The Management Blog
Tips & advice to help you improve your performance
I came across some interesting research this morning from The Health & Safety Executive which you might be interested in.
As managers we all need to ensure a safe working environment not only for our staff but for our customers and suppliers as well.
In the past we’ve talked about workplace safety but from the standpoint of employee burnout and, more recently, the importance of having a plan if your organisation is affected by a pandemic like the H1N1 virus. Today, though, I’d like to take a step back and look at workplace safety from a more general viewpoint. You may think that the fact you work in an office exempts you from workplace safety. You are, after all, simply sitting at a desk all day, right? Wrong. Employees trip and fall, burn themselves in the kitchen, and even suffer from health issues while at work.
I’m sure by now you’ve all heard of the swine flu. This newest viral strain has infected up to 70 individuals in Mexico, New Zealand, and the United States. While the World Health Organization is taking precautions to contain the virus, there are still fears that the swine flu will turn into a global pandemic.
So what does this mean to you as an employer?
First, it means you need to have a contingency plan. You really should have one already, but if you don’t it’s time to put one together. What offsite locations, work at home programs, and other resources will you implement to keep your operations functioning if for some reason you are unable to leave your home?
Next you need to make plans for dealing with changes in the economy. Pandemic waves will cause employee absenteeism and may mean that supplies may or may not arrive at your workplace on time – if at all. Are you in a business that deals in medical products? Chances are you’ll see an increase in business if there is a pandemic outbreak.
Finally, what procedures will you implement within the workplace ot keep everyone safe? Will you suspend your “sick-day” policies to ensure that people don’t lose their jobs if they have to stay home due to illness – either their own or that of a child? Will you encourage employees to stay at home for the full 7 days recommended by the World Health Organization and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US). Will you ensure that there are extra sanitizing hand gels on site for everyone to use frequently?
I don’t want to cause alarm but planning in advance is crucial to the success of your business. Surviving a pandemic isn’t just about making sure your business stays afloat, but it is about making sure your employees know you care about and support them as well.
Do you have a plan?
Alright – I have one more thing to say about employee burnout and then we’ll put the subject away for a little while. You know the signs of burnout, what causes burnout, and how to remedy the situation.
That’s all well and good but the real question is whether or not you are capable of preventing employee burnout.
One of the best ways to prevent employee burnout is to recognize the signs and stop the employee from heading down that path before he actually reaches the state of burnout. But what does this really entail?
For starters, make sure you have clarified your employee’s job description. In some cases an employee may actually be doing too much because he feels he or she is supposed to be doing tasks that could easily be passed on to someone else. In other cases the job description that has been set forth may have been too lofty and you may need to make some changes internally in order to redistribute the workload.
In some cases burnout is caused by boredom and a lack of work. If this is the case, add additional duties to your employee’s job description. Make sure they’re challenging while remaining within that employee’s skillset. You may just be surprised to find you’ve been underutilizing someone with a special skillset you had yet to discover.
While most managers don’t want to give up good employees, it’s important to take a step back and consider whether or not it may be more beneficial to the employee in question to accept a job transfer. Perhaps a different team, department, or job function would allow him to continue working while giving him the change he needs to stop feeling burnt out. Don’t be offended if an employee does NOT want to transfer, though. This simply means he likes his job (and you) enough to find another alternative.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.” You may have to offer up several solutions before finding one that helps prevent the employee in question from burning out. In some cases you may end up asking your employee to take some time off so that he can relax and regroup. It’s better to have this happen before he’s completely burnt out than to wait until he’s no longer functional or has made himself ill.
Don’t forget that the stress associated with burnout can be very serious. If none of these options work, or if you suspect there is another underlying cause, it may be best for you or your employees to seek the advice of a health care provider. Proper stress management is the key to avoiding burnout altogether.
So you’ve identified an employee who seems to be on the path to burnout.
What are you doing to do about it?
The simplest answer is to make sure he or she gets a break. Most organisations feel as though making sure their employees are taking their vacation or paid time off every year is enough, but is it really?
Put yourself in the shoes of your employee. Say you have a reduced workforce because of layoffs and an inabiltity to hire more help. Your desk is covered in work because you have to pick up some of the slack. Everyone is just as busy as you are, so when you leave for vacation very little of your work gets reassigned in your absence.
Upon your return to work you are faced with your regular workload PLUS the work that sat while you were away.
That doesn’t sound very relaxing, does it?
I’ve known people who have refused to take vacation simply because they know how terrible their desks will look upon their return.
Finding a remedy for employee burnout means doing a bit more than simply forcing an employee to take a vacation. It means helping him to find ways to more efficiently streamline his workflow or finding ways to redistribute work amongst your entire team. It means making sure everyone gets along, ensuring that everyone is skilled enough to do the work they’ve been assigned, and making sure everyone feels appreciated.
As a manager, can you identify ways in which you can alter your team’s workflow in order to prevent burnout?
Yesterday we went over some of the signs of employee burnout so today I’d like to continue by talking about some of the actual causes.
Employee burnout can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and occupation. Studies do show that people who work with the public (such as customer service professionals) are more likely than others to experience burnout. People who constantly feel as though they work too hard for too little money are more likely to experience burnout as well.
The causes of burnout vary from person to person but I found it interesting that while it is sometimes caused by the workplace, some people may lead themselves down that path on their own. Here are some of the main causes:
There are dozens of reasons an employee might become burnt out. Some are related to work alone while others are a combination of work and personal issues. As a manager it is your job to recognise the causes and make changes before it’s too late.