How to Fix a Major Cause of Employee Burnout

Claire Hastwell

Author

Claire Hastwell

Author

CATEGORIES

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Manila, Philippines, has made it to the TOP 5 among cities with highest burnout rate!

Out of 69 cities from 53 different countries surveyed by Savvy Sleeper1, Manila made number 5 as cities with the highest risk of employee burnout.

Work-life integration was a thing unheard of to some organizations until the necessary adoption of remote work set-up. The lockdown in the Philippines has introduced diverse workplace practices businesses were not prepared for.

For over a year now, Filipinos had to deal with changes not just in work synergy, but in home dynamics too. We had to think of creative ways to accommodate workspaces inside our homes – an otherwise frowned-upon disruption in a country where ‘leaving your work at the door’ is highly practiced. On top of that, with the heightened vaccination efforts by the government and private sectors, more employees are getting anxious as they are required to report back to work in less than ideal exposure situations.

These and other workplace factors have led to a common issue which the World Health Organization (WHO) describes as a chronic workplace stressor that has not been successfully managed – BURNOUT. This syndrome affects over 20% of employees around the world and if left unchecked, can infringe a good workplace culture.

Burnout can have significant negative impacts on employee health, productivity and company culture.

In order for your people and your organization to thrive, it’s important to keep a close watch on potential indicators of burnout. There are telltale signs of burnout that you can identify through a careful reading of your employee survey results and using HR analytics.

Once you’ve identified a burnout problem among your people, how do you fix it?

The answer lies in the difference between employees’ and executives’ experiences at work.

A surprising stat about executives and burnout

We wanted to understand how the workplace experience differed between burnt-out employees and those who are successfully managing their workplace stress, so we analyzed data from 1,570 companies comprising over 1.7 million survey responses.

When we did, we found something you might not expect: executives were 20% less likely to experience burnout compared to all other managerial levels.

At first glance, this seems counterintuitive. After all, CEOs often must make high-stakes, high-pressure decisions that can put a lot of stress on them. Wouldn’t they be more vulnerable to burnout, not less?

What we found was that the C-suite enjoys something that individual contributors, frontline managers and mid-level managers often do not.

A high degree of control over your job leads to less burnout

Executives have the authority to dictate how they spend their time and when to say “no.” They can establish boundaries, and boundaries are good for our health.

This connection between job control and burnout features prominently in the Whitehall study2. In this study, British epidemiologist Michael Marmot and his team examined employees within the British Civil Service.

They discovered that the higher someone’s rank, the less likely they were to suffer from cardiovascular disease.

Controlling for other factors, it turned out that differences in job control, which were correlated with job level, most accounted for this phenomenon.

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How to reduce employee burnout

You may not be able to eliminate all traces of burnout in your organization. However, there are steps you can take to create a low-burnout workplace:

Enable more fluidity and autonomy

study of 8,500 white-collar workers in Sweden who had gone through reorganizations found that people who had a higher level of influence and task control in the reorganization process:

  • Had lower levels of illness symptoms for 11 out of 12 health indicators
  • Were absent less frequently
  • Experienced less depression

Give employees flexible working arrangements, such as the option to work remotely or the ability to choose their work schedule, so they can enjoy greater control over their work.

Protect employees from micromanagement

Employees who experience burnout are 3 times more likely to feel micromanaged.

Researchers have found that managers can fall into this toxic habit out of insecurity and fear. And realistically, “the belief systems that create the micromanager may not go away overnight,” says Dr Hyacinth Guy, a Human Resources Consultant.

However, there are practical steps you can take to limit micromanagement in your organization (even when your managers may need some coaching):

  • Hire proactive self-starter types
  • Make people accountable to each other
  • Ensure managers clearly articulate their expectations
  • Give employees decision-making power
  • Offer individuals a stake in the game such as through profit sharing or project ownership.
Help employees know their boundaries

According to Mariana Bockarova, Ph.D., a researcher at the University of Toronto, the ability to know our boundaries generally comes from “a healthy sense of self-worth, or valuing yourself in a way that is not contingent on other people or the feelings they have toward you.”

In a work setting, self-worth is discovering the intrinsic value in who you are, so that you can be aware of your intellectual worth and boundaries.

Finding this self-worth is different for everyone. And while managers cannot control employees’ histories and self-conceptions, we can help employees recognize their individual value through employee recognition, encouraging and rewarding their ideas, and genuinely seeking their opinions.

These small acts show any employee that their intellect is held in high-esteem.

Limit uncontrollable events

When asked in our survey, “What would make this a better place to work?” people experiencing burnout often mentioned the phrase “fear of retaliation.” This feeling of treading on eggshells feeds employee anxiety and contributes to burnout.

Similarly, compared to employees successfully managing their workplace stressors, burnt-out employees were 3 times less likely to think management’s actions match its words and 2.5 times less likely to feel informed about important changes.

Employees also tend to feel on edge when:

  • Projects are arranged without warning
  • Performance review parameters change frequently
  • Management’s moods are unpredictable

The Whitehall study found that high blood pressure at work correlated with greater “job stress,” including “tension,” and “lack of clarity” in designated tasks.

By setting clear expectations and having frequent, two-way communication, managers can greatly lesser the anxiety of the vagueness and unpredictability.

Create 1:1 connections

People need leaders to take sincere interest in them as a person in order to be attentive to their psychological needs — employees who experience burnout are 2.4 times more likely to feel like a cog rather than a person.

But how can you respond to someone’s needs if you’re not taking the time to get to know them?

“Every leader has the ability to create an intimate relation and show this level of care,” said Holly Petroff, EVP, Great Place to Work. “We did this when we were children in the playground. We didn’t need a leadership course then. We saw someone fallen over on the playground and we helped them up.”

How you can create these connections:

  • Give yourself a pass

It’s easy to put pressure on yourself to say just the right thing, especially if employees aren’t used to you engaging them in a personal way.

When you give yourself permission to try to connect with employees, even if it means making mistakes in the process, you create an opportunity for your people to relate to you.

  • Inquire, rather than ask

Not everyone is comfortable talking about their feelings. Asking specific questions like, “how many face masks do you have?” gives employees something to react to.

  • Hold real conversations

Connecting with people doesn’t equate to making mindless small talk. People see right through artificial.

  • Make it safe to say “I’m not ok”

We’re all familiar with answering, “I’m fine,” even when we’re not. For many people, it’s difficult to feel comfortable saying anything else.

By helping people see that it’s OK to admit when things aren’t all unicorns and rainbows, you can start a conversation where people are less reticent to share what they’re struggling with.

  • Make space for employees to clear their minds

One way to do this is to create time at top of meetings for people to talk about how they are feeling. “This helps us give voice to the situation and set it aside if it for just a little bit,” said Holly. “If you are just diving into an agenda, you’re just steamrolling over a roadblock.”

Want to identify and track burnout in your workplace?

In order to tackle burnout, you first need to determine where it’s happening and who it’s happening to.

Our Trust Index™ employee survey, based on nearly 30 years of studying workplace cultures, includes nine statements that reliably identify burnout in organizations as large as 10,000 people and as small as ten.

To learn more about how to understand who is experiencing burnout in your company with our employee engagement platform, get in touch with us today.

1 https://savvysleeper.org/cities-with-highest-burnout/

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whitehall_Study

Claire Hastwell

As the Content Program Manager at Great Place To Work, Claire helps decode the psychology behind high-trust workplaces using Great Place To Work’s extensive data repository on employee experience. Claire has co-authored noted reports such as “Women in the Workplace” and “The Power of Purpose at Work,” and contributed to Fortune with her profiles of the Best Workplaces™. Her latest report on employee retention strategies draws on the experience of 1.3 million employees to give leaders strategic guidance on retaining their top people. 

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces™ in Asia by surveying over 1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting over 4.7 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2021 or early 2022.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying 2.1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting 5.9 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Bahrain, Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2022 or early 2023.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000+) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

For All™ Methodology

Great Place To Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Philippines Best Workplaces™ 2023 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of over 450,000 employees across the Philippines.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyze these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce makeup, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organization to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news, and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

For All™ Methodology

Great Place to Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Philippines Best Workplaces™ 2022 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of over 130,000 employees across the Philippines.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyze these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce makeup, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organization to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news, and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Categories:
These organizations’ assessment is based 100% on employee responses to the Trust Index survey.

  • Small 10-99 Employees

For larger organizations with more than 100 employees, we also use our Culture Audit™ tool, asking organizations to share with us their practices, policies, and programs to create a great workplace For All™ and evaluate the approach they take.

  • Medium 100-999 Employees
  • Large 1000+ Employees

Why do you say in one place your national list scoring is based on 85%/15% and in another place that it is 75%/25%?

We are explaining two different things:
1.  The criteria we evaluate

  •  85% concerned with Trust and Maximizing Human Potential and
  • 15% concerned with everything else

2.  Where the data comes from

  • 100% Trust Index for organizations with less than 100 employees
  • 75% based on the Trust Index survey analytics and 25% based on responses to the Culture Audit for organizations with more than 100 employees.
For All™ Methodology

Great Place To Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Philippines Best Workplaces™ 2023 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of over 450,000 employees across the Philippines.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyze these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce makeup, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organization to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news, and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Categories:
These organizations’ assessment is based 100% on employee responses to the Trust Index survey.

  • Small 10-99 Employees

For larger organizations with more than 100 employees, we also use our Culture Audit™ tool, asking organizations to share with us their practices, policies, and programs to create a great workplace For All™ and evaluate the approach they take.

  • Medium 100-999 Employees
  • Large 1000+ Employees