Summer is here and with it comes fireworks, campfires and barbecues. But marshmallows and hot dogs aren’t the only things at risk of getting burned to a crisp this season. With a tough economy continuing to turn up the heat on small businesses, far too many employees at small companies are showing signs of burning out.
Burnout causes plenty of problems for businesses, including lowered productivity and increased absenteeism. Traditionally, burnout leads to high job turnover, and while that might not apply in today’s job market, burned-out employees who do stay on the job are less engaged with your business. That means they’re likely to hurt the morale of other employees and provide less-than-stellar service to the customers they come in contact with.
Whether it’s the cost of hiring and training new employees, correcting poorly done work or “making good” with dissatisfied customers, burnout adds up to financial loss for your company—loss you can't afford. So how can you douse the sparks of employee burnout before the fires start raging? Here are six steps that have worked for me.
1. Stop micromanaging
When employees have less control over how they do their work, they are less engaged…and more likely to burn out. I’ve written about the damaging effects of micromanaging on this site before, so if you’re a micromanager (or think you might be), read How to Let Go and Stop Micromanaging Your Employees.
2. Assess job fit
Preventing burnout starts before you ever hire or promote an employee. When assessing whether a person is right for the job, don’t just consider skills and experience, consider personality traits as well. Trying to fit someone who can’t multitask or prioritize into a job with rapid-fire demands from multiple stakeholders is like trying to cram a square peg into a round hole.
3. Look outside the workplace
Be sensitive to issues employees are facing in their personal lives. If a normally energetic and productive employee seems to be in a slump, there could be outside factors at work. Don’t pry, but encourage the person to let you or someone they feel comfortable talking to know about issues that may be affecting performance.
4. Communicate with your team
Be clear about your expectations, project deadlines and goals. If employees know what they’re working toward, they are less likely to burn out than if they feel they’re toiling in a vacuum. Even the biggest, hairiest project seems less intimidating when you can see light at the end of the tunnel.
5. Be open to communication from your team
Communication works two ways. Don’t be the big, scary boss who bites someone’s head off every time they come to you with a problem. Employees need to feel they can be honest with you about situations that are bringing them to the edge of burnout. Many times, letting someone vent is all it takes to get the person back on track.
6. Walk the walk
You can’t talk about preventing burnout if the way your business operates encourages it. Put policies in place that encourage healthy behaviors like eating well, taking short mental health breaks during the day and getting regular exercise. Lead by example.
Burnout is a problem that isn’t going away anytime soon, but by giving the issue the attention it deserves, we can prevent it from destroying our businesses.
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