Managing Employee Burnout: Tips for Summer and Beyond

Posted by Corey Pinkham

As managers, acknowledging the need for a healthy work-life balance is essential – especially as we enter the summer months. Many professionals are balancing vacations, family events, kids at home, and much more along with their standard work responsibilities. While it’s essential to be sensitive to potential employee burnout year-round, the summer tends to create an environment where PTO is more common, workweeks may be shorter, and priorities compete – often causing more stress than relaxation.

More than half of professionals are experiencing at least moderate levels of burnout, according to a recent Aflac study. Unmanageable workloads, unclear communication, lack of support and unrealistic expectations are just a few factors that can lead to feelings of burnout. This can have significant consequences on your team’s productivity and ability to meet your business goals. Employees who are burned out are 63% more likely to take sick time and 2.6 times more likely to actively explore other employment opportunities. Approaching employees’ work-life balance through a human lens can help provide the space for employees to recharge, while increasing productivity and overall job satisfaction.  

Below are a few ways to reduce burnout among your team members not just in the summer, but all year long:

Avoiding Employee Burnout: Tips for Maintaining Productivity this Summer and BeyondPlan ahead.

In insurance, there are known busy seasons – such as open enrollment or CAT season. Plan hiring accordingly so that when spikes come, you are prepared to manage the additional workload without overwhelming your employees. Often, full-time individuals already have a full plate, meaning when things get busy, the extra work just piles on top. By planning ahead, you can enlist the help of qualified interim staff to help ease an influx of work and enable your full-time employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Set reasonable expectations.

Along with planning for anticipated spikes in workloads, be reasonable in how you handle the unexpected. If someone leaves the organization, how will you manage that gap? Too often, managers default to expecting the rest of the team to absorb the loss. Be strategic and intentional in thinking through what tasks can be postponed, what could be given to temporary employees, and what could be a development opportunity for another individual. If you do transition responsibilities, talk to your employees about how you can shift their existing workload to avoid overburdening them.

Avoiding Employee Burnout: Tips for Maintaining Productivity this Summer and BeyondFind opportunities to connect.

Especially in remote environments, it can be difficult to build a sense of connection and camaraderie among team members. Those in individual contributor roles are also more prone to feeling isolated and disconnected, given their positions don’t regularly interact with others. Create an environment where communication and collaboration are the norm and provide the space to establish relationships that lead to healthy conversations around shared work experiences. This could mean scheduling informal breakout discussions to connect those who may not otherwise cross paths or hosting periodic in-office meetings.

Provide flexibility.

New terms are emerging in the corporate world such as “quiet vacationing,” where individuals don’t feel comfortable formally asking for time off – be it for vacations, appointments or family obligations. In fact, 40% of millennials share they’ve taken time off without notifying their manager, according to a recent Harris poll. Recognize that employees are people with personal responsibilities and lives outside of work. Be flexible when you can to help build trust and transparency, while reducing unnecessary stress.

Encourage breaks.

Even if your company has a generous PTO policy, your organizations’ culture and attitude toward breaks will influence whether employees are truly able to disconnect. Three out of four workers wish their workplace culture more strongly emphasized the value of breaks and time off. Create a culture where taking time off is encouraged and disconnecting while on PTO is the norm. Even if you as a manager are not actively taking time off, make sure your employees know you support these breaks and the opportunity for them to recharge.

Avoiding Employee Burnout: Tips for Maintaining Productivity this Summer and BeyondRespect communication boundaries.

If you appear to be “always on” and are sending emails, texts or chat messages after hours, think about any unintentional pressures or consequences you may be putting on your team. Even if you’re not expecting an answer until the next day, you risk interrupting their evenings and causing them to shift their mindsets from home to work when a notification appears. As much as you can, postpone pressing send until working hours.

Make one-on-ones about more than performance.

Use your one-on-one time with employees to get to know them outside of projects and deadlines. Building personal connections can help increase engagement and also enable you to better recognize the warning signs of early burnout. Ask how they’re doing and feeling, and focus on building a relationship that is less transactional than solely reviewing project progress.  

Avoiding Employee Burnout: Tips for Maintaining Productivity this Summer and BeyondHave ongoing conversations around benefits.

Many companies proudly tout their benefits and perks during the hiring and onboarding process, but then the conversation stops. Highlight your organization’s benefits more frequently and encourage individuals to take advantage of what your company offers. Additionally, ensure your HR team is taking a holistic view in understanding what is important to current employees and structuring benefit offerings accordingly.

Employee burnout may be common, but in many cases it’s avoidable. Be genuine in connecting with your team members, provide them with flexibility, encourage time off, and set clear and realistic expectations around workloads. By supporting individuals to the best of your ability, you’ll be positioned to identify, navigate and ultimately mitigate employee burnout.