Burnout is a more prevalent issue in Aussie workplaces than ever. Emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic, many assumed the “togetherness” this period brought us was here to stay. However, it has shifted, with the conversation around wellbeing and the normalisation of everyday mental health struggles such as burnout being just one of the many which has since been swept back under the rug.
Burnout is a common manifestation of chronic workplace and other life stresses; with tell-tale signs of physical and emotional exhaustion, chronic cynicism, and sense of inefficacy which finds its way into thousands of Aussie workplaces. It’s estimated that untreated mental health issues like burnout, costs Australian workplaces approximately $10.9 billion a year. Despite its commonality and its cost, leaders are failing to invest in effective and long-term solutions to conquer these issues which impinge upon their employees mental and physical wellbeing.
The two major causes of workplace burnout are, at an individual level, a lack of manager support, unclear team communication and an unmanageable workload. In addition to this there may be several contributing factors in an employees personal life that you are unaware of – but this doesn’t change an employers obligation to ensure every employees health and well-being while working (which has been made even more challenging during Covid!)
At an organisational level, main causes are under-resourcing, resistance to new ways of working and the ongoing impact of the skills shortage. We constantly hear from our clients that they can’t find enough people to do all the work, and this is further impacting the stress and strain on the current employees. Unfortunately, the skills shortage is only going to get worse in Australia not better, so some radical rethinking is now a must to remain sustainable at both a business and personal level.
Looking at these “individual and “organisational” causes it is obvious nothing can change on an individual level, without significant organisational change and restructuring. While organisations have improved their approach to employee well-being, we are not seeing an improved approach to burnout despite it being a wide set, organisational problem. This is mainly attributed to companies and their leaders being hesitant to redesign their workplace and having a misunderstanding what burnout actually is or where it comes from, or perhaps being too burnt out themselves to find the energy and resources to tackle another mammoth project!
The Wellbeing Lab Workplace 2019-2022 Survey released research indicating burnout has been on the rise with 68.5% of Australian workers reported they felt they were burning out at work with 47.8% felt this was sometimes and 20.7% felt this was often. The same survey revealed the professions which experienced the most burnout with Banking and Finance leading the pack at 74% of employees reporting burnout followed by healthcare and medical workers at 70.6% and Hospitality and Tourism Workers 68.8%. While a similar report showed that the number of workers “really struggling” has indeed risen since the pandemic by over 40% between 2021 and 2022 from 6.9% to 9.7%.
Here are 3 A-HA approved tips that management should remember when tackling a burnt-out workforce.
- Rethink structures. What are the fundamental assumptions and norms you have at work? Although these norms may have worked well for yourself in the past, do these structures work for your current workforce? We are all going to have to redesign jobs to account for less people available to do them. Innovation and automation will have a huge role to play.
- In order to solve burnout, you not only need to support your employees but support your leaders in order for them to provide this to their team. This can be accomplished through education, resources, and acknowledgments, in order to translate a good intention into meaningful leadership action.
- Experiment with practical solutions to the problem and get rid of the ideology “this is how we do things”. These new solutions could include open-system conversations, bring your people into a room to discuss and listen to what actually works for them and take a co-designed, transformational approach to seeing a new ways of working.
Empowering everyone to be a part of the solution will not only alleviate the pressure being solely on the shoulders of the leaders but also harness all the brilliant new ideas and perspectives that exist in your organisation. Solving the problem will help reduce the underlying factors that contribute to work related burn out in the first place.