The Burnout Prophecy

July 18, 2022

Brightly colored matches in a box.

Something’s coming. A wave set to hit the workforce with an impact that will make the Great Resignation look like a ripple. A perfect storm of contributing factors like inflation, wage stagnation and the pandemic have whipped up a tsunami that goes by the name of “Burnout.”

And it is about to emerge as a significant driver for those leaving the workforce — as well as those looking to hire.   

Leaving hard earned career equity to become a furniture craftsman or organic farmer sounds romantic, but there are serious repercussions for both employee and employer. Yet the percentage of candidates we speak to who want to leave it all behind is significantly on the rise. There are many compounding factors that are leading to a surge in employee burnout. Let’s look at a few. .    

Why Burnout is Booming

When people are open to giving up hard-earned titles and compensation you realize how challenging today’s work environment has become. 

Most people actually love their chosen profession. Candidates are looking for safe harbors in their careers. They want to thrive and progress. The most common answer over the last 16 years when asked why a candidate was looking to make a move usually wasn’t anything specific. The common answer often goes something like this, “It just doesn’t feel the same here any longer. I’m just not feeling it. It’s a general lack of direction.” 

But beyond that common refrain lie the key drivers of employee burnout:

  • Lack of control
  • Lack of opportunity
  • Wage stagnation
  • Dysfunctional culture
  • Unclear expectations
  • Lack of work/life balance

According to the Mayo Clinic, all the leading causes of job burnout can be addressed by employers. Each item on the list above is something an engaged employer can positively affect with some planning and well-delivered execution. Employers have the power to stop the rising tide of burnout. But they have to put in the effort.

As we emerge from the pandemic, we’ve begun to see that effort being made by companies across the country, with positive moves being made and productive changes being implemented to address employee needs. The dearth of talent found in most sectors in the wake of the past few years have pushed organizations to adapt and adjust to meet people where they are. That includes things like remote work, time shifting, and broader benefits. Is it enough to stave off the burnout wave? Time will tell. But here’s how you can help. 

How to Stave off Burnout

Companies have to deliver on a business plan or client deliverable. Your employees are the ones that execute that deliverable. They are the ones that drive results. Happy employees equals a thriving business. But how to begin the battle against burnout? Perhaps The Mayo Clinic’s list of some of the common causes is a good place to start.

  • Lack of control. An inability to influence decisions that affect your job — such as your schedule, assignments or workload — could lead to job burnout. So could a lack of the resources you need to do your work. Companies need to ensure that they are giving their employees the tools, technology and training they need to do their jobs, as well as the autonomy to manage their own time.
  • Unclear job expectations. If you're unclear about the degree of authority you have or what your supervisor or others expect from you, you're not likely to feel comfortable at work. Companies can combat this by clearly defining roles from the job description onward. Regular employee-led and scheduled check-ins allow the employee to get clarity on their role and their tasks without the feeling of being “called on the carpet.”
  • Dysfunctional workplace dynamics. Perhaps you work with an office bully, or you feel undermined by colleagues. Maybe your boss micromanages your work. This can contribute to job stress. Managers need to take an active, proactive role in team dynamics. Take the temperature of your employees on a regular basis, and make swift course corrections when morale begins to slip.
  • Extremes of activity. When a job is monotonous or chaotic, you need constant energy to remain focused — which can lead to fatigue and job burnout. Companies can address this by scheduling wisely, allowing ample time for mental and physical breaks both during the shift and during the working week.
  • Lack of social support. If you feel isolated at work and in your personal life, you might feel more stressed. Smart employers develop activities, projects and programs that promote team unity and a flat hierarchy, giving everyone a voice and the opportunity to use it.
  • Work/life imbalance. If your work takes up so much of your time and effort that you don't have the energy to spend time with your family and friends, you might burn out quickly. Companies who implement policies like no emails outside of office hours might find that not only does morale improve, but so might productivity, as your team returns to work well-rested and refreshed.

Successfully battling burnout means managers need to lead with empathy, implementing an open-door policy so employees can freely discuss their challenges and needs at any time. Managers should regularly and proactively ask “how are you doing?” or “what do you need right now to do your job well?” Staffing-up or even sharing long-term staffing plans can help employees understand the bigger picture; that it may be busy now, but there is a plan to appropriately and sustainably staff-up.  

Burnout isn’t good for anyone. It contributes to poor health and rising healthcare costs, worse work outcomes, bad company culture, and poor customer service. It’s a losing situation for everyone.  Our managers are on the frontlines and our greatest asset to address burnout. Let’s give them the tools and awareness they need to turn that coming wave into a ripple.  

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Drop me a line or give me a ring. // 218-590-4448

Photo by Georg Eiermann on Unsplash

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