Between the pandemic effect, hustle culture, and work pressures, burnout has become commonplace. Robert Half research found that four in ten U.S. workers feel more burned out now than they did a year ago, impacting more than just their professional performance. Surveys have found that 66 percent of professionals skip at least one meal daily due to being too busy or stressed at work. Many cite their work stress levels as negatively impacting their relationships.
Leaders should go beyond quick fixes and strive to radically improve employee well-being. Identifying the root cause of burnout is one of the first steps toward improving the employee experience – and it often boils down to re-evaluating workplace culture.
As an SVP of Operations at a large, globally dispersed organization, I’ve made it my mission to ensure our workplace culture reflects our values and to create a productive and positive environment where people can bring their whole selves to the table. It’s one of the top reasons our boomerang employees return to the company.
[ Also read IT leadership: 3 ways CIOs prevent burnout. ]
3 steps to tackle IT team burnout
Here are three steps to build a culture that limits burnout among your workforce:
1. Lead with values
Company culture is nothing without a strong alignment with company values. These values should be demonstrated at every level and should be top of mind throughout the hiring process.
New hires who embody the values of an organization bring internal alignment starting on day one, which has become more essential during times of change and high turnover. A foundation of company-wide values is integral to developing an environment unique to the organization and its daily operations.
Employees will seek other opportunities when they feel a lack of belonging. By investing in and nurturing a values-based culture, leaders can offer teams greater purpose, belonging, and community.
Imagine starting every company all-hands meeting by reviewing the company vision and mission and then tying efforts back to those pillars. The reasoning behind this approach is simple: When everyone works from the same playbook and understands what they’re trying to accomplish, culture and belonging thrive.
2. Empower your workforce to contribute
Company culture doesn’t just happen. Leaders must actively maintain and shape it to identify ongoing opportunities that empower employees to support and contribute to it.
Employee contributions can be as small as internal pulse surveys or as large as designing new groups or initiatives. Think about creating a club to encourage the workforce to participate in the hiring process and weigh in on how candidates would mesh with internal teams. This engagement would directly shape how the organization operates and builds positive working environments for employees – no matter the physical or remote work setting.
By opening the door for employees to get involved and provide input, leaders can identify signs of fatigue earlier, address pain points before employees reach the pinnacle of exhaustion, and create a community that motivates and engages the workforce.
3. Listening isn’t enough – action drives results
Too often, leaders view benefits as the silver bullet to burnout. But benefits alone won’t cure feelings of burnout. If your workforce is giving direct feedback on areas that need improvement, simply listening is not enough. Take action to meet these needs and make your actions known.
Surveys, leadership office hours, and internal culture teams open a forum for leaders to hear where company culture issues or burnout arise. If a common theme surfaces, change and improve how things get done.
Work-life balance, for example, is a common pain point among employees. Consider proactively encouraging time off, demonstrating best practices by unplugging at the end of the workday, or instituting company-wide mental health days.
Getting ahead of burnout
Today’s employees face unique challenges, including blurred home/office boundaries and difficulty setting limits. With burnout reaching new heights across nearly every industry, the answer is not to throw benefits at the problem and hope they stick. These quick fixes and band-aid solutions increase the risk of talent loss and workplace fatigue.
Every company is unique; there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. We must be willing to make a concerted effort to give workers what they need. Spend time identifying resources or opportunities that increase well-being and resonate with your workforce to ensure you can provide the support they need.
[ Learn how CIOs are speeding toward goals while preventing employee burnout in this report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services: Maintaining Momentum on Digital Transformation. ]