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When is Burnout an Organisational Issue

Oct 25, 2022
When is Burnout an Organisational Issue

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Burnout is caused by prolonged exposure to chronic stress. If this is the everyday norm across your organisation, there’s a wider problem. 

It’s incredibly rare (or at least it should be rare) that everybody in a company is burnt out. However, if you notice a trend in behaviour, performance, or both - then that’s when you run the risk of mass burnout, which is unsustainable in the long term.

How can you assess whether burnout is an organisational issue?
Culture

Your culture is defined as your set of values and expectations - which is then used as the foundation for behaviour in your organisation. When we think of culture, we often think of it as the “fun” parts of work: socialising, chats by the coffee machine, and team lunches. 

When, in reality, culture can be deeply complex and in turn, affect the mental health of your employees.

For example, let’s look at the “work hard play hard” culture which is often found in sales cultures, as well as start-ups and some tech firms - although, for the most part, this culture is centred around togetherness, teamwork, and putting your “all” into work - it also runs the risk of going the complete other way and becoming a toxic mantra and work mindset to have. 

If your culture is focused more on achievement and high performance, and less on well-being and balance - you could be negatively affecting employees in the long run. Although achieving big should always be a goal, it shouldn’t compromise other core parts of your culture and values. 

Environment

Similar to culture, your environment can influence burnout. 

For example, if your office isn’t well-equipped enough, or the other end of the scale - your remote employees aren’t being catered to or expected to thrive in an environment that isn’t going to bring out their best selves. 

Psychcentral produced a piece on this, highlighting that “Basic factors like temperature and lighting are also important to overall workplace wellness. Not everything in the workplace environment can be controlled. But there are steps you can take to help manage an unhealthy environment.” 

This may sound blatantly obvious, however, it can slip under the radar for a lot of organisations who assume that their office environment (or remote environment) is optimal for all. 

Workload

The workload is the most obvious factor that we look at when considering burnout. If you have employees regularly struggling to complete their workload on a daily or weekly basis, it may indicate that you aren’t hiring efficiently enough or upskilling your current staff members. 

This then creates a domino effect across your culture and work environment as you then have a team of overworked,  stressed individuals, in a culture that isn’t supporting them.

Feedback

In larger organisations, looking for organisational burnout isn’t as easy as assessing the above three factors. Instead, it can be harder to spot this because of the different departments, team sizes, and working models you have across an organisation. 

An effective way of gathering data on this at a mass scale is via online anonymous (or in-person) feedback depending on what you think will get you the best results. 

What can you do to prevent organisational burnout?

Prevention is always better than cure, and there are steps that you can take to ensure that burnout isn’t being discarded and instead prioritised. 

Prioritise flexibility

Although burnout can still be present in even the most flexible work environments, flexible working gives employees the option to work in a different environment, take a step away from the company culture - or gain some clarity on their workload. 

Working in the same environment day in, and day out, for most, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, can feel draining. For many of us, we were used to the flexibility that remote working provided, and if you are running an organisation that has gone back to “old methods” - such as working in the office, then perhaps some flexibility and prioritising this should be your first port of call. 

Create benefits that are centred around mental health and wellbeing

As an employer, you should be looking after your employees. Creating benefits or introducing schemes that prioritise mental health, prevent burnout, and encourage good habits and practices are paramount. 

If you can influence this through the benefits that you have to offer, then it extends the symbolic olive branch out to employees to take the first step. 

Additionally, you can create certain systems and rules that are mandatory: for example, making it contractual that employees must use their annual leave, caps on overtime, and other safety measures in place, so employees aren’t overworked. 

Additionally, your benefits don’t need to cost thousands of pounds, they can be simple things like cheaper gym memberships, cycle-to-work schemes, increased holiday options and work incentives that aren’t centred around alcohol.

Use HR as your support system

Burnout is complex and you shouldn’t have to navigate this and create processes and practices independently. Use HR - whether this is internal or an external partner - to guide you on what is best practice!

download our handbook for mental health at work

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