Leadership

Four Workplace Factors Behind Employee Burnout

By / Jan 13, 2020 (PeopleImages/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Whether it’s the lack of structure that comes with remote work or an environment without built-in support for mental health issues, there are lots of ways that the workplace can contribute to employee burnout.

How big of a problem is burnout in the workplace?

Well, last year, the World Health Organization classified it as a “syndrome” in its official book that classifies diseases. The organization says that burnout is “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

If you have employees dealing with workplace stresses, burnout might be a common result. But it’s always good to know the warning signs. Just a few worth keeping an eye on:

They’re working remotely and feeling isolated. Flexible work is often promoted as a positive thing or an employee benefit, but with certain types of employees, it can be a major downside to be out of the office. Last year, the cloud services firm DigitalOcean reported that 82 percent of U.S. remote employees said that they felt the signs of burnout—and even doing things to structure their day did not help. “Working longer hours from home and the pressure to contribute more to projects were the top reasons for the drop in work-life balance for remote workers,” the report stated.

They’re trying to fix their weaknesses. Perhaps it’s an unspoken truism that no employee is good at everything—some flourish in front of a stage, while others do their best work behind a keyboard. But trying to resolve the weaknesses—whether it’s something encouraged by management or a personal push—can prove a recipe for disaster if you’re not careful, says Michael Schneider, a human capital specialist. In an article for Inc., he says it’s important for managers to help employees develop their strengths as well. “This is what happens when managers try to develop their employee’s weaknesses solely—they unintentionally throw them into the deep of development, which robs them of their energy and engagement,” he writes. “We tend to do this to ourselves as well. Instead, try strength bundling to maintain the energy it will require to persevere.”

They’re dealing with a challenging workplace. Some people may thrive in a certain workplace, but they might switch jobs, and all of a sudden, all those strengths seem to melt away. And that might be something a leader has to look more closely at, says workplace expert Jennifer Moss. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Moss says that workplace factors—rather than human ones—must be blamed for creating a bad dynamic. “We have to dig into the data and ask our people what would make work better for them,” Moss writes. “More generally, we need to better understand what causes people to feel motivated in our organizations, and what causes them frustration.”

There’s not enough focus on mental health. Is your organization doing enough to assist your employees with things that could trigger burnout or depression? If not, it could be creating a bad situation. In a recent piece for Forbes, Bernie Wong of Mind Share Partners shares the example of Imade Nibokun, a journalist who found herself struggling with depression and the toll of the news coverage at her own publication. As a result of that, she created an online movement she calls “Depressed While Black.” “All I saw on the cover of my own publication were black people with mugshots,” Nibokun told the outlet. “It was traumatizing … How do you fight the system when you are working for the system?” The lack of support from her managers when she told them what she was struggling with had a negative effect on her well-being, and she ultimately left the company.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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