How to prevent employee burnout: the experience of an IT company

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IT Employee Burnout

The blurring of the boundaries between work and personal time, long overtime, external interference in well-established processes – how do companies prevent the emotional burnout of employees.

However, psychologists note that in addition to the obvious advantages of working from home, it is not without disadvantages. One of the most obvious and acute is the high probability of emotional burnout. Children actively interfere in business calls, cats like to lie on their laptops, and the boundaries of the day are so blurred that it is difficult to determine when it is work time and when it is worth a rest, using time monitoring software help prevent it.

Bloomberg says that due to the transition to the remote format of work in some European countries, the working day has become longer by 2 hours, and in the United States – by three. Our own research also confirms these conclusions: European have begun to work longer by an average of 2.5 hours. The usual rhythm of life is disrupted, and if in the early days of forced remote work was perceived as something unusual and interesting, then months later it has turned into uncertainty. According to Ipsos, one in three respondents who work remotely find it difficult to concentrate at home, and their work efficiency decreases.

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For team members emotional burnout is dangerous due to loss of interest, motivation, energy and an acute sense of hopelessness. For business, it can lead to conflicts, an increase in absenteeism or underperformance, and high staff turnover.

A logical question: is there any way to prevent burnout?

Forewarned is forearmed

Burnout is a process that doesn’t happen in a day or two. It is a gradual accumulation of fatigue, lack of positive emotions and even changes in habits. That is why psychologists recommend sticking to a routine of self-isolation and not making constant trips to the refrigerator.

That is why it is important to catch the first signs of a change in a person’s habitual state. Gather a meeting with the heads of departments and directions, explain what burnout is, and why it is much easier to notice and prevent it than to solve subsequent problems.

The simplest and most universal method is simply to communicate with people. It is no secret that the most important ways of communication in a remote workplace are video calls, messengers, and phone calls. It is clear that in a large team it is difficult to see any echoes of burnout, but joint meetings between departments and teams will allow managers to notice which employees behave differently, refuse to attend video communication sessions, do not answer the phone, perform work tasks more slowly, do not express initiative, or are pessimistic.

As an option: conduct small surveys to assess the psychological state of employees. We use two types of surveys. The first one is daily: a small questionnaire is created in the corporate chat room on the topic “How did your day start? How are you feeling?” of five options, each of which indicates the degree of mood. The answer takes about 2-3 seconds and doesn’t require much thought. We have about 5-6 synonymous answer titles, so we are constantly mixing them up.

On a weekly basis we conduct more extended surveys, which require about 3-4 minutes of time. These include: whether the person feels that his or her workday has become longer, what is missing, whether he or she likes working from home, how comfortable he or she feels, whether he or she lacks communication, etc. We do this with an internal portal, but there are plenty of online platforms where you can conduct a survey.

Act Immediately

If you or one of the heads of the departments has noticed the symptoms of burnout (for example, the mood for several days is on the 1-2 mark or no response at all, the person categorically refuses to go into the video format of communication for several days), the best action is to talk to the employee. One-on-one is best, so you won’t be distracted, and the specialist will have more opportunity to speak openly. Ask what exactly is causing the employee’s state of despondency, if there is anything that they are having difficulty coping with. The main thing is to maintain a trusting atmosphere. Ask simple questions to identify the problem and understand what exactly is causing the person’s negative mood.

One of our employees became much less active in work chats than before, preferring to communicate without video, and not attending general informal gatherings at Zoom. When his manager first “sounded the alarm” and turned to the timesheet, it turned out that the amount of time he worked increased by almost 22%, but his productivity level decreased significantly, as did the flow of tasks completed. During informal communication the employee admitted that he was terribly uncomfortable working at home, the lack of communication was affecting him, he felt that he spent his time inefficiently, he was uncomfortable in front of his teammates and, most importantly, he was worried about his future at the company, as he felt that he was letting his manager down and not giving the desired result.

To be a colleague and a friend

Don’t be quick to condemn or immediately start actively acting and persuading to do something. First, the person has already released some of the stress, shared his fears. Secondly, remind him that he didn’t get into the company for nothing, and more than once proved his worth through his actions. Explain that any team member is important, and if he feels bad, the company will definitely help. Ask what the specialist needs to change his condition, and if there are no health problems. When you have all the inputs, start taking action.

When the supervisor worked through all the points, he hastened to reassure the anxious employee. It turned out that the man’s greatest desire was to make sure that he would not be fired for his, as he put it, “punctures. The specialist was given three days off, and after the weekend his condition improved considerably.

Don’t forget about communication

It’s important for people to be needed – that truth doesn’t change even in such a tough environment. Be sure to continue developing your corporate culture and try to move your events online. There are many options: quizzes, small internal contests, lectures with invited experts (not necessarily in the company profile), informal communication (tea party and Zoom discussion of the latest news).

We began to maintain activity from the first week of self-isolation: at first we organized an internal contest and an evening of informal communication, but when it was decided to extend the “off days,” we thought about the whole “movement. The following online event formats were developed:

  1. Evening with the top: a date was set for the evening, the speaker was one of the company’s executives. Any employee could send in questions (including anonymously) and in the course of the evening they would get an answer. The atmosphere was light. Interesting fact: these were the most attended events;
  2. Lectures with invited experts: it’s the right time to broaden your horizons, and for this purpose, 1-2 times a week we invite experts from different fields to share their experience and tell us about the nuances of the profession. We have been visited by a fitness coach, a psychologist, an editor-in-chief of local television, a stylist, a hypnotherapist, an English teacher, a photographer, an interior designer, a radio host.
  3. Entertainment events: we had poker or CS tournaments, exercises in the morning, split into teams and played quizzes. By the way, this played a great role in the adaptation of new employees to the team and helped them get to know each other.

Self-isolation will not last forever, and the experience of working remotely and the ability to spot “bottlenecks” will undoubtedly come in handy.

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General FAQs

Why do employees get burned out?

Burnout strikes employees when they have exhausted their physical or emotional strength. This usually occurs as a result of prolonged stress or frustration. Sometimes the cause is the work environment. Stressful jobs, lack of support and resources, and tight deadlines can all contribute to burnout.

Is burnout a mental illness?

Burnout is characterized by emotional exhaustion, cynicism and ineffectiveness in the workplace, and by chronic negative responses to stressful workplace conditions. While not considered a mental illness, burnout can be considered a mental health issue.

What burnout feels like?

Feeling tired and drained most of the time. Lowered immunity, frequent illnesses. Frequent headaches or muscle pain. Change in appetite or sleep habits.

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Devendra Singh

Founder of Digital Marketing Trends. I help people to build their online businesses. I’m a Digital Marketing & SEO Consultant. Providing a big online presence for SMEs and StartUps. Need digital help? Ask away! Connect with me on…

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