Tackling employee burnout – three lessons from successful companies

Eric Garton, coauthor of Time, Talent, Energy makes a bold statement when he says, “Employee burnout is a problem with the company, not the person”. This runs contrary to the strain of thought which suggests that burnout is a talent management or a personal issue. But considering the fact that burned-out employees cost $125 to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending in the U.S. alone, it is time to consider other approaches to tackling and preventing burnout. This time from the organizational side. Here’s what some of the most successful companies tell us about reducing burnout, at a workplace culture level. 

What Airbnb can teach us: switch off

From organizing email efficiency workshops to assuring annual travel stipends, Airbnb constantly plans for employee-wellbeing. According to Global Head of Airbnb’s Employee Experience team, Mark Levy, the longer than average annual vacation given at the end of the year ensures a ‘no emails, no obligations’ break from work. A refreshing change from the always-on work mode that employees are expected to adopt elsewhere.

Consider: Within the team, is there a tendency to work through weekends or respond to emails after office hours? Reducing this will reset the balance between work and personal time, and give employees a chance to switch off and rejuvenate. 

How Netflix does it: let employees take charge

Unlike traditional workplaces, employees at Netflix don’t worry about tracking leave – they get unlimited vacation. Long grueling hours aren’t encouraged. Taking leave to take care of family is. Netflix’s culture assumes that employees have the best interest of the company in mind and also the judgment to do their job well. The much-feted Netflix culture deck details its anti-rules, pro-freedom philosophy – employees are given the freedom to do their best without being bogged down by process.

Consider:  How much time does your team spend in meandering meetings, getting approvals, and waiting for information. By giving each employee the information, means, and time to do his or her tasks, you can enable better time management and help them take charge.

The way EY sees it: workplace burnout is not a stigma

When Health EY was launched in 2014 in the U.K., the focus was on mental wellbeing. Some employees were trained to become the first point-of-call for those colleagues who needed help. A mental health buddy program was also developed to provide informal support. As Susie Gray, Employee Relations Manager at EY, put it: “We want to give employees the confidence to deal with these issues.” By encouraging colleagues to support each other through difficult times, they tried to remove the stigma associated with burnout.

Consider: Can your people rely on each other when they need downtime or support at work? Creating an open, honest, and supportive atmosphere to tackle pain points can help colleagues through stress and burnout. 

Taking a cue from these companies, managers can help create workplace resilience by balancing work demands, giving employees more control of their time, and encouraging supportive work relationships. What suggestions would you add to this list? 

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