Avoid Worker Burnout: Don’t Push So Hard

A recent study shows that worker burnout can have a negative effect on an organization as a whole, even in the short-term.

Your workers may be putting a lot in, but if they’re overburdened, all that effort may be counterproductive.

According to Towers Watson’s 2012 Global Workforce Study [PDF], which analyzed 32,000 employees in 30 countries, there is significant danger of declined productivity, poorer customer service, and higher turnover in organizations with employees who are overburdened with work. A better solution is to build more work-home balance.

To put in it simple terms, working your team flat-out until they fail is going to hit your bottom line. Hard.

According to the study, companies that had the highest profit margins had a high level of “sustainable engagement”—in other words, employees who were active and attentive had room to breathe. Companies that had high levels of engagement, on the other hand, had just a 14 percent profit margin—as well as a higher rate of turnover.

As Jessica Stillman wrote on recently: “To put in it simple terms, working your team flat-out until they fail is going to hit your bottom line. Hard.”

Other considerations:

Too many hours? Perhaps it’s the level of work that could be causing the burnout? A March report in Salon, “Bring Back the 40-Hour Work Week,” noted that the benefits to working overtime are actually somewhat limited, based on research of numerous studies over the past 100 years. “On average, you get no more widgets out of a 10-hour day than you do out of an eight-hour day,” writer Sara Robinson explains. “Likewise, the overall output for the work week will be exactly the same at the end of six days as it would be after five days.” That may vary based on the job, obviously, but could be useful to keep in mind.

Disengagement bad, too: But don’t just worry about overengagement. As we pointed out a while back based on the Towers Watson study, 43 percent of employees consider themselves detached or disengaged.

Creating a balance: How do you find balance between engagement and burnout?  Stillman offers advice from WorkSimple’s Morgan Norman, who suggests transparency, feedback, and playing to employees’ strengths. “Rule of thumb: If employees are doing work they’re passionate about, the output will probably be positive. Encourage their unique strengths,” Stillman writes.

How does your association do on the whole work-life balance thing? Where is the line? Let us know in the comments.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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