Causes of burnout - The HR World

ended 17. April 2021

3 responses from the Newspage community

"Perhaps the most dangerous thing about burnout is how easily it can creep up on us. Add to this the remote element and wanting to appear strong and capable to those around us, we leave it far too long before asking for help, something that many of us genuinely struggle to do. Over time, we become used to the feelings of burnout; it starts to feel familiar - even normal. We don't notice how much it's affecting us, even as it takes a heavy toll. "From our work in helping people to develop their resilience and wellbeing, one common cause of burnout throughout the pandemic has been guilt. The rise in remote working has seen not only furlough-guilt for those either furloughed or who have remained working throughout, but a perceived need by many to be constantly on-call. Those email pings and notifications are being responded to more and more in the moment, no matter the time of day or night. This is understandable to a degree; organisations have had to adapt like never before over this past year, which has subsequently led to a huge rise in pressure for individuals. "In terms of supporting people, both HR and people managers have a huge role to play. We've lost those touch points with people and so now, even the informal virtual catch-ups still have a formal feel to them. We all want to present ourselves in the best light and a common side effect of burnout is leaving it far too long before asking for help. Forget out of sight, out of mind and know that people may well be struggling, no matter how well they attempt to mask it with their manager or HR. Dig deeper to really find out how people are doing. Rather than ask the question, 'What can I do to support?', which people invariably answer with 'Oh, nothing really', listen both to what is being said and to what's not being said. "On a very practical level, the shift to remote working has severely impacted processes, resource levels and ways of working, with many organisations still playing catch-up. People and teams are hit hardest by these inadequacies. We also forget that they are closest to these systems and processes. Ask what would make the biggest difference in alleviating pressure, go for any quick wins and plan for how you can make an impact with longer-term actions."
"The short answer is that burnout is caused by stress. It most commonly occurs when individuals are subject to continuous (or near continuous) stress for long periods of time. "In certain circumstances, and for short durations, stress can be beneficial. A person’s stress response is designed to give a performance boost in short bursts of up to 30 minutes. "However, if people are placed in a near constant state of stress for a long period this can negatively impact on their mental wellbeing and dramatically increase the risk of burnout. "Employers need to make use of information from performance appraisals and one-to-one meetings with staff in order to spot problems and provide support. Data derived from sickness absence information (including return-to-work interviews) and staff surveys can also be used to identify individuals most at risk and to better understand how to improve the mental wellbeing of the workforce. "It is generally recognised that homeworking can be beneficial to employees (and employers) in certain circumstances. However, the recent move to full-time remote working during the pandemic has caused its own challenges, which may have increased the levels of burnout in the UK. "Employees may feel that they have not been given a choice about homeworking and miss the support and social interactions involved in attending the workplace. Perceptions of isolation can increase stress levels. "Some people also benefit from having a clear separation between home and work life, and working from home full-time has blurred these boundaries. "Finally, due to school and early years closures, many people have had to work while simultaneously having to juggle home-schooling and childcare, further adding to their stress levels." The length of the pandemic and the above factors have resulted in employees facing stress at unmanageable levels which in turn has led to burnout. • Why is individual burnout actually an organisational issue? Burnout is a recognised occupational condition resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Burnout is an issue for employers because employees suffering from burnout are likely to perform much less effectively. Individuals suffering from burnout may find it impossible to focus and become forgetful, leading to impaired judgment which increases the potential for errors. In addition, the constant stress which has led to burnout may result in employees leaving their job. • What can be done to support employees suffering with burnout? It is necessary for employers to create a culture where employees can be confident of support if they feel they are under too much stress. It is vital that employers implement a policy setting out their understanding of work-related stress and mental health, demonstrating a commitment to identifying and eradicating sources of work-related stress and to providing a working environment that supports mental wellbeing. Employers should ensure that they can (and do) follow through on commitments made in any stress and mental wellbeing policy.
"Burnout is often caused by poor personal boundaries combined with a high drive for success. The best employees are most prone to it. "HR professionals can look at who is going above and beyond. Talk to them about what they do to relax. If there is no evidence of relaxation, you have a problem. "Remote working is increasing the number of people experiencing and heading for burnout. It's much harder to switch off and stop working when your workspace is your dining table or breakfast bar. "Encourage those experiencing burnout to do as little as possible. Keep them in the loop with work, include them in meetings (if they want to be there). Breathing exercises are also great at calming those voices in your head saying do one more thing."