying to comments, reaching out to publications, and other lower-value tasks can be outsourced or easily delegated.
Failure to Track Resource Allocation
If you don’t track your employee’s time allocated to tasks or your budgets on various resources, how can you identify the problem in the first place?
It’s important for leaders to put processes and technology in place to track employees' time spent on tasks. This lets you know exactly how your team members are spending their time while contributing to their company.
Are your sales reps spending time manually finding leads online? If so, you’re bleeding inefficiency. Why not invest in a technology that can compile leads for you, so your sales reps can focus on selling rather than finding leads?
The first step is to track where all of your resources are going. How is your budget being spent? If you’re wasting money on outdated marketing channels like radio, that might be a reason why your marketing team isn’t seeing the ROI you’re looking for.
Not Given Resources
It’s typical for managers to expect a lot from their employees without providing them with sufficient resources to accomplish their goals. Leaders tend to generate lofty forecasts and estimates that are grounded in data.
For example, let’s say you have an external team of content marketers. You can tell them to produce X number of blogs this month.
Simply telling them what to do isn’t enough. You need to ensure they have all the tools and resources to succeed. Additionally, they should be given examples of how the blogs should turn out. The content writer may need SEO research tools, editing software, brand assets, and even writing guidelines to help them produce high-quality blogs more efficiently. The key is to determine what tools, training materials and technology can help employees complete tasks efficiently.
Inflexibility in Schedules
If the covid 19 pandemic has taught us anything, it has made companies evolve to remote working quickly. Enforcing strict work policies such as rigid office hours can lead to mental burnout and emotional resentment.
Pushing your employees too hard makes them less productive and even less likely to stick around. It’s even worse if your employees are constantly working extra hours to achieve their performance goals.
One study found that working overtime, specifically 11 hours or more per day, increased the risk of experiencing a depressive episode. Too much work means your employees don’t have enough time to recover and perform wellness activities such as exercising or socializing.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the results of a recent survey that showed that more workers are choosing to work part-time. Workers are likely craving more flexibility from their normal jobs and switching to part-time as a way to preserve their flexibility along with their sanity and health.
By not giving your employees the flexibility they want, your retention rates will fall. This can lead to a bad company reputation and cause other employees to leave.
Solutions to Reduce Burnout in Your Organization
Now that we’ve tackled some of the problems, you can take surveys or simply have conversations with your workers to understand their concerns. As managers, it’s important to have honest conversations with your workers so that you can create a positive work environment.
Accuracy in Your Resource Capacity Data
Resource capacity planning and tracking are about comparing future resources against the available capacity to work. This means you’ll need to know how much given time there is and what resources are available for the project.
First, you’ll need to identify estimates such as:
- Scope of the project
- Tasks and subtasks needed from each role
- Resources (who is doing the work and what do they need to get the job done)
- Task dependencies (what needs to be done before the next step can be started)
Once you’ve outlined the tasks, you want to take time to evaluate these estimates. Before assigning projects to your team, ask yourself:
- Do we have the capacity to complete the work in the allotted time?
- Are there enough material resources available to complete this project?
If the answer is no to any of the above, you’ll need to adjust your resource allocation.
If resources are an issue, you’ll want to consider the following possible solutions:
Project management tools: PMs are tools that allow your team to collaborate on projects. Your entire marketing department might work on a project management system. For example, the paid advertising team looking to launch a new lead generation campaign might delegate tasks such as:
- Create landing page
- Create email nurture campaigns
- Write ad
- Develop different ad creatives
- Manage ad campaigns on Google or Facebook
Some employees will have task dependencies. For example, the ad manager can’t launch the ad or manage the campaign's targeting and budget before all the other steps are completed.
Project management tools can track the time it takes for each task to be completed, notify team members when the task dependency has been met, and organize the tasks and projects by priority.
Automation: Automation is one of the easiest ways to eliminate minor tasks. Sales reps should spend less time finding leads and more time selling. Marketers don’t need to send manual emails or personalize each one. Marketing automation and email marketing software can segment and personalize emails automatically. They can even score leads and send targeted emails based on their interest level. The idea is to automate minuscule tasks, so your employees can focus on the highest leverage activities.
Outsourcing: If your employees lack a particular skill set or things could be better done elsewhere, consider outsourcing. Perhaps, your marketing team lacks certain skill sets, such as social media marketing or PPC campaigns. Instead, you can hire an external agency to help offload the work. Hiring professionals who are skilled at their craft are likely to achieve better results. This reduces your employee's workload and the stress placed on their shoulders.
Eliminate: Many leaders forget to set priorities for their employees. Multi-tasking is a myth and should be avoided. Remember that for every project or task you take on, there is an opportunity cost to forgo doing something else.
For example, if you are seeing great results with content marketing and PPC ads, you should double down on that. While you may be tempted to try social media marketing, your resources may be better allocated to PPC and search engine marketing, especially if you’re on a timeline or require a specific return on investment. Focus a portion of your budget early on for experimenting but make sure you have the timeline and resources allocated instead of shifting rapidly between advertising platforms. If you can eliminate tasks or projects altogether, consider removing them from your employee’s to-do list. Your team should focus on one task at a time than a million projects.
Build an Onboarding and SOPs for Each Role
No matter your company size, you’ll need to create an onboarding process to bring on new members. New employees quickly experience employee burnout when they are overloaded with information. It’s easy for managers to unload a lot of information in the first week of the job.
Instead, it’s best to systemize your employee's learning. Use a platform that can facilitate your onboarding. For example, employees can learn from training modules and assignments in sequential order.
Rather than giving them everything at once, your employees should practice each responsibility.
For example, sales reps can spend the first week of training on product knowledge. They’ll spend some time watching videos and in-person lectures. Then, they can complete assignments to demonstrate the knowledge they retained.
The second week might entail how to run discovery calls. And week three could be how to run demo calls.
The point is to break down your onboarding process into smaller bite-sized chunks with SOPs for each responsibility. A demo called should have SOPs such as a template for how the call should run. It might entail finding the prospect's pain points and showing how your solution addresses them.
Ideally, you’ll want to create an onboarding system that combines learning with follow-up action. People learn differently, but most people learn more effectively by doing. Giving your new employees conceptual theory and lectures only confuses them and quickly increases the odds of burnout.
Proper training will put your employees in a position to succeed, making them less likely to feel that they are inept for the job.
Build and Integrate Your Training Materials Into Everyday Work
Make your employees' lives easier. It’s common for employees to procrastinate and feel stressed when they see their to-do’s as one big project.
Telling your marketers to create a successful marketing campaign is extremely broad. Instead, you’ll need to develop training materials and instructions within your project management system.
This gives employees a step-by-step process on how they should be performing their tasks. Spending time thinking about how to do each task is mentally draining and reduces efficiency. The goal is to reduce complexity in your business so your employee's time is spent on execution.
Let’s say you’re copywriters are struggling to produce specific types of copy. You can create training materials on how to write each specific type of copy, such as landing pages, emails, ads, service pages, and even content.
Everything should be clear and concise. Even better, you can also create video tutorials that explain the thought process behind the steps. You can further simplify the process by providing AI-writing assistant tools, so they receive ideas that can help them write more efficiently.
Any task that will be repeated should have a training module. These will act as guidelines to allow your employees to produce structured and high-quality work while eliminating the stress of coming up with new ideas independently.
Flexible Scheduling Asynchronous Work
Asynchronous work is a schedule where employees can work individually anytime. It means individuals can complete their tasks or project without communication, allowing workers to respond when convenient.
Furthermore, asynchronous work allows individuals to engage in deep work, eliminating interruptions and distractions. No more having to deal with co-workers inviting you out for lunch or to grab coffee downstairs. This can lead to company gossip and simply distract you from completing your tasks.
Having an asynchronous schedule allows your employees to work when it’s most suitable for them or when they feel the most productive. It allows them to work on tasks according to their personal responsibilities.
For instance, they may have to visit a doctor during the workday or pick up their kids from school daily. Rather than needing to skip part of the workday, asynchronous schedules give them the option to build their schedule to fit their needs.
Here’s why asynchronous work schedules are better:
- Provide employees with autonomy: Employees feel like they’re in control of their schedule
- Recruit and retain better talent: more employees will be attracted to a flexible schedule, giving you a wider pool of talent to choose from.
- Avoid rush hour: Avoid wasting hours daily in traffic, making employees feel happier and less stressed. They can work whenever they’re most productive: Some people are more productive later in the day than others.
- Fit their personal needs: They can attend their kid’s important school events, take a break when needed, or attend other personal matters.
Treat Individuals as Individuals
Every individual is unique. Some people like to work in groups; others like to work in isolation. Also, some employees are morning people, while others are night owls.
Many introverted people take more initiative and generate better ideas when working alone. Introverts prefer working in solitude and thinking things through their mind rather than socializing. Some researchers have suggested that introverts are more sensitive to dopamine, which insinuates that they need to be alone to recharge, while extraverts feel rewarded, which increases cognitive and motivation with more social activity.
Conversely, extroverts like to collaborate with others and exchange ideas. They get motivated by being around others which helps them to be more productive.
Also, not everyone is a morning person. Some people have a genetic predisposition to work at night. A scientist even located the gene for this predisposition, affecting their circadian rhythm.
Many neurological studies have found that the brains of early birds and night owls work differently. Early birds find their peak productivity in the morning, while night owls tend to hit their stride in the afternoon or evenings.
While genetics play a role, sometimes life circumstances do as well. A parent who has kids may learn to be productive at night after putting their kids to bed. In contrast, people prefer early mornings to prevent the stimulus of potential distractions such as emails and slack notifications.
As a leader of your organization, it’s important to provide flexibility to allow individuals to work when they feel most alert and in an environment that suits their needs. As a result, your employees will have better odds of getting things done, feeling less stressed, and avoiding burnout.
The Value of Operations Consulting
Employee burnout can have devastating effects on your business. While physical and mental wellness programs are important, they won’t address burnout directly. Workers will still stress out about the excessive workload or impossible deadlines they have to meet.
Employees want to succeed at their job. However, sometimes they lack the training, resources, or operational structure to perform their best. It’s the leader’s responsibility to make their life easier by coming up with solutions.
Operations consulting aims to solve employee burnout by tracking and creating new processes to allow for increased efficiency. A one-time mental health webinar won’t cut it. It requires a system in place to ensure predictability.
Universal Creative Solutions offers operations consulting services. We evaluate your current operations to see which aspects can be improved. For some, it might be upgrading to better project management tools, while for others, it may be hiring external agencies to reduce the workload of your employees.
We focus on building the right operations strategy to boost productivity and eliminate employee burnout. As a result, your business will increase the chances of reaching your objectives and employee retention. Schedule a free consultation to learn more about how we can help.