How to Keep Employee Burnout at Bay

According to WebMD, burnout can be defined as a form of exhaustion, typically resulting from a prolonged period of mental, emotional and/or physical stress. More succinctly, burnout is that feeling you have of being swamped all the time, never really able to feel like you’re standing on solid ground. Municipal utility managers tend to know this feeling all too well, but it’s important to be aware all employees experience can experience burnout.

Not only is this a significant mental health issue, but it can impact your team’s dynamics. Employees who are burned out may take more sick days, make more sloppy mistakes, or just generally be less engaged with their work. And if multiple employees are experiencing the effects of burnout, it can contribute to testiness or disharmony in your work environment.

Team leaders would do well to know the common signs of burnout, and to take some basic steps toward preventing burnout from occurring.

What are the common signs?

Burnout can manifest in a number of different ways, but here are some of the most common signs and symptoms. Be on the lookout for these signs of burnout in your employees:

• Inability to focus or to concentrate on anything

• A tendency to become angry or upset with little provocation

• A notable uptick in sick days or absenteeism

• Fatigue, drowsiness or lethargy during the workday

• An increase in cynicism or complaining

There are other common indicators of burnout, such as feelings of alienation or a sense of being “dried up,” but those signs may be a little harder for employers to observe. Focus on the list above, and if you start noticing these warning signs among your team members, it could indicate that burnout has set in.

What can team leaders do to prevent burnout?

As for preventing burnout, the first thing managers should know is that, sometimes, burnout just happens. It can’t always be prevented. With that said, there are some effective ways in which you can reduce instances of burnout among your team members. Consider the following strategies.

Get outside the office. Of course, your field technicians already get outside the office, but nevertheless, a good way to help your team recharge their batteries is to hold meetings or huddles outside. Consider a walking meeting, allowing even your front-desk staff to get out, enjoy some fresh air, and stretch their legs a bit.

Promote work-life balance. Here’s where you can lead by example. Make a habit of being home at a reasonable hour, of actually taking some vacation time when you need it, perhaps even of shutting down a little bit early on the day before a major holiday.

Monitor workloads. You may have seasonal spikes in workload, but make sure you’re always aware of how many hours each employee is putting in. If you have an employee who’s especially busy, try to alleviate their burden, or at least ensure that they have a slower, quieter season as soon as possible.

Provide resources. If you have employees who need to worry about continuing education, whether for licensing or for general career advancement, be sure you make training resources readily available to them. And give them time to use those resources!

Welcome feedback. Be sure your employees know when and how they can provide you with comments, questions or concerns. Make it clear that any employee feedback will be graciously received.

Employee burnout can be a big problem, not just for individual employees, but for your utility as a whole. Make sure you know the warning signs and have strategies in place to keep burnout at bay.


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