Job burnout. It's something most of us will experience at least once in our careers. And when it happens, the natural solution is "I just have to find another job."
Job burnout is more than just disengagement. According to the Mayo Clinic, people can become cynical, chronically late, easily irritated, less productive and more disillusioned. In more severe cases, people will turn to drugs or alcohol, or experience extremely poor sleep, a change in appetite, headaches, backaches, or other unusual pain.
You don't have to be an HR specialist to understand how destructive this condition can be for the burnt out individual and everyone interacting with him or her: coworkers become annoyed by the negativity, customers receive less than satisfactory service, family members get the wrath of a disgruntled employee, and eventually, the entire business is affected.
The questions for all HR mangers to consider are: Is there a way to reignite smoldering workers before they look elsewhere for employment? And, can HR play a role in preventing the fire from going out altogether?
Smell the Smoke Before the Fire
The first step to assuaging burnout is to identify the signs early on. I believe the easiest way to do this is to hold a workshop to discuss burnout. It will help employees know if they are experiencing a classic case of burnout or just a normal phase of malaise. If you have the budget for it, there are a handful of professional speakers you can bring in to lead the workshop.
The important thing is to get people talking about it proactively. Emphasize internal career paths for those who seem interested in a new position, and offer professional counseling for those who aren't sure why they dread coming to work each day.
Where Do Managers Come In?
A workshop might reveal that a certain team or department is experiencing burnout. In this case, there's a good chance that the problem is the manager. Some managers see their roles as getting every ounce of productivity they can out of their employees—at any cost—which is a surefire way to disengage and overwork people. Educate your management team on appropriate leadership skills, and caution against the snowball effects of burnout.
You can also look to big data to identify signs of burnout. People analytics is a great way to anonymize information and take proactive action—if you simply rely on managers to identify burnout and confront employees, it's likely you'll receive denial in return. With data, you can get a comprehensive view of employees' "flight risk" and take steps known to alleviate burnout without making the employee feel personally targeted.
Keeping the Fire Stoked
Obviously, the best way to treat burnout is to help prevent it altogether. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Rebecca Knight lists several ideas that individuals can do to avoid burnout. Here are a few ways the HR department can encourage employees to follow Knight's suggestions:
- Encourage Breaks : Studies show that workaholism is not only bad for individuals, but also for your organization's bottom line. Whether it's a week-long vacation or simply playing a short round of ping-pong in the office, find ways to encourage employees to step away from their desk.
- Demonstrate the Value of Digital Detox: Do you have 24/7 employees who take their smartphones and laptops home and continue to worry, work or read about the job during off hours? Short of hiring a detective to spy on people, no policy can prevent this. But digital detoxes can be encouraged—mention the importance of unplugging in company newsletters, and ask managers to bring it up during team meetings.
- Create Opportunities to Do Something Interesting: Knight suggests employees do more than simply relax during off hours to relieve job stress that leads to burnout. Local sports teams or theatre groups would love to partner with your business to offer discount tickets to their events—they get free advertising and your employees have a place to go and take their minds off of work.
- Gift a Long Weekend: Recognition and rewards programs can be made that give away an extra day off, or a night at a local spa. In addition, a companywide "Employee Appreciation Day" or "Birthday Day Off" policy allows employees to get an extra day off once in a while.
It's impossible to prevent burnout in every employee—personal choices and attitudes are beyond HR's control. However, taking steps to recognize burnout and enacting policies to help prevent it are great ways to limit the impact of burnt out employees on your organization.
Photo: Creative Commons
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Ten Dad-Friendly Workplaces
When we talk about the quest to "have it all," it's almost always in reference to working women trying to balance a stressful 9-to-5 with the equally difficult demands of family. To be sure, women face distinct challenges in the workplace and high expectations at home. But this Father's Day, let's not forget that dads are increasingly juggling work and home life, too. Single fatherhood is becoming more common in the US—a 2013 Pew report found that a record 8 percent of families with children were headed by a single dad—and 60 percent of households with children are dual-income as of 2014, putting added pressure on both working parents. While policies in the US do not mandate paid family leave of any kind—unlike parent-topia Sweden, which offers 16 months of paid parental leave and three months specifically for paternity leave—many companies are now thinking about how they can help their workers be "Employee of the Year," without sacrificing their "Dad of the Year" trophy. Here are ten excellent companies for working dads, based on a new report from parenting resource website Fatherly. 1. Google Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Mountain View, CA Number Of Employees: 53,600 Paid Paternity Leave: 7 weeks (12 weeks for primary caregiver) Industry: Tech Dad-friendly Policy Highlight: When you work with Google, your family is part of the family—really. If an employee passes away, the company provides his/her spouse with 50 percent of their salary for 10 years and immediately vested stock options, and children receive $1,000 a month until they turn 19 (or 23 if they're a student). 2. Facebook Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Menlo Park, CA Number Of Employees: 10,082 Paid Paternity Leave: 17 weeks Industry: Tech Policy Highlight: Procreating pays off. Facebook gives new parents a $4,000 "new child benefit," along with subsidized day care. Not to mention the $20,000 worth of supplemental insurance coverage for fertility and family planning treatments. 3. Bank of America Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Charlotte, NC Number Of Employees: 220,000 Paid Parental Leave: 12 weeks Industry: Finance Policy Highlight: Bank of America's twelve weeks of paid paternity leave is on par with countries likeIceland. Not too shabby. And, if you can handle the pay break, the company also allows for an additional 14 weeks of unpaid leave. 4. Patagonia Photo: Shutterstock Headquarters: Ventura, CA Number Of Employees: 2,000 Paid Paternity Leave: 8 weeks Industry: Retail Policy Highlight: Working parents don't have to stray far from their kids as Patagonia provides on-site child care for kids up to nine years old. The famously laid-back company will also provide afternoon transportation from local schools back to the office babysitter. 5. State Street Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Boston, MA Number Of Employees: 29,530 Paid Paternity Leave: 4 weeks Industry: Finance Policy Highlight: Flexible work arrangements are a must for the busy working dad (or mom). State Street's program helps take the stress out of setting up some work-from-home time by requiring their managers to approach their employees about flexible work options. 6. Genentech Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: San Francisco, CA Number Of Employees: 14,000 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Biotech Policy Highlight: Along with dedicated paid paternity time, Genentech also offers a sabbatical program for long-term employees. Every six years, you earn six months of time off—perfect for a long summer trip with the kids. 7. LinkedIn Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Mountain View, CA Number Of Employees: 6,800 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Tech Policy Highlight: LinkedIn likes to encourage employees to think outside their cubicle and, in addition to "special projects" time once a month, you will get a $5,000 stipend for job-related education expenses. Maybe "Childcare 101" would qualify? 8. Arnold & Porter LLP Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Washington D.C. Number Of Employees: 1,284 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks (18 for primary caregiver) Industry: Legal Policy Highlights: If your spouse or partner is gainfully employed and you'd like to trade some of those work hours for family time, Arnold and Porter allows employees working at least 25 hours to qualify for benefits. The firm even has an expert panel on hand to help their lawyers make the switch to part-time. 9. Roche Diagnostics Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Indianapolis, IN (North American HQ) Number Of Employees: 4,500 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Healthcare Policy Highlight: Roche employees have plenty of opportunities to teach Junior essential life lessons like how to swing a bat or grow a juicy tomato. The company spends $35,000 annually on sponsored extracurriculars like community sports leagues, and also offers an on-site employee produce garden. 10. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: New York, NY Number Of Employees: 41,000 (U.S.) Paid Parental Leave: 6 weeks (plus an additional 2 weeks if have or adopt more than one kid) Industry: Professional Services Policy Highlight: Another company that values ad-hoc work schedules, PwC allows employees work-from-home options as well as ""Flex Days." So if you can cram 40 hours of work into less than five days and clear your schedule, you could end up with more frequent three-day weekends and more time with the kids. Photo: Shutterstock