Last month, there was a wildly popular NYT article floating around the internet about languish. The article talks about how many of us are feeling a collective emotion that isn’t quite burning out because we still have energy, but it’s not depression because we don’t feel hopeless. Really we are all feeling a bit ‘meh’ which is synonymous with feelings of languish.
It’s important as an employer, manager, or even as an employee to know how to spot those feelings of languish and actively work against them so that you don’t look up and realize that you are burnt out. In the past year and a half during the pandemic, many people have been experiencing higher rates of employee burnout, which could be a result of a combination of work-related, personal, and pandemic-related stress. The NYT article goes on to say that a recent study found that the greatest factor that contributes to daily joy and motivation is progress.
So how do you help employees make progress that leaves them happy and motivated? Well, first you have to know how to spot burnout. It’s worth noting that no employer is perfect, including Speak, but as one of Memphis’ Best Place to Work honorees, we wanted to recognize Global Employee Health and Fitness Month by providing a few recommendations on how to recognize and combat employee burnout.
Signs and Symptoms of Employee Burnout
It’s critical for employees and employers to recognize certain symptoms of employee burnout that may not be as obvious as you’d think, such as:
- Cynicism at work
- Having trouble getting started with tasks
- Becoming irritable with coworkers, customers, or clients
- Lack of energy, consistency, productivity, and concentration
- Changes to sleep habits
- Unexplained headaches or physical problems
If you or a co-worker are experiencing some or all of these symptoms it may be necessary to speak with management, a doctor, or even a mental health provider because these symptoms can also be related to other health conditions like anxiety or depression.
Employee burnout can be a direct result of many different factors, including:
- Lack of control over one’s work schedule, tasks, timeline, or workload
- Unclear job expectations
- Overuse of digital devices
- Dysfunctional work dynamics
- Monotonous or chaotic environments
- Feeling isolated
- Work-life imbalance
As an employee, it’s important that you speak to management about your dissatisfaction in certain areas of your organization in-person or anonymously. Similarly, as an employer, it’s important that you communicate with employees through surveys or one-on-one check-ins to determine their level of happiness and fulfillment in their role and with the organization as a whole.
Ways to Combat Employee Burnout
1. Take Time Off
During busy times when teams are attempting to meet deadlines and complete important tasks, morale tends to decline and stress levels often increase. In this scenario, encouraging employees to actually take time off them can significantly increase morale within the office.
Taking one simple day to completely de-stress during a busy time can make an employee come back feeling refreshed and more motivated to take on new tasks. However, encouraging employees to use time off may be necessary because employees often feel guilty or nervous to ask for time off, especially during busier times. Constant engagement and stress can also create deeper and longer-lasting burnout among employees as they can become apprehensive and resentful toward their tasks if they are running on steam.
Encouraging mental health days will not only make employees feel well-rested and productive, but it will make them more appreciative of the compassion of their team and managers, which can also drive productivity and morale among teams.
2. Practice a Healthy Work-Life Balance
Knowing the importance of work-life balance and actually practicing it are two different things. It can be very easy to work overtime and take work home with you, especially during busy times, but it’s incredibly unhealthy.
Employees should unplug at the end of their workday and disassociate with work until they arrive at the office the next day. It may be easier said than done, but that is why you need to make a conscious effort to leave work at work.
This can be accomplished by leaving your computer at the office and not taking it home with you or by setting an alarm for your intended end time so you don’t overwork yourself. In fact, working overtime consistently and bringing your work home with you can increase stress and, therefore, burnout because you are not allowing your brain any downtime, which can cause you to become cynical about work.
If you work from home, designate a set space for work and work alone and do not mix your personal life with your work life. If you work from the office, it’s a little easier to disassociate but you still need to make an effort to leave work behind when you leave your office building. If necessary, add a transition task to the end of your workday that will help you transition out of your professional life and into your personal life. This could be a 5-minute meditation session, a workout, a long walk, or anything that will help you destress and relax.
3. Be Mindful of Digital Device Overload
One of the main causes of employee burnout can stem from an employee’s constant interaction with digital devices. Computer screens, tablets, and smartphones all have digital displays that emit digital blue light, which is the highest wavelength on the visible light spectrum. Digital blue light can overstimulate the eyes and mind with the potential to cause computer vision syndrome. This can include symptoms like headaches, loss of focus, fatigue, and blurred vision, all of which can contribute to burnout.
To avoid the harmful effects of computer vision syndrome and ultimately burnout, employees can wear glasses that protect against blue light. Our employees love blue light glasses that also have their perscription in them. These glasses have coated lenses that can filter out the high-energy wavelengths that digital blue light emits, in order to protect employees’ eyes from being overstimulated for various hours per day. By protecting their eyes and mind when engaging with digital technology, employees will feel less fatigued and irritated in the long run, which can help them avoid the effects of burnout. In addition to protecting your eyes, being mindful of your screen time outside of work will also prove beneficial.
4. Create Time to Connect
It may seem obvious but creating time for your employees to connect with one another is imperative. Whether it’s having popsicles outside together or making space for fun virtually, those relationships are what keep people at a job. Since it’s often true that we spend more time with our co-workers than our friends and families, taking the time to cultivate relationships at work can result in better collaboration, communication, and overall productivity.
All employees are at risk of becoming burnt out if they are overworked. If employees and their organizations work together to protect employees from mental and physical health problems they will be more productive and happy at work in the future.
We value our employees and our partners.
While it’s true of almost every company that “without our people, we wouldn’t exist,” we have a deep appreciation for the truly exceptional people that make Speak what it is and care to see them thrive. We value our team and in turn, they value our partners. Want to work together?