the great slump

Beat the Burnout – How leaders can support their staff

We’ve all heard of the ‘Great Resignation’, an economic trend which has seen employees voluntarily resigned from their jobs en masse. We’ve now seen evidence that some staff are suffering from ‘The Great Slump’. Meaning they’re embarking on the new working year not feeling refreshed or re-energised and sometimes bordering on burnout.

Steven Booker, Psychologist and iHR Australia Facilitator, provided us with some tips and advice on how leaders can prevent staff from experiencing burnout. And how to support them if they do burnout.

What are some things leaders can do to prevent staff burnout?

Leaders can assist their teams to reduce the risk of burnout by:

  • Making sure that employees have the time, equipment, training, resources and support they need to meet their objectives.
  • Help employees who report feeling overwhelmed by reviewing their workload and priorities
  • Make sure employees have clear goals/targets/KPIs, and that these have been fully and recently explained to them. And provide employees with recognition and reward for their work
  • Reflect on your style as a leader and be proactive about making changes to ensure it is not adding to employee stress
  • Be aware of employees who may struggle with delegation, time management or assertive communication. Provide them with coaching and support to improve in these areas
  • Particularly during periods of high workload or rapid change, follow good change management practices and help employees set goals that focus them on what they can control in the situation, not what is out of their control
  • Check in more regularly with staff, both 1-on-1 and as a team, to openly discuss the risks and symptoms of burnout, and encourage people to feel safe in speaking up when they experience them
  • Support employees’ attempts to set better work/life boundaries, particularly when working from home. Be more open to flexible working arrangements when requested
  • Encourage employees to use their annual leave and utilise any wellbeing programs provided by the company
  • Find out which aspects of their role or work each employee most enjoys or values, and look for opportunities to provide them with more of this work

What can happen to staff who are ‘burnt out’?

Where burnout is addressed proactively, people may be able to recover and get back to normal work functioning with an improved focus on self-care and other interventions designed to reduce their stress (e.g. taking leave, temporary reductions in workload or responsibilities, assistance with better prioritising/delegating work, better work/life balance etc).

Where burnout isn’t proactively identified and addressed, it may result in:

  • An employee being so emotionally or physically exhausted that they need extended sick leave, and may struggle to return to work
  • An employee becoming so detached or disinterested in work that they choose to resign
  • Performance or motivation dropping to an extent where a performance management or disciplinary process becomes necessary and/or customer satisfaction, operational efficiency or safety is compromised
  • Absenteeism, poor morale (both the individual and their team), reduced job satisfaction/engagement and high turnover
  • In serious cases, clinical depression and risks to physical health arising from stress

How can leaders support a staff member who is burnt out?

  • Have a supportive and honest R U OK? conversation with their employee. Try to negotiate a plan of action with them to get assistance (e.g. speak to their GP or employee assistance program, temporary reduction in workload, assistance with delegating/prioritising etc)
  • If a medical or mental health practitioner advises that the employee is not fully fit for their role, provide reasonable flexibility in terms of duties or hours of work etc. as recommended by the medical/mental health practitioner (of course taking into account the company’s operational and financial circumstances)

iHR Australia can assist organisations with services such as Mental Health & Well-Being Training and HR Support where we can provide expert help to all types of organisations.

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