Is back-to-school burning out your employees?

It’s the third week of September, which means the school year is officially in full swing and routines are starting to solidify. If any of your employees are parents, they’ve been dealing with a lot these past few weeks, from hauling kids to and from school to juggling extracurricular activities, preparing healthy lunches everyday, and managing entirely new sleep schedules. On top of all that, they’ve still got to show up to work and attend to their professional responsibilities and deadlines. Understandably, all this pressure can take a toll on your employees and may affect their ability to focus at work.

Signs your employees are burning out

It’s not uncommon for staff members to feel overwhelmed around this time of year. Here are a few ways their stress might manifest in the workplace:

  • Diminished quality of work. One of the most obvious indicators of employee disengagement is a decline in the quality of work they produce. They may start to make more mistakes, cut corners haphazardly, or put less effort into their assignments.
  • Reduced output. Another signal to be aware of is employees taking longer to finish their tasks. When employees are exhausted, they often work slower and are therefore less efficient with their time. These delays can cause bottlenecks that could in turn make it harder for other staff members to do their jobs.
  • Physical or mental fatigue. Exhaustion can affect different people in different ways. Some employees might start dozing off or even napping on the job, while others could become more forgetful or absentminded.
  • Tardiness. Sometimes showing up to work or meetings late, taking extended breaks, or leaving early are also symptoms of burnout. Of course these things happen to everyone from time to time, but if the behavior becomes consistent and disruptive, it could point to more complex underlying issues.
  • Antisocial tendencies. Depending on the person, heightened stress can sometimes make individuals become more reclusive. Employees who usually have no trouble striking up conversation may grow quiet, aloof, or even rude when dealing with co-workers or customers.
  • Negativity. Employees might become more likely to complain or argue when they’re overwhelmed. Rather than focusing on solutions, they may dwell on problems and begin to feel overly discouraged or helpless.

What you can do to help

Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can assist your staff.

  • Introduce a sense of calm. It’s very important to recognize that the types of sounds, lighting, furniture, and imagery in a workplace can have crucial and long-lasting effects on employee mental health. Generally, the more natural the environment (ex: sunlight, plants, fresh air), the more at ease your staff will be. Moreover, always speak to them calmly and respectfully; barking commands at them will only make things worse.
  • Offer more flexible schedules. This one’s pretty much a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how reluctant some organizations are when it comes to bending hours. What they fail to realize is that their employees are already unproductive, so shortening hours or pushing back their start times probably won’t make them any less efficient. In fact, it could have substantial benefits for employees, the organization, and your clients.
  • Trim their workload. Even if it’s just for a few days, reducing an employee’s workload can allow them to catch up and feel more in control. De-prioritizing and delegating tasks will likely help them feel less pressured while ensuring the work still gets done. However, be sure to first discuss any workload changes with them so they don’t feel blindsided.
  • Consider on-site childcare. If your organization has the resources, it would mean the world to your employees to have the option of bringing their kids to work with them. More and more workplaces are giving their staff peace of mind by relieving them of this burden because it has such a significant impact on employee well-being and productivity.
  • Create family-friendly events. Does your organization host bowling nights, barbeques, or fundraisers? If so, it’s a good idea to allow employees to bring their families. Knowing their kids can tag along will alleviate the stress of scrambling to find a babysitter or missing the event entirely.
  • Encourage use of your Employee Assistance Program. The resources found in your EAP are extremely advantageous for employees to use, especially when they’re at risk of burning out. Remind them that they have access to various professionals and services that are designed to make their lives easier.
  • Don’t assume burnout will pass. Employees who are struggling will only continue to decline if their situation is left unattended. Make sure HR is equipped to support them, whether it’s coordinating time off to regroup or arranging days to work from home. Always remember that even small changes can make a huge difference.
  • Ask them what they need. The best way to help your staff is simply to talk to them. You might come up with a million ideas, but if they miss the mark, your employees will continue to feel stretched thin. Start the conversation and check in regularly. Their needs will change over time, so be ready and willing to adapt so they can stay as focused, productive, and happy as possible.

LifeSpeak gets employees back on track

Too many employers chalk employee disengagement up to “bad attitudes” or “laziness”, but the truth is employees usually feel disconnected for reasons that are completely under the control of the organization. We help our clients, from corporations to charities, address these issues and arm their employees with the resources they need to thrive. To learn more about how LifeSpeak can boost employee well-being for your organization, book a free demo today.

Also published on Medium.