Giving employees relief from stress at work is vital, by Bob Vecchiotti

Has there ever been a time when you’ve felt overwhelmed and feeling like “one more thing and I’ll blow up?”

Ever felt so overwhelmed you had to leave the office then and there?

Maybe you’ve reached a level of responsibility that doesn’t let you feel that way, and you’ve learned how to cope and control yourself. What about the people you lead?

It’s true for more and more people at the task level of a company that burnout is increasing to where they feel they need to get away. Recent surveys are reporting the rise of burnout at many levels inside companies. This typically occurs when control of your time and effort is challenged by the enormous workload that must be done to remain competitive and successful. People feel like they’re on a treadmill with no slowdown or stop switch. It’s hard to find autonomy or fulfillment at this level.

Burnout is on the rise in people who seek to balance work and their private lives, especially young employees with families. There’s only one broad characteristic of burnout that matters: how emotionally drained you feel along with how ineffective you feel at changing it.

The statistics on burnout reveal epidemic proportions, according to Kronos Inc., a large human resource solutions firm based in Lowell, Mass. Causes include the constant search for new talent without much attention to current employees and managers; new technology constantly changing the work and requirements for keeping pace; and the lack of attention to the psychological needs of employees under stress.

Then there’s the issue of compensation and the feeling of doing more and more for less and less. Feeling behind the compensation curve is significant. Feeling like the old phrase “the hurrier I go, the behinder I get” contributes to the sense of drain and depletion. Add to this, the feeling that executives are not supportive of their current employees but focused more and more on new technology and incentives in recruiting new talent. No one wants to be taken for granted, especially when working so hard for a company in helping to make it a success.

Is there a disconnect between executives and senior managers, and the people who work for them? External surveys suggest there is.

So, what can be done? Here are several suggestions that can stimulate more relevant solutions for your company. As a group, discuss burnout as part of your regular business meetings. With compassion, identify at least one or two actions than can help and be initiated.

Identify the criteria for granting a “time off” day. Show people you sincerely care about tackling the growing sense of burnout. Attack the root causes of burnout from employee testimony in private one-on-one sessions, and from your business meetings. Encourage people to take time off to rejuvenate. Encourage taking a 10-minute break during a busy day and do nothing. Spread the workload out more often than concentrating it with tight schedules wherever possible.

Be sure the work is scheduled for completion within 40-hour work weeks. Set the example by working at home occasionally to be with your family, and try not to miss important events in your children’s lives. Discuss ways to reduce work-related stress and adopt ideas people want and like. Put your cell phone away when you get home. Managers can offer bonuses and time off as relevant incentives for people working with high stress and meeting their objectives.

You won’t lose anything and you’ll gain time in developing a healthier work environment, which is so important in finding success in a volatile and ever-changing world. Return to your employees more control of their lives. You won’t regret it in the long run.

Bob Vecchiotti is a business psychologist and executive coach. He can be reached at rav@leadershipexpert.com or 924-2012.

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