Some business challenges present themselves loud and clear: Your “just-in-time” supply chain delivers a crucial part two days late. Your VP flies to California for a presentation while his laptop stays on the TSA conveyer belt in New York. Your largest business unit objects to the reorganization you just announced.
Problems like these can pop up in every business, and every business commonly has the same basic response: Gather the necessary resources and fix it. Now—or, better yet, yesterday.
But what if it’s not your supply chain that’s breaking down? What if it’s your workforce? According to a marketplace survey we fielded recently of corporate professionals across a range of industries, it could very well be your workforce.
Nearly eight in 10 respondents told us they have experienced burnout at their current job. Yet nearly 70% of the survey sample said their employer does not do enough to minimize burnout. And more than 20% claim their company doesn’t do anything.
If you took that approach to a supply chain problem, your company would likely go out of business—fast.
Not responding adequately to the unmanageable, prolonged stress or frustration their employees face likely won’t drive a company out of business. But it can drive employees out of your company—and straight into the arms of your competitors.
Nearly half of millennials we surveyed say they have left a job specifically because of burnout. Millennials already comprise the largest segment of the U.S. workforce today and by 2025, they will make-up three-quarters of working-age people.
So what’s the answer?
We asked employees what kinds of offerings they believe help prevent or alleviate burnout and their top selections included flexible work options, health and wellness programs, and paid time-off. But when asked which programs are already offered by their companies, only flexible work options appeared in both top lists.
While implementing a solid health and wellness program and a robust PTO (paid time off) plan are great first steps, neither is a quick fix. It’s often not enough just to slap together a series of Yoga Wednesdays and call it a “wellness program.” And unless a company’s culture embraces the notion that people need time off, “vacation days” might just become another name for the breaks employees already don’t take. One-quarter of the people we surveyed say they “never” or “rarely” take all of their vacation days.
I was in that group a few years ago—back when I was burned out. Even though I have access to a very generous amount of time off, I barely took a week each year. Not because my organization didn’t give me permission, but because I didn’t give myself permission; nor did I recognize how much I really needed that time off.
No more! I took three separate vacations last year. I confess that I did check my email a few times—and I’ve got to get better about not doing that—not just for myself but because I’m a leader and I know my actions set expectations about how my team should behave. I want my people vacationing on vacation so that they can unplug completely and fully engage in their life!
This was an important lesson for me to learn, and not the only one I’ve picked up in my own pursuit of creating a culture of well-being at my organization. Here are three ways that organizations and its leaders can look beyond programs and benefits:
Set the tone from the top: When I wasn’t taking vacation, my team noticed and followed suit. That’s why it’s so important for leaders to model positive well-being behaviors and show their teams that rest and recovery is both permissible and necessary.
Promote transparency: Taking vacation, or even a mental health day once and a while, shouldn’t be something you need to hide. Colleagues should be open and honest about their rest and recovery needs with each other. Because at the end of the day, the team will be more productive and effective if everyone is performing at their best.
Encourage micro-breaks: Rest and recovery doesn’t always have to be about a week long vacation. Encourage your teams to take breaks throughout the day by suggesting 25/50 minute meetings, eating lunch away from their desk, or simply taking a few leisurely walks outside.
When people are on call constantly, the workday—and the stress—never ends. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Companies and their leaders should recognize the expectations they create that lead to burnout and start to fix what’s broken in their cultures. The ideas above are a great place to start!
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