The outsourcing industry is notorious for demanding jobs and stressful environments. Most employees would jump from one job to another to find a workplace that's less toxic than the last. If you're one of the top executives or floor managers in an outsourcing company, how would you prevent and manage employee burnout? Here are a few suggestions from all over the web.
Definition and Stages of Burnout
One of the research papers on burnout defines this condition as "a syndrome characterized by chronic exhaustion, cynicism, and a lack of personal accomplishment. It is usually defined as '...a state of exhaustion in which one is cynical about the value of one's occupation and doubtful of one's capacity to perform' (Maslach, Jackson, & Leiter, 1996, p. 20).
According to Girdin, Everly, and Dusek (1996), there are 3 stages of burnout.
People usually notice something is wrong during stage 3. Some experts say the stages of burnout could reach up to 12. But, in the end people who are experiencing this will notice they have a problem only when they're feeling pain and other physical symptoms. The good news is these stages occur sequentially, and the process can be stopped any time.
How to Prevent and Manage Employee Burnout
Some people have that sinking feeling in their stomach every time they think of the amount of work waiting for them at the office. Others would try to be as inconspicuous as possible in meetings, and leave the office as soon as possible to avoid doing overtime work. These are the early signs of developing burnout. At the end of the spectrum, people who dread going to work on Mondays and would rather be late or absent than face a mountain of unfinished tasks are already experiencing burnout. Managers should plan an intervention for all employees experiencing different stages of burnout.
#1 Set clear expectations, establish hierarchies, and define the roles of each member of the team.
Define each member's duties and responsibilities, which should be part of the job description. Even before an employee signs the contract, he or she should have known what the job entails and what is expected from him or her. Be firm and clear in setting expectations of them, such as arriving at the office at or before 8 AM or giving notice ahead of time for sick days or vacation leave. And, make sure that each member of your staff understands to whom they should report to directly and to whom they are expected to send notice for absences and leaves.
#2 Listen to your employees. Give them channels to get in touch with you.
Don't wait for you employees to come to you about their problems. And, we're talking about problems not just at work but also personal ones. All these can take a toll on your employee's mental health.
Post your email and phone numbers, and your social media accounts. Give your employees all the channels that they can reach you whenever they need to tell you something. This is especially recommended for team leaders and managers who work closely with their employees.
Leadership is not just about managing a team and reaching targets. It's also about friendship, loyalty, and team spirit. These are intangible stuff that are as important to your company as the numbers your generate each week or month.
Dale Carnegie taught us how to win friends and influence people. His ideas can be applied to managing people:
- listen to others and develop good listening skills
- show empathy for other people's ideas and desires
- see the other person's point of view
- admit if you are wrong
- let the other person talk more than you
- appeal to the better nature of others
- give others a sincere sense of their importance
Some of Carnegie's advice may not work these days, such as "never tell anyone they are wrong" which does not make sense at all. But, his advice on listening well to others is a proven method in managing people and influencing them.
#3 Provide functional equipment and a conducive work environment.
Have you had a photocopier that stopped working or a printer that suddenly fails when you needed it most? It may seem like it's easy to find a solution for it, but office documents have proprietary and confidential information. An employee can't just go to the nearest computer shop and use their facilities to print documents with sensitive information.
And, the situation is aggravated by managers and bosses who do not have the patience and ability to correctly assess the problem, and would start blaming the employee for the delay.
It's also important to create a work environment that allows employees to work with efficiency and ease. Make sure the work area is clean and tidy, and that it's not expose to extreme temperature and loud noises.
#4 Give your employees greater control and a sense of ownership over their work.
Let your staff work out their individual schedules. While you know the work better than anyone, give your less experienced staff the chance to impress the hell out of you. You spent time in training them. So, give them the time to learn the ropes on their own. As they become better at their jobs, they will make sure you will see how much they have improved and that they deserve to be part of your team.
When dealing with more experienced staff, give them space to manage their time and the tasks they need to do in a day, and only ask them for progress as they cross out each task they've completed. Give your staff the chance to decide for themselves how they can do their jobs effectively and more efficiently. Because they have greater control over their work, they won't be affected by overloading or underloading problems, or even contact overload with too many people.
#5 Provide flexible work options for employees.
One of the causes of burnout is conflict between the demands of work and that of the employee's personal life. What do you think would happen if you gave one of your staff early time off to let her catch her daughter's performance in a school play, but in return she would have to work overtime the next day?
Of course, she'll take that deal. This is what Yahoo's Marissa Meyer was talking about.
She uses the example of a Google employee who was happy to stay up for 1AM conference calls with executives in India, so long as she got to attend her daughter’s soccer games and music recitals. Those activities were important to her personal life, and so were accommodated by her workplace. This made it easier to keep up with the demands of her job.
#6 Deliberately include a one-hour lunch break and 15-minute breaks in your employee's schedule.
Your staff not only needs to eat lunch and to take a break for coffee or a cigarette. They also need to stand up and stretch their legs, and to rest their eyes from their computer screens for several minutes. They would also need to go to the bathroom at least once in a day. Employers who do not give their workers the time to rest and take a bathroom break are abusing them and putting their health at risk.
#7 Create avenues for having fun at work.
The novelty of working for a new employer can turn dull and boring for some employees. This happens much sooner for repetitive work. Be sure to assign a variety of tasks that not only breaks up the drudgery of their work, but also gives them the opportunity to learn new skills.
When it's summer, take the whole team to the beach for the weekend or take them out for the night. And, plan a Christmas party for the team members. At the party, everyone receives a gift from you, plus a private message you personally crafted.
#8 Provide rewards and recognition for your top performers.
In addition, reward those employees who perform well. Create a ceremony out of it. Take pictures and post those photos on a company bulletin board. A rewards system will ensure that you retain your top performing talents and also improve the morale of the rest of your workers.
While these ideas for preventing and managing burnout will work well during the first and second stages, these may not be the right solutions for people who are already on the third and last stage. Burned out employees who have become alcoholics or who are diagnosed with chronic depression will need professional help.
Rather than rejecting them and leaving them behind, show your support while they're undergoing therapy. Employees who recognize they have a problem and need help in solving that problem deserve compassionate care and assistance. Once they're well and ready to go back to work, welcome them with open arms. They will probably become the best and most loyal employees you'll ever have in your company.