Last spring, I took my leadership team on an eight-day journey to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro as part of our Trek for a Cause. Hiking an intense summit up to 19,341 feet above sea level might seem a bit extreme, but trips like these are a cornerstone of burnout prevention.
Combatting burnout in a rapidly growing and changing company is a tall order, but it’s absolutely essential. In May 2019, the World Health Organization officially classified burnout as a syndrome in its International Disease Classification. This condition of chronic workplace stress has become so prevalent that it is now a globally recognized health concern. The consequences of high burnout are increased employee turnover and decreased engagement.
What I’ve learned — and what has taken Personiv’s management team to mountain peaks around the world — is that businesses must invest in their employees in a way that aligns with both personal values and company culture. Here are a few ways to nudge your team toward greatness and minimize burnout:
1. Perform an assessment of your leadership style. Your leadership style might put your employees at risk of burning out, especially if you have impractical or impossible expectations of productivity. You might think your management style puts people first, but you should take a look in the mirror. Determine which direction you’ve been pushing: Are you so focused on results that you inadvertently pressure your direct reports to perform at a pace that undermines that goal?
After some internal reflection, take a look around. Are your employees overworked, quietly typing away with their heads down? Even worse, are they vocally sarcastic and complaining? Gallup finds that this type of environment can increase sick day use and employee turnover; Harvard research suggests burnout can even cause employee IQs to drop 13 points.
Employees don’t operate at their best without a healthy work-life balance. If your team isn’t able to regroup once in a while, expect negative ripple effects that interfere with production. If you notice any of these burnout signs, take an objective look at your leadership style — it might be time to consider a drastically different approach.
2. Give your people meaningful goals. Modern workers want to do something that matters and fits their individual life goals. Job satisfaction can make a world of difference when it comes to burnout. By allowing people to “act like owners” and set achievable and meaningful goals, you give them a stake in the results and encourage them to deliver their best performances.
So what is meaningful work? It’s giving your team a say in the outcome of your company’s success and then sharing that success as a team effort. It’s allowing team members to insert their own goals and ideas into everyday tasks. According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Culture report, 86% of Millennials would consider a pay cut for the opportunity to feel aligned with their company’s mission and values.
3. Fully communicate your expected results. Employees who lack adequate direction are more likely to fail — and to develop burnout. But according to Gallup, only 60% of employees felt they knew what was expected of them at work.
Our team has grown by 700% over the past several years, and that wouldn’t have been possible without clear expectations. If you don’t clearly communicate your key performance indicators, employees might feel lost and underperform or simply find a new environment that offers better direction. Make sure timeline, scope, and quality metrics are clear so all employees have the information they need to succeed.
4. Motivate success by rewarding success. It’s not enough to just provide performance metrics; you need to positively motivate employees to achieve those results. Employee motivation increases engagement and output while creating a happier and healthier team. Be transparent with your feedback, offering constructive criticism and positive kudos when they are due.
Each month, our team members have the opportunity to be recognized for top performance. We award them in front of their peers, supervisors, and executive leadership. This public recognition drives productivity instead of forcing it, ensuring employees feel that they’re valued.
5. Plan your employee investment strategies. Align employee investment activities with your values and culture. Conduct an anonymous survey to gain an idea of how employees really feel, and ask how you can improve. Be prepared for some honest (and possibly negative) feedback.
Once you get that feedback, the activities you choose should be easier to pinpoint. At Personiv, our younger and more family-centric team appreciates having a family day to bring kids into the office and a formal annual event that showcases our top performers. Meanwhile, our fitness competitions and yearly mountain treks are designed to ban burnout and increase morale.
Burnout is a problem for every company. But by giving your team a sense of ownership and control over its work, you can build a workplace that keeps employees engaged, healthy, and happy.
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