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Detecting and Managing Employee Burnout

While always a business concern, employee burnout has increased significantly since the pandemic: before 2020, finance and insurance professionals had an average burnout rate of 65.2%; this year, 89% of employees say they’ve felt the effects of burnout in the past year and 77% say they feel burnout in their current job.

Employees experiencing burnout are less engaged, less productive and more inclined to leave the organization, so understanding and addressing burnout within our organizations is paramount.

For many employees, the experience of the pandemic exacerbated their feelings of burnout. Many expected that the convenience of work from home and hybrid work options would decrease the prospect for burnout and poor work/life balance, but that has not proven to be the case. Unfortunately, employees are now experiencing the added pressure of tight economic conditions, rising interest rates and changing customer expectations, and it’s impacting the mindset and energy they’re able to bring to their work.

The first step in solving the burnout crisis is identifying which team members are experiencing it so the root causes can be ameliorated. Common symptoms of burnout include:

Burnout Symptoms
• feelings of exhaustion
• appearing mentally distant
• negative feelings or cynicism about their job
• having reduced professional efficacy
• self-isolating when faced with many tasks
• looking angry or frustrated more frequently
• difficulty hiding emotions
• responding with irritation
• using words or phrases like “overwhelmed” or “a little bit tired”
• sharing feelings of stress, anxiety or struggle
• talking about challenges with prioritizing or balancing heavy workload

Once you’ve identified these behaviors with a coworker or within yourself, understanding the five major causes can help you to identify the source of the tension or stress leading to the burnout.

Major Causes of Burnout
1. Unfair treatment at work
2. Unmanageable workload
3. Unclear communication from managers
4. Lack of manager support
5. Unreasonable time pressure

Managing Burnout – Tips for Employees
As an employee, it’s important to understand the root cause of your burnout.
Most common in Farm Credit, according to employee engagement results, are
unmanageable workloads and unreasonable time pressure. These may stem from hiring freezes, learning to manage productivity in a remote setting, increased customer needs or simply having to do more with less. Overcome these pressures and manage your own feelings of burnout fatigue with these tips:
• Work from strength: Identify your strengths and be purposeful in your work
schedule. Make sure you work 40-50% of your time on tasks and projects
you’re good at and enjoy. Working within your strength zone builds your energy reserves, increases happiness significantly and boosts productivity. Whether you’re a person who likes to get the least preferable tasks done first or a person who operates solely by priority, make sure you spend a good portion of your day doing what you do best.
• Push in your chair: An unexpected and negative impact of hybrid and remote
work is the difficulty of separating work time from personal time. Setting a
boundary for yourself each day that you will “push in your chair” by a certain
time can help you establish boundaries around work and personal time.
• Have an honest conversation with your boss: Communicate with your immediate supervisor about how burnout shows up for you and the most common causes. I recommend doing this during a non-stressful time; having these conversations when you’re in the middle of a crisis will increase emotional responses and decrease objectivity. Your boss will appreciate your honesty and forethought, and they can support you and help manage your workload.
Managing Burnout – Tips for Leaders

• Schedule individual conversations on burnout: Just as it’s important for us to
communicate to our coworkers in a time of calm, it’s also important for leaders
to have these conversations with their team members before burnout occurs.
Leaders are often responsible for multiple people; knowing early signs of
burnout for each of your team members can help you intervene before burnout
turns into disengagement.
• Lead by example: “Walking your talk” is such an easy thing to say but often
harder to implement. If you value a strong work/life balance, especially to
decrease burnout in your team, it’s important for them to see you demonstrating those behaviors. This means “pushing in your own chair” and avoiding sending emails late into the evening or on weekends. Our teams will believe what we do before they believe what we say.
• Be knowledgeable about your organization’s benefits: Does your organization
have a plan to decrease burnout? What programs or resources does your
organization provide to support your teams? Know what you have to offer and
communicate those resources to your teams often.

On the organizational level, highlight burnout as a regular conversation and valid experience. Your employees will appreciate your concern and it will encourage them to be honest with themselves and their leaders about their work health.

Actively managing burnout in your organization can lead to higher retention, higher engagement and higher productivity, so it’s well worth leadership attention. And since we get results from what we measure, you can get a pulse on your organization’s burnout by including related questions in your annual employee engagement survey. You’ll then have actionable data on the degree of employee burnout so you can start taking steps to alleviate the problem, and can build trend data to help you benchmark burnout statistics year-to-year to measure your progress.

For more information about employee engagement surveys, contact Angie Coleman, FCCS Organizational Development Consultant, at 303-887-3791 or via email.

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