December 3, 2020 | watsimp

Employee Burnout & Organizational Culture

No matter who I talk to these days, one word that comes up in every conversation- “burnout”! Be it leaders, managers or teams, everyone is talking about battling burnout! Burnout has always been an issue, even before the forced remote working. But remote work seems to have amplified the factors that cause burnout!

The statistics on employee burnout tell a grim story!

A study by Deloitte says that 77% of employees have experienced burnout at their current job. This number is 84% for millennials.

Nearly 70% of professionals say their employers don’t do enough to prevent or lessen burnout.

Digital Ocean’s Developer Trends report reveals that that 66% of remote developers are experiencing signs of burnout.

Three things contribute to our burnout-

Organizational Culture

Direct Manager’s leadership style

We as Individuals- the combination of who we are, what’s going on in our lives, our physical and mental health

In this blog, we’ll talk about Organizational Culture

Early in my career I worked for an amazing manager. She was knowledgeable, supportive and had great business acumen. The stories of her hard working nature and commitment were legend in the organization. One famous story that my peers talked about was the time when our manager was pregnant with her first child. She went into labor while at work and continued to email while in labor, until it was impossible to do so! She returned to work full time in 6 weeks!

The organization talked about this behavior as heroic. Something to be admired and emulated! Personally for me, that ended up setting the bar for the commitment we must have towards our jobs and our companies. Very late in my career, I discovered the hard way, that I was wrong!

These behaviors and stories are not about heroes! They just set a wrong precedent and expectation for the organization. The stories that we tell and behaviors that we admire and encourage find their way into our culture. An organization culture that glorifies and rewards late nights & weekend working on a regular basis or staying “on” 24/7 is a hotbed for employee burnout.

The price of employee burnout is eye popping!

Burnout costs between $125 billion and $190 billion every year in healthcare costs in the US alone

Studies show that burnout has a big impact on employee turnover- between 20%-50% or more, depending on the organization.

Is there anything we can do?

Make it ok to talk about it

Employee burnout has been a taboo topic for the longest time. Most of the time, employees experiencing burnout are afraid to talk about it- fearing impact to their jobs and careers. This only ends in a downward spiral with significant impact to the employee’s physical and mental health and with productivity losses and employee turnover. Not talking about burnout is helping no one! Let’s equip our leaders and managers to have these conversations with their teams.

Be clear whether your organization is running a sprint or a marathon

Have you seen how athletes train for a sprint and a marathon? The goal is very clear. In a sprint, the priority is speed while a marathon needs endurance. Athletes train differently for these and their mindsets are different too! The same is true for our organizations. If we are asking our teams to sprint a marathon, we are doomed to fail! There may be teams within the organization that is running a sprint to get a product to market. That’s ok, as long as the company is not expecting the team to continue sprinting for months on end.

Allowing a team to pace themselves does not have to mean loss of accountability. It means building steadily and creating sustainable results and teams.

Stories and Recognition

Becoming aware about what are we recognizing and celebrating in the organization is super important. It’s so tempting to celebrate and tell the story of that time when the team had to make  many personal sacrifices like missing their child’s birth or any other milestone life event, all in the cause of the company. While these sacrifices are significant & must be acknowledged, can we stop for a moment to consider why we are asking people to make this sacrifice in the first place? Being aware as leaders is the first step in creating the culture of the organization.

No doubt employee wellness programs are critical to supporting employee physical and mental health. But these programs will have an impact on our teams, only when we create an organizational culture that truly values an employee’s well being!

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