Are Your Employees Burned Out? Ways for Executives to Fight Workplace Fatigue
If you suspect your employees are burned out, you’re probably onto something. The 2023-2024 Aflac WorkForces Report revealed almost 60% of U.S. workers across all industries are experiencing some level of burnout. That’s a significant jump from 2021 when the number was 52%. And, it’s coming close to the quicksand trap of burnout we saw during the height of the pandemic in 2020… which, as we all know, led to the Great Resignation. Many industries still haven’t recovered from that unprecedented mass exodus of workers.
Here are a few more fast facts about workplace fatigue from the Aflac report:
- 55% of employees who are burned out have low job satisfaction
- 47% don’t believe their employers care
- 55% have a negative view of their work-life balance
- 56% are likely to seek another job
Admittedly, those numbers seem pretty grim. It’s especially concerning when it comes to employee engagement and retention, which are problems bedeviling many industries right now, including manufacturing, mining, food and beverage and others.
The result of employee burnout and workplace fatigue looks like a laundry list of a manager’s worst day: lagging production, employees just phoning it in, growing malaise and discontent among workers. It can lead to errors, too – potentially serious ones. It all adds up to bad news for your bottom line.
That’s why it’s important for managers and higher ups to take a look at their company — the people on the shop floor, the workers in the mines, the longtime employees on the assembly line, even the white collars in the office, wherever your employees get the job done — through the lens of employee burnout.
What causes employee burnout and what can you do about it?
Causes of employee burnout
When tackling a challenge, it’s always best to look for the root cause. For employee burnout, we’re talking about:
- High-stress work environments with tight deadlines, do-or-die quotas and external and internal pressures.
- Increased workloads after people quit or are laid off, leaving “survivors” to pick up the slack.
- Repetitive or physically demanding tasks, which in industries like manufacturing are a necessary part of the job.
- Long hours or increased shifts to cover for being short staffed.
- Frequent instances of glitches or failures. This deflates the morale balloon quickly.
But, it’s not just those types of pressures that contribute to burnout. There’s also:
- Micromanagement, which sends a strong message higher ups don’t trust employees.
- Limited ability to make decisions on the job, which makes people feel their voice isn’t heard and their experience isn’t valued.
- Few opportunities for advancement and growth, leading people to feel stuck in what they view as a “dead-end” job.
- Job insecurity, which is especially prevalent after a layoff, with employees wondering if they’re next.
What executives can do about workplace burnout
There are many fixes for this challenging situation and some of them can be implemented fairly easily. Here are some ways we’ve found to help our clients deal with workplace burnout and reenergize their employees.
Investigate automation… This doesn’t mean investing millions in AI to transform your shop into a bot-dominated sci-fi thriller. It means taking a look at the kinds of repetitive tasks that might be better done by a machine. Automation reduces the need for manual labor, but it also reduces human error and increases consistency and efficiency. Payment and accounting, order processing, and inventory management are some areas to consider automating.
…and train employees for higher-skilled jobs. Yes, some tasks can be done faster and more efficiently by the bots. But the people who previously held those jobs are still valuable to your company. Upskilling those employees has more benefits than letting them go. Training is a magic bullet to increasing job satisfaction and employee retention. It gives people a clear view into a path forward, a sense that you value their contributions and are committed to their growth. Training also has another magic power – it increases overall, on-the-job efficiency.
Give workers more autonomy and voice. At USC Consulting Group, we are famous for encouraging top-level executives to get more familiar with the people who are on the front lines. We can all but guarantee that spending a few hours with the seasoned employees doing those jobs will give you a new perspective. They know how the job can and should get done, and are a wealth of information about ways to improve it. Listening to their ideas and better yet, implementing them, pays off in countless ways. Not only do you get a more efficient and productive line, your employees feel respected, listened to and valued. Now that’s a win-win.
Strive for operational excellence. Operational excellence is your organization running on all cylinders, eliminating bottlenecks, reducing waste and ramping up productivity. You have the right people in the right jobs and are using data and key metrics to “manage by the numbers.” How does this combat employee burnout? Just think about how great it feels at work when everything goes right. When you and your employees are clicking. When you don’t just meet but exceed expectations. That great feeling is called job satisfaction and it’s a powerful antidote for burnout.
Need help handling employee burnout? At USC Consulting Group, we’re here to help companies become more efficient, effective and profitable through process improvements — including implementing strategies to increase employee satisfaction and retention. Give us a call today to find out more.