4 Employee Engagement Strategies to Stop Employee Burnout

07/18/2017 11:42 am ET

Employees are burnt out and it’s negatively affecting workplaces everywhere. In fact, according to a May report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, even though the national unemployment rate has been cut in half since 2010, employees are still overworked and stressed out.

Cynthia Pong, coach and facilitator at Embrace Change Consulting, LLC, believes it’s causing major issues for employees and companies alike.

“It’s a personal issue in that burnout is work-induced depression which is experienced acutely by the individual. It’s an organizational issue in that organizations must address it if they want to survive and flourish,” explained Pong.

According to a Kronos and Future Workplace January survey, nearly half of HR leaders (46 percent) say employee burnout is responsible for up to half of their annual workforce turnover.

Here’s how you can put an end to employee burnout and increase employee engagement:

1. Offer employee support groups

Feeling alone is fuel for the burnout fire racing through organizations. When employees don’t feel supported, they begin questioning if they belong in their current position.

“I used to work at an organization where a significant number of employees suffered from burnout,” Pong shared. “As a result, the pervasive nature of the burnout created an office culture of low employee engagement.”

As employee engagement decreased, so did the quality of work. Even worse, Pong saw a culture of mediocrity spread throughout the business and dampen employee morale.

Tip: Create small discussion groups throughout the organization. The more you build a strong community, the more connected your team members feel to one another. Be sure these groups are truly a safe space by having each group create their own code of ethics. Sharing specific rules will make each person feel free to open up and unload their struggles.

2. Focus on the little things

Everyone reacts differently to burnout. This also means employees need varying solutions for dealing with it.

Lauren McAdams, career advisor and hiring manager at ResumeCompanion.com, witnessed two very different reactions to burnout firsthand.

“One of my co-workers was unable to get much work done, and when he did, the quality was low. Another started missing work regularly,” McAdams explained. “The company wasn't doing very well, and our team leader thought pushing us more was the solution.”

Unfortunately, this made McAdams and the entire team feel like failures. Soon after, she left.

Tip: Pushing employees who are already stressed is never the answer. Show you care by offering little pick-me-ups throughout the day. Encourage employees to go outside for short walks, create fun Friday playlists to help everyone unwind after a busy work week, or even set an afternoon aside for employees to help decorate each other’s offices.

“I always remind people when they get especially stressed: there's always going to be more work, so if you don't finish today, you can pick it back up tomorrow,” McAdams said.

3. Create a personalized work environment

Attempting to create unified work experiences will quickly decrease employee engagement. By creating personalized work experiences, employees feel encouraged, heard, and able to openly communicate with their team.

When Eric Bowen, digital marketing manager for BroadbandSearch, noticed one of his employees was burning out, he realized it was because he needed a personalized work environment.

“Six months after I hired one of our most experienced digital marketers, I noticed his stress levels rising. This was due to role overload. In order to reduce his stress, I removed some of the people from his team and created subgroups,” Bowen said.

This step toward personalization didn’t just help the digital marketer. Bowen noticed the entire team’s stress level decrease as people were able to work more autonomously.

Tip: Have team leaders sit down with each employee individually. Ask them to explore what makes everyone most productive and motivated and what’s holding them back. As employees open up, your leaders will be inspired to create unique experiences for people throughout the organization. While trying to help a few employees, they may end up improved overall employee engagement.

4. Focus on productivity

As it is, your team is doing their best and most are putting enough pressure on themselves. When leaders put more focus on end results than they do productivity, employees feel a weight so immense, some crack.

“We recently launched a new division of the company and put one of our star employees in a leadership role in that position. For reasons outside of this employee’s control, it didn’t go well,” shared David Waring, co-founder of Fit Small Business. “He was working until 11 p.m. at night and all weekend. By the time we shut the division down, he was completely demoralized and burned out.”

As Waring found out, even the most dedicated people can suffer from burnout and decreased employee engagement. When co-workers see a star player struggling, they’ll quickly lose faith in the company as well.

Tip: Waring suggests focusing on employees’ productivity, rather than “vanity metrics,” such as how many hours they put in at the office. It’s important to let your employees know company leaders understand they can only get so much done in one day.

When possible, enforce rules for employees to be out of the office or not sending emails during specific times. While emergencies do arise, they need to know leaders are behind them and support their need for mental rest.

When employee engagement is at an all-time high, your team will feel motivated, productive, and passionate about their work, thus lessening the chances for burnout. Provide them with unwavering support in various forms throughout the workplace. This will get them to a place of mental clarity where they can perform at their best.

How do you help employees avoid burnout and promote employee engagement?

Val Matta is the vice president of business development at CareerShift, a comprehensive job hunting and career management solution for companies, outplacement firms, job seekers and university career centers.

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