Preventing staff burnout

August 2019—In some cases, burnout is an individual issue. But in most cases, workplace burnout is the fault of the organizational systems, culture and management practices. Burnout reduces employee productivity. It can lead to conflicts, illness, mental health issues and excessive turnover. Burnout is not the same as stress. Restaurant staff may be stressed during the lunch crush; sales staff may be stressed before giving a client presentation; non-profit staff may feel a deep sense of urgency to address social or environmental problems. That’s not burnout. The World Health Organization According says burnout is characterized by "feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy."

Here’s a simple way to assess what is contributing to burnout in your organization.

This Harvard Business Review article categorizes the causes of burnout into six categories:

  • Workload

  • Perceived lack of control

  • Reward

  • Community

  • Fairness

  • Values mismatch

You can use those 6 categories as the basis of a workplace assessment, formal or informal. Sometimes just talking about workplace issues makes people feel better. In a staff meeting, present the 6 categories and then ask staff to dot-vote on which area is the biggest source of burnout for them and which is the least (or biggest strength). Then brainstorm what might be done, both things within their power and recommendations to management systems/practices. You may think you can predict what your staff will think is the biggest issue, but you might be surprised. At the very least, your staff will feel like you care about them and what to know what’s up.

If you could do this in an all-staff meeting and then do the brainstorming in mixed groups, it would build understanding across departments. The whole system, the whole organization could begin to see how they’re all contributing to system of burnout.

Forbes article on what managers can do to reduce burnout: