Following the experiences gained throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, working from home on a grand scale appears to be not only benefiting employees by eliminating their daily commutes and promoting their wellness (at least in the short term) but additionally, it has proven to increase productivity and obviously - cut on costs.
In light of these otherwise unfortunate circumstances, this might seem like a positive side effect. So - why talk burnout?
I burn, therefore I am
It is essential to understand that "burning" generally precedes burnout. And not all burning is damaging. Keeping your employee engagement flame alive has been shown as a crucial element when pursuing remote working while retaining (and in many cases even boosting) productivity. Enthusiasm, the commitment that your employees have to your organization and its goals, willingness to go the extra mile, or even occasionally sacrificing some of the personal comforts for a "greater business good" are all signs of a healthy "glow."
I burn... until I burn out?
Burnout is a process, and it doesn't happen overnight. But it can surely creep up on you. It is not uncommon for the first signs to be easily overlooked.
People start doubting whether what they're doing carries any purpose. They are no longer brimming over with enthusiasm and energy but rather feel exhausted, detached, and without accomplishment. Out of nowhere, hurdles start appearing, and your once "racing horses" suddenly lack the drive to overcome them. Their professional efficacy diminishes.
Their anxiety levels begin to soar. Ordinary social interactions become tough. Many well-intentioned conversations rub them the wrong way. Cynicism and irony also fall in commonly observed signs of impending afflictions. Gradually, victims fall into greater apathy. They lack the strength to do anything. Rolling out of bed or returning a call become a super-human act.
These outline just a handful of classic signs of inching closer to burning out. Multiple cross-sectional studies have also shown associations between burnout and health problems. Just recently, the World Health Organization recognized burnout as an official medical diagnosis.
Cynicism and irony also fall in commonly observed signs of impending afflictions. Gradually, victims fall into greater apathy.
Some materials are more flammable than others
In addition to external determinants such as the socio-demographic background (and a type of profession, corporate culture, performance pressures), our personality also plays its role. Those passionate about their work, who tend to burst with energy, proactively take on new tasks, and strive to perform at their best, incline more towards burning out.
Staying restless until finishing assignments, not delegating enough, having perfectionism tendencies, or having unrealistic expectations from others while bursting with excessive optimism are signs also often associated with increased burnout risk.
Smoke detectors & sprinklers
As a manager, leader, your role is somewhat intricate. You're stuck juggling between avoiding burning yourself out and guarding your team. Luckily, as an experienced and receptive observer, you can master spotting these signals in daily interactions from facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language.
Unfortunately, this ability takes a hit when teams get scattered across the nation, just like they did in the Covid-19 pandemic times. By lacking physical contact, you possess fewer chances to observe and capture signals of impending issues. The intensity of communication takes a slump, and your ability to watch out for behavioral patterns, or even facial expressions, gets compromised when managing people over a videoconference. Many turn their cameras off; interactions get more often limited to work-related matters.
A drop in performance, higher error-rates, or increased sickness are all possible alerts to watch out for. These indicators don't always carry a higher burnout risk and can be misleading. Fortunately, technological advancements and science offer a solution.
Thanks to unique distribution algorithms, these spread hundreds of questions related to employee engagement, climate, people's attitudes, and other vital factors across the organization.
Modern engagement surveys, such as Friday 6 & Monthly 15 by LutherOne, work on a combination of continuous, real-time insights and predictive technology. Thanks to unique distribution algorithms, these spread hundreds of questions related to employee engagement, climate, people's attitudes, and other vital factors across the organization. This way, employees respond to only 6 or 15 questions weekly/monthly while managers and leaders receive comprehensive real-time data in the form of interactive dashboards. Machine learning engines continuously process all this data to produce predictions and alerts, while risk indicators point out any possible concerns such as burnout or attrition. A smart recommendation engine translates all these insights into actionable recommendations tailored to specific situations.
A leader. A firefighter.
The causes of burnout are complex and multifactorial. Of course, it is not given that people who admire their jobs, are enthusiastic, efficient, will naturally burn out. In addition to prevention and the right tools, it is also essential to have enough fuel - motivation. Cultivating a culture of recognition and feedback has proven to help here:
TLDR: Do not extinguish; control combustion
If you have paid attention, it might have occurred to you that ironically, a worker at a higher risk of burnout might resemble an ideal employee to some extent. That is, at least, until they burn out.
The solution is not to put out your nor their enthusiasm and zeal, but instead to find a way to achieve sustainable and non-self-destructive burning.