About two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job, according to a recent Gallup study. The effects of burnout can be so serious that the World Health Organization (WHO) now officially recognizes it as a syndrome.
Finding the Root Cause of Burnout
Burnout occurs when members aren't able to properly manage their chronic workplace stress, feeling constantly exhausted. They're often less satisfied, unmotivated and less productive at work, and they may slip up or be absent more often. Left unchecked, job burnout can lead to serious mental health issues, unsafe working conditions and high worker turnover. A Deloitte survey on burnout showed that nearly half of millennials say they left a job because they felt burnt out.
Research shows that burnout in the construction industry may stem from the high demands of the job as well as the sometimes hazardous nature of the work, while a recent survey found that 17% of transportation and warehouse workers suffer from extreme burnout. For manufacturing workers, the combination of the industry's cyclical nature and an ever-evolving standard of technology can take a heavy toll on members. However, this condition presents a problem for unions and their members across every industry — burnout can be a side effect of dealing with difficult coworkers, feeling a loss of control over the work or lacking the right work-life balance.
5 Ways to Eliminate Member Job Burnout
As a union leader, you're well positioned to help members both avoid burnout across sectors and manage it well when it does arise. Identifying burnout early and intervening as soon as possible gives union boards the best chance of protecting members' well-being and maintaining a productive workplace.
1. Spot the Signs
Even members who are passionate about their jobs can succumb to burnout, according to the Deloitte survey. Though 87% of those surveyed said they have passion for their job, 64% said they're frequently stressed. Educate members on the signs of burnout so that they can recognize the condition in those around them. Warning signs of burnout include trouble concentrating, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, low morale, headaches, sleeplessness and frequent illness.
2. Prioritize Health and Well-Being
One way to avoid burnout is for members to focus on self-care. Encourage your members to eat well, exercise, get enough sleep and keep up with routine doctors' appointments. Highlight the importance of stress reduction as well, and recommend techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises and making time for hobbies. Consider organizing a workshop that presents some basic well-being tips for members.
3. Work on Time Management
Some members grappling with burnout may have trouble prioritizing tasks. Help members manage their time effectively and acknowledge when they have too much on their plate. Members may benefit from attending a time management workshop or tracking their time to identify how they might work more efficiently. Some members suffering from a heavy workload, however, may just need a reprieve. Talk to these members about how to address the problem so they're prepared to speak with their supervisor about burnout and their workload.
4. Find the Right Work-Life Balance
On average, Americans get 10 days of vacation, but many don't take all the days they're due. Technology can also make it difficult not to take work home. One way to achieve a healthier work-life balance is to disconnect. Encourage members to unplug while they're on their own time and to take all of their vacation days every year. Vacations don't have to be expensive — even a week off at home can be relaxing and good for members' mental health.
5. Make Mental Health Resources Available
One study of manufacturing employees with burnout suggested that educating workers about available mental health help could be an effective intervention strategy. Try connecting members with resources, including contact information for local mental health centers and providers. In all your materials and workshops, be careful not to reinforce the stigma surrounding mental health. Members should know that counseling can help, and that it's nothing to be ashamed of. Advise members to review their health benefits and check if therapy sessions are covered, and if so, how many. For some members, telemedicine may also be an option.
As you help your members avoid and recover from burnout, remember to consider your own influence. If you're working all hours of the day and night and dining on just junk food at work, it can send the wrong message. Leaders play a crucial role in setting the tone, so start your initiative by modeling healthy behavior for members yourself.