Turns out you’re not alone.
New research published last week by accountancy recruitment firm, Robert Half, suggests that three in ten UK HR Directors (that’s 30%) say employee burnout is an issue. This figure rises to 35% when you look just at London and the South East.
The research also concludes that:
- Workload is the primary reason for burnout in 67% of situations. (This rises to 75% in large, and 73% in public sector organisations.)
- More than half (56%) blame long working hours.
- 37% talk about “unachievable expectations” and “economic pressures”, and
- 27% cite worklife balance challenges.
8 in 10 HRDs say they’re concerned that their best people will leave because things have just become too pressurised.
When asked what they’re doing about all of this, some say they’re launching initiatives to make working life more liveable. They include “promoting a teamwork-based environment (50%), reviewing/restructuring job functions and tasks (45%), encouraging team–building activities (34%), providing flexible working options (34%) and encouraging employees to take time off (31%). One in five businesses (19%) plan to hire additional temporary / interim staff to help manage burnout.”
The point about hiring additional staff is good news for Robert Half, and job-seekers generally.
But I have to wonder whether these other “initiatives” aren’t actually a huge red herring.
Sure, they’re very logical. And if you look at your people as being another resource that you can control at will, they make a lot of sense.
But, when are more companies going to get beyond these big global solutions, and understand the real, individual, human nature of the people who work for them?
When are they going to be proactive in supporting their people’s well-being, rather than waiting till people burn out before acting?
When are they going to understand that if someone is showing signs of being beyond stressed, that they are are having a healthy response to an unhealthy situation?
Of course, the UK economy is struggling, companies are under more and more pressure first to survive and second to make a return on investment to their shareholders.
But people are increasingly the thin edge of the wedge. Expected to do more with less, and to integrate work changes without proper training, much less the emotional support to withstand the upheaval.
And we’ve become a much more “on” society.
Laptops, tablets, mobile phones… Social media. We’re all under pressure to act 24/7.
Recent research even shows that 53% of us check our phones before we’ve even got out of bed.
No amount of traditional team building is going to fix that. It’s no wonder more people are burning out.
The answer for businesses?
Believe, really believe, in your people’s well being. That starts with a business’s leaders supporting their own well-being.
Modelling the ability not to work all hours and be successful and productive.
Not demanding things last minute and/or in a way that requires late working or weekends; respecting that to be at their best, people need down time; they need rest and other non-work interests to revitalise them.
Taking proper holiday themselves and not expecting their people to be available when they are on holiday.
And you? What if you’re caught in the burnout trap?
Well, first, stop buying into a system that is harming you.
Don’t wait for your company to give you permission to do something for yourself. It’s easy to get caught up in deliverables, and all the value judgements around whether you’re doing enough or not, and to think that you have no choice. But you do.
Create boundaries for yourself.
Walk out of the office at six – or whenever – and get to the gym, or go home to your family. It may be painful to leave colleagues sitting there or to see your boss do a watch-check as you leave. I’ve been there myself. I know. I’ve had bosses who should know better take me aside at such times and say “what is your problem?”
When bosses give you last minute things that compromise your personal life, push back. Say no.
And if you find yourself unable to free yourself from what feels like a crazy situation for you, get help. Find a counsellor.
Don’t rush to escape. The chances are you’ll recreate your situation elsewhere.
But, whatever you do, don’t just become another statistic.
So, what about you? Have you experienced burnout? Do you see it in your colleagues? What have you done to support yourself? I’d love to know!