Beating Burnout Begins With Workplace Culture
Olivia Perdew | 5 min read
With work piling up due to the ongoing pandemic, and an influx of employees adding to the great resignation, it can be hard to prioritize mental well-being at work.
When this happens, employees experience burnout, become less engaged, and more stressed. A workplace culture that facilitates burnout can also result in low employee retention and attendance and higher healthcare costs.
Recently, Wisetail sat down with Hannah Austin, founder and CEO of SheShatters, to discuss how to address these problems and take steps to prevent burnout in the workplace.
Employees who say they very often or always experience burnout at work are:
63% more likely to take a sick day
23% more likely to visit the emergency room
2.6x as likely to be actively seeking a different job
How Mental Well-being & Employee Health Go Hand-in-Hand
Hannah Austin is no stranger to burnout. In fact, her experience with burnout is exactly what pushed her to start SheShatters. After dealing with the stress of working in healthcare during the pandemic, Hannah’s body broke down and she found herself in the emergency room in the fall of 2020, suffering from high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, and severe migraines. “At that point, I really had to make the decision to resign from my job in order to save myself,” she said.
She looked to her connections in the business community for ideas on her next career path and discovered there was a huge need for affordable ways to manage burnout. In April of 2021, Hannah founded SheShatters as a way to provide a safe space for professionals to find support, advice, and tools to minimize stress and burnout in everyday life.
Changing Workplace Culture
Creating an environment where your workforce feels comfortable discussing burnout and setting boundaries will encourage employees to stay with you longer and be happier with their work. According to the International Association of Workplace Professionals, better working conditions and work-life balance are two of the top reasons people are leaving their jobs right now. If you’re finding that your employees are leaving, take this as an opportunity to find out why and address it. Hannah suggests examining the core purpose of your organization, building a plan to address burnout, and creating a connection between leadership and employees.
Alignment: Rediscover Your North Star
In the wake of Covid-19, many of us lost sight of our sense of purpose in life. The same can be said for some companies.
“A lot of companies aren’t clear about what their business is to the core because they’ve been so focused on Covid, they’ve lost their North Star,” Hannah stated. Creating a sense of meaning and belonging for your workforce is a way to beat burnout, so now is the time to re-discover your organization’s ‘North Star.’ Once an organization’s core purpose is clearly defined, it can be used as a point for its workforce to align itself to.
When trying to fix burnout in your workplace, Hannah stresses the importance of getting everyone affected to address the problem and participate in the healing process. Everyone needs to be on the same page and aligned with the same organizational messaging to create change.
Addressing Burnout: Find The Pressure Points & Address Them
The first step of addressing burnout is figuring out where it comes from. Hannah suggests asking for employee feedback in the form of surveys and stay interviews. If you find you aren’t getting the amount of responses you hoped for, remember, no feedback is still feedback. If your employees aren’t responding, find out why.
Use stay interviews, not just exit interviews, to identify pressure points in your organization. No resignation truly comes out of nowhere. If you feel like something is up with one of your employees, take the time to address their concerns one-on-one before they make the choice to turn in their resignation letter.
Once you’ve identified your pressure points, outline specific, tangible ways to address them that fit within your organization’s core values. Hannah suggests, “The link between building a trusting, engaged environment is the specific and tangible approaches — you have to know what your game plan is and then formulate meaningful approaches to solve these problems.”
The Three D’s Approach
When building your plan, use the three D’s approach: Disengagement, dissatisfaction, and “do we …” questions like, “Do we really need this?”. Be transparent and thorough with your explanations and don’t be afraid to add a little bit of personality. Your employees should be able to understand the message, why it’s important, how it relates to them specifically, and the impact it will have on the organization as a whole.
If all this sounds like too much to add to your plate right now, it might be helpful to have a third party — like SheShatters — do an organizational scan to find areas for improvement and help you build a plan to address them.
Create a Strong Connection
Building a connection between leadership and employees is an important part of creating a supportive work environment. When Hannah was uncovering top concerns for employees right now, she often heard the comment “I need to feel like my manager and company care about me as a person, not just a warm body.” Employees today want to feel connected, heard, and valued as individuals — not just numbers.
Find more opportunities for leadership to connect with the rest of the company as people, rather than employees. This can be as simple as taking the time to check in with someone from a human perspective, not just on their deliverables. Instead of asking, “How are your projects going?” Ask, “How are you doing this week?”
In order to address burnout in a meaningful and lasting way, everyone needs to participate. Know your triggers, find tangible ways to improve how you communicate with your workforce, and take this time to lead by example. When you address your burnout in an open and honest way, set boundaries and stick to them, and are able to prioritize what is really meaningful at work, it will be easier for the rest of your workforce to do the same. At the end of the day, remember that you are responsible for your own behavior and happiness.