Employee burnout is real: Building resilience for a healthier workforce

The Resilience Institute’s Manish Arneja shares how employees can be assisted by their organisation’s leaders to beat burnout and enhance performance.
By: | October 31, 2023

Employee burnout, while not a novel phenomenon, remains a critical issue in workplaces. At first, capable employees may display a sudden decline in their productivity, losing motivation, composure and focus and eventually succumbing to quitting the organisation.

As the challenges are increasing in organisations, leaders are demanding more from their employees, sometimes beyond the staff’s bandwidth or capabilities. I have seen numerous occasions where three employees are asked to do a job for four or even five employees. They are asked to work over the weekend regularly on one project or the other. The question leaders need to answer is, “Is it sustainable? Will this help the reorganisation in the long run?”

When employees seem to be feeling exhausted, disengaged and hopeless, leaders not only need to recognise the symptoms but need to lean in to support them.  At the same time, it is the role of leaders to be mindful that as demands are increasing for employees, their capacity to handle challenges and support workload challenges can be increased by speaking up to their bosses for cover and support.

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“When employees seem to be feeling exhausted, disengaged and hopeless, leaders not only need to recognise the symptoms but need to lean in to support them.” – Manish Arneja, Managing Partner, SEA, The Resilience Institute

Even the most capable, like Jacinda Ardern, former New Zealand Prime Minister– a Fortune leader of the year – left her role citing ‘I no longer have enough in the tank to do the job’, so misconceptions that ‘employees who experience burnout cannot handle stress’ need to be overcome.

Additionally, we need to bust the myth that burnout is an individual, and not an organisational issue. Though individuals have a role to play to take care of their wellbeing, organisations have a significant role to watch out for toxic work environments and bullying or overdemanding team leaders.

There are three key steps organisations can take to handle this challenge:

  1. Measure and make it a strategic priority.
  2. Increase the accountability of managers and leaders
  3. Build resiliency skills for each employee implementation

Measure with the Resilience Diagnostic tool: Employers can measure and map human performance with Resilience Diagnostic, a self-assessment, confidential and stigma-proof tool.  This will allow you to understand and benchmark your people’s performance in the organisation.  It will clearly show where strengths are not prominent or if the people hold risks in the mental, emotional or physiological areas.  Identify the hot spot and provide this measurement to the management, who live by numbers and statistics.

Create accountability for team managers; We need to pass the accountability back to the levels where we can make a difference.  Make the team dashboard available to each team leader to provide a feedback loop. Train the manager on how to support their teams to identify burnout challenges and guide them on how to build team care. Each leader should be skilled in creating “boundary conversations” on what is acceptable and not acceptable in the team in relation to work-life boundaries. For example, managers can create conversations about the team boundaries and protocols around late-night work emails or weekend work.

READ: More proactive strategies needed to improve employee mental health

Build resiliency skills: We need to be mindful that change will not go away, waters will get choppier, and employees need to learn to ride the waves better. Employees should be given the tools and skills to handle pressure and manage their recovery rhythm.  Our research has shown many employees under 30 years of age are having resilience issues as they have practices that compromise their sleep, physical activity and recuperation.  Providing resilience training will bring more self-awareness to the team members and help them to bounce faster under pressure.  It will also enable them to learn that they can train their mind to be stronger mentally, optimistic and have a growth mindset to be more adaptive.

Eventually, the culture shift will take place, and rich talent will sustain and thrive.

About the author: Manish Arneja is Managing Partner, SEA, The Resilience Institute