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Employee Burnout

How to keep your best people, to help your business thrive.

This is the first of a 3-part series on burnout…something we are seeing and hearing a lot about right now!

Before I started my own business, I had a very successful career going, and a track record of creating outstanding business results. I was asked to bring my lens and expertise to bigger topics and greater challenges. I loved this opportunity! I loved to be thrown into the deep end of the pool of new challenges, and figuring it out… and for a long time… that fueled me!

Then the growth of the company stalled.

With little potential for growth, turf wars among the executive team became the norm… So a lot of time and energy was spent navigating office politics and personalities. I got a new boss who didn’t understand the work of the team they were leading, and they struggled to say no to anything. Great work was rewarded… with more work and no additional resources.

I found myself more and more drained. I was going home at night with almost a solitary focus on recharging my battery enough to return the next day. Vacations became my escape and the only time I truly refueled.

Over time, I noticed that I couldn’t eat anything in the first few hours of the day, without upsetting my digestive tract. In fact, it was so gradual that I thought I was simply transitioning to not being a breakfast person. It wasn’t until I was on vacation in Mexico, and 3 days in, I noticed that I no longer had any digestive issues. That was my wakeup call, that the work stress was manifesting in physical ways and was unsustainable.

I didn’t realize at the time, but I was in stage 3 of burn out.

It was an awful place to be. I learned a ton out of that experience. In the end, I wouldn’t change a thing.

This experience is part of what has set me on this path to unleash the human potential in companies in a way that everyone wins… the employee, the customer & the business.

I’ve seen the impact to the individual and the business when burnout is taking hold, that is why I’m passionate about this topic!

And let me be clear, this isn’t about choosing business performance OR employee wellbeing. It’s about driving business performance THROUGH employee wellbeing. It is a symbiotic relationship verses an “OR”

What do we mean by employee burnout?

Employee burnout happens when your employees become exhausted. While this deep seated exhaustion has traditionally been in the workplace, in today's world, it relates to anything having to do with work.

What is burnout? It is a psychological process and occurs due to prolonged stress or excessive work hours. If excessive stress feels like you’re drowning in responsibilities and overwhelmed… burnout is a sense of being all dried up. What are the signs of burnout?

  • Emotional, mental & physical exhaustion.

  • Disengagement

  • Increased absenteeism

  • Isolation

  • Higher sensitivity to feedback

  • Emergence of physical symptoms

  • Decreased productivity

75% of people have experienced burnout in their career. Are you experiencing burnout right now? You aren’t alone, 40% of people say they have experienced it during the pandemic.

True employee burnout is more than needing a temporary break from work or feeling briefly worn down by an intense project. It’s a state of chronic job stress that results in overall exhaustion and a defeatist attitude that negativity affects an employee’s personal and work life. Why care about employee burnout? Why does it matter?

Well… it turns out, if employees are burnt out, they aren’t engaged!

Any opportunity for increased productivity, improved customer satisfaction, greater innovation, and higher quality work that are realized through highly engaged employees is all wiped out with employee burnout!

Right now, we are starting to see the biggest impact of all; Retention.

We saw something similar after the 2008 economic recession. People sheltered in role until the economic fears subsided, then they left in droves. The Wall Street Journal did an article on this recently, that people are quitting at rates not seen in 2 decades! It’s here, and it hasn’t even peaked yet. The peak will come this fall.

The cover of an HR executive calls it the Turnover Tsunami, others are calling it the Great Resignation.

Forecasts call for between 25% and 41% attrition by the end of 2021. Over 75% of people have said they are looking for new jobs. The bottom line, we knew this would happen. And yet… it is far exceeding expectations.

Why is employee burnout peaking now? And why at unprecedented levels?

Typically, employee burnout can happen for any number of reasons. The typical drivers are:

  • Work- life imbalance

  • Unrealistic work expectations. Perfectionism, no room for error. As people were let go and no one hired to take their place, people have been expected to do more with less… similar to 2008.

  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics

  • Being in an emotionally draining profession

  • Feeling out of control.

Not only are all the typical reasons for burnout at play, they are multiplied by the pandemic.

Work- life balance became much more blurred as people worked from home, couldn’t escape home, so they worked more.

Healthcare workers, teachers, funeral homes have all been exceptionally draining professionals under normal conditions, much less these past 18 months. And really, most work became much more draining. Think about grocery store workers, postal employees, all those on the front lines of this pandemic that were in roles that had not typically been draining. Work in general became more draining as you worried about safety, or even having a job.

When in our lives have we felt less in control? Between distance learning, concern for health and safety, and now… the delta variant?

Return to office plans are an added stressor for some people. Either because they don’t know, or they don’t like, the plans and are simply opting out.

As the unprecedented turnover continues at companies, you have lots of new people, probably still not enough people… to do the work.

But wait. There’s more.

We have unprocessed trauma and grief from 2020. We were all handling as much as we could handle, so our brains protected us by having us focus on what was in front of us and survive. Much of our processing of what we were going through was compartmentalized and put on hold until we could process it. In 2021, we were starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel so, finally, we were in a place to start dealing with the trauma and stress…. except most people haven’t realized that need. Many companies haven’t recognized that need. That unprocessed grief, trauma and stress added to everything else is a TOP driver of the unprecedented burnout happening right now.

Then add uncertainty that the delta variant is providing JUST when many thought they were reclaiming some normalcy. It really doesn’t feel like there is an end in sight.

I realize this is a bummer place to leave you, my apologies. In our next of the 3-part series, we will cover the 5 stages of burnout. In the last of the series, we will discuss what you can do to address burnout.

Interested in exploring what’s next for your organization? Schedule a no-obligation 30-minute strategy call with Heather by clicking here.

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