Employee burnout may be more widespread than you think. According to data from the General Social Survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, fully half of employees report they are “often” or “always” exhausted because of work. The study also found a strong correlation between workplace exhaustion and loneliness: Those who are more tired are also more likely to report feeling lonely.
Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? The report doesn’t draw conclusions as to whether exhaustion increases loneliness or vice versa, but it’s easy to see how the two problems intersect. Employees who feel exhausted and burdened by work are likely to have less time and energy for socializing with friends and family. Employees already suffering from loneliness may lack the emotional resilience to deal with stressful workplaces. And loneliness and exhaustion can quickly form a vicious circle.
All of this suggests reducing workloads or adjusting schedules aren’t the only ways to prevent employee burnout. Encouraging social connections at work can help, too. Here are some steps you can take to combat employee burnout:
1. Create opportunities for employees to build relationships. Workplace potluck lunches, after-work happy hours or friendly competitions among teams or departments all provide chances for employees to talk and develop friendships. Celebrate achievements, anniversaries and birthdays as a group.
2. Interact offline. In today’s busy workplace, it’s easy to get sucked into our devices, until all our interactions end up taking place via email or Slack. Make time to get out of your office, walk around and talk to the team. Pick up the phone instead of sending an email. Poke your head into the next office to ask a question instead of emailing. Looking each other in the eyes, speaking face-to-face, a friendly smile—all builds connections and energizes employees to deal with work.
3. Encourage team projects. Even employees who generally prefer to work on their own can benefit from being part of team projects from time to time. If you don’t have enough employees to really create teams, try pairing employees up to work together on tasks that require different skills. Bonus: Sharing the workload helps relieve stress that can lead to burnout.
4. Start a mentorship program. Mentoring can help entry-level employees find their footing or new managers learn the ropes. The “buddy system” mentoring provides helps employees feel confident someone has their backs and they’re not on their own.
5. Take a real interest in your employees. When you run a small business, there’s no excuse for not getting to know your employees as people. Learn their spouses and children’s names, their hobbies and interests, their favorite sports teams. Feeling that the boss knows and cares about them goes a long way toward making employees feel at home in your business.
6. Nip problems in the bud. Are some employees bullying others or making them feel unwelcome? If you notice an employee who seems to be on their own, without friends at work, try to find out more about the situation. Let employees know that bullying and exclusion won’t be tolerated and that your company culture includes everyone.
By taking these steps to help employees feel included at work, you will help prevent loneliness and hopefully workplace burnout, too.
Office Woman Photo via Shutterstock