By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Burnout is often thought to be a personal problem, one that can be solved by yoga and learning to say ‘no’. While the self-help list to prevent burnout is quite long, there is now mounting evidence that applying self-help band-aid solutions to this evolving workplace phenomenon is only making it worse. 

The World Health Organization now recognizes ‘burnout’ officially as an occupational phenomenon, not a medical condition. With this, the onus of building a burnout strategy now rests entirely with the organization, not only on the individual.

But to create a burnout strategy, organizations have to tune in and turn towards their employees with greater empathy and first learn to recognize the signs of burnout. After all, prevention is always better than the cure. 

Burnout can manifest differently with different people. While certain markers can be generalized such as decreased productivity, lower quality of work, sometimes uncharacteristic disengagement can also signal employee burnout. 

Here are some of the signs that employee burnout is round the bend 

Downhill productivity

One of the biggest markers of burnout for all employees across the board is a productivity southward-moving productivity graph. Decreased productivity at work, missed deadlines, or increasing client complaints can be seen as laziness at work that might just need a swift kick in the pants. However, typically the issue runs deeper. 

In today’s work environment, employees are unduly stressed due to the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic. The lines dividing work and life are blurring and most employees are still conflicted on identifying how to show that they are delivering value. Fears about professional progress worry every employee. The new employees can especially struggle to navigate the challenges of the new hybrid workplace with the dexterity of others. All these factors can lead employees to feel overwhelmed and stressed and manifest as burnout at work.

So, what’s the solution? Employees need greater clarity on work expectations and behaviors to overcome feelings of uncertainty. The organization has to respond to employee behaviors with more empathy so that employees can approach their managers without fear. They also can seek the help of peer coaches to navigate the challenges impeding productivity and causing them to feel overwhelmed and make sure that they address issues before they become bigger and lead to burnout.  

Obvious exhaustion

While employees will feel tired from time to time but when fatigue sets in and becomes obvious, it means that burnout is cooking on the stove. 

If you find your employees perennially tired and taking more sick leaves than usual, and worn-out expressions, moodiness, and irritability become visible emotions, then these are dead giveaway signs of burnout at work. Missing team spirit can also be a warning sign of employee burnout.

So, what’s the solution? Organizations need to help managers, team members, and leaders build their emotional quotient to identify signs of exhaustion that manifest physically and emotionally. This needs people to become more focused on driving mental health in the workplace, removing biases associated with exhaustion, and developing an environment where employees can reach out to peer coaches to help them with overwhelming situations.  

Low levels of engagement 

When employees, especially high-performing employees, stop taking an active interest in work, do not pay attention to the quality of work, and are sitting under a mountain of unfinished assignments and tasks it is time to pay heed. All is not well. 

All these attributes signal a lack of engagement that can lead to employee burnout. Organizations need to thereby have their identifiers in place to point out burnout before the smoldering embers become a raging fire. It is important to pay attention to the star performers and their behaviors since they are under more pressure to perform and retain their rock-star status in the hybrid work environment. 

So, what’s the solution? Engaging with high potential employees to identify their challenges proactively, roping them into the decision-making process, giving them more responsibilities or more challenging projects, or helping them become more visible by helping them develop better collaboration skills can contribute to greater engagement and consequently prevent burnout.  

Don’t ignore manager and leadership burnout 

While missed deadlines and pending assignments are signs of employee burnout at work, cynicism, criticism, and anger, dejection, and disinterest in managers show that burnout has dug in its claws there as well. 

Managers and leaders are the people who must inspire others, complement idealism with innovation, and be resilient in the face of challenges. When they find it challenging to inspire, remain future-focused, and do not find the enthusiasm to marry innovation with consistency, then there is a concern of burnout. Sudden withdrawal from conversations and a lack of interest in fostering work relationships can also signal burnout in managers and leaders.   These times are intensely challenging as managers can experience a lack of autonomy and agency. The feelings of lacking control, managing teams remotely, and being solely responsible for their teams’ performance and mental health can cause managers to feel overwhelmed as well. Additionally, the social conditioning and unconscious biases make them feel that talking about mental health in the workplace makes them weak, adding to burnout. 

So, what’s the solution? It is important to identify signs of stress and dysregulation amongst managers and leaders. Behaviors such as intolerance and angry outbursts, unreasonable deadlines for team members, unhappy team members, and lack of motivation in everyday activities indicate managers and leaders need to pay attention to their mental health at work and seek help on how to manage burnout. Peer coaching provides the avenue for managers and organizational leaders to discuss and address their challenges. It gives them a non-judgmental space to work out their difficulties and helps them identify ways to navigate issues that can impact their personal and professional well-being.

In Conclusion 

Organizations have to now focus on driving good mental health in the workplace by removing archaic biases that prevent employees from seeking help on how to manage burnout. It is essential to have the right mechanisms in place such as a strong peer coaching network that can help employees figure out that they are experiencing burnout and identify ways of how not to burn out at work. 

Peer coaches can provide immense support to new employees as well as established leaders. It can help them move ahead in their professional careers with peace of mind and resilience. A healthy peer coaching network helps in driving mental health in the workplace. It is an effective strategy to remove unconscious bias associated with help-seeking behaviors and increase empathy and emotional resilience. 

Connect with us to see how to design, plan and implement a peer coaching program powered by AI to identify and cull burnout in your organization today. 

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Organizational resilience is directly linked to employee resilience and resilience is directly linked to the individual’s capacity to be calm and stable during stressful times. 

The last year has caused a tsunami of stress as organizations moved to work from home. The transition continues as we now gear up to embrace the hybrid work. While a lot has been written about employee burnout and what managers and leaders can do to alleviate them, not much discussion is happening on the burnout managers are experiencing.

Why are managers experiencing burnout?

Research from McKinsey shows that nearly half of all employees report burnout. While we do not have an exact number on the statistics for manager burnout, surely the number is not going to be very different. 

Managers have been at the helm of the crisis, steering their teams through extremely challenging times. They have been sounding boards for their team members and the change agents telling organizations how to evolve work processes and collaboration in this new work environment. 

Managers have been placed in a situation that is inordinately stressful where they are at the receiving end of their team’s challenges while facing performance pressures from their higher-ups. If employees have been questioning their paths of career progressions, managers are also in the same boat. Their fears, struggles, and challenges are quite the same as their team members – what should they do to remain visible? How can they meet their teams’ needs better? How can they build trusted networks across the organization? How can they solve challenges that they have never faced before? How can they offer advice when they, themselves, are struggling with the same problems? What skills should they learn to remain relevant in the new world of work? How will they be perceived asking for help? 

Peer coaching can help

Peer coaching is all about creating a network of allies who support an individual’s needs in a non-judgmental and non-evaluative manner. This support helps in driving positive change in the workplace. It addresses the root causes that impede performance in the workplace and lead to anxiety, stress, and ultimately burnout. 

With peer coaching, managers can 

  • Gain new perspectives on the issues plaguing them and the opportunities that they can uncover and leverage to alleviate these challenges
  • Generate feelings of connection, increase trust within the workplace and deliver insights that would otherwise be missing in the work from home environment. 
  • Destigmatize help-seeking behavior and normalize the fact that while we might be operating remotely, our private lives are welcome at work.

Challenges that peer coaching solves

Shifting that isolated feeling 

Managers, just like the other employees in the workplace, have also been experiencing feelings of loneliness and burnout. Any challenge or problem that could easily be discussed by hopping across a desk now needs a meeting invite. Work-life has become infinitely more formal and yet the boundaries dividing work and personal life are blurring fast. 

In this environment, not knowing how others are managing their teams and work can feel overwhelming and managers can find themselves slipping down the rabbit hole of despair that comes from disconnection. This can seem like an insurmountable challenge, but peer coaching can easily alleviate this problem.

With peer coaching, managers can seek help on issues that are leading to feelings of disconnection. It further helps in destigmatizing help-seeking behavior for senior individuals. It further helps in making managers more committed to encouraging their team members to seek help during challenging times. This makes the work environment healthier and ensures that productivity and well-being do not fall at the altar of managing perceptions.

Building connection and driving collaboration 

All managers, across the board, have struggled to manage the complete shift to remote work. With the world of work having shifted into its remote avatar without providing much notice, all connections and familiarity removed from the picture, managers had a tall task looming ahead – to ensure the same levels of productivity and efficiency as the pre-pandemic days. 

Most organizations offered the initial support to help employees settle into this new format. However, almost all, managers included, felt that this cut-and-paste strategy to enable remote work wouldn’t impact productivity and efficiency. In many cases, while these shifts didn’t affect them, what they did impact was mental health and feelings of anxiety.

In this world of work from home, those organizations that enable peer coaching offer a platform to help managers connect with each other and seek answers to their new challenges. The role of a manager extends beyond task management – but how could the managers do the extra bit without the knowledge of how to go about it? 

Peer coaching is the best tool to help managers cope and understand the dynamics of how their roles have evolved.  Old managers are struggling to identify how to keep their teams connected and engaged without the physical connection and new managers are wondering how to build connections with their teammates to drive powerful collaboration.

Managing perceptions and unconscious bias

It is no secret that many managers have, in the past, harbored unconscious biases on what they perceive to be productive and dependable behavior. At one time, those working from home were perceived as less effective workers and were often passed over for promotions. Lack of visibility because one was working from home, often impacted promotions. Spending a disproportionate time ‘at’ work was more welcome and comfortable than accounting for time spent ‘on’ work.

These unconscious biases are now playing out in the manager’s narrative as well. Just like the team members of yesterday, today managers are struggling to become visible. They are also trying to identify how much visibility is too much visibility? How much management is good management, and when do they become micromanagers? What do they need to do to break free from the shackles of unconscious bias so that they can make the workplace more inclusive, freeing, and accepting?

Peer coaching helps managers 

  • Alleviate and manage these feelings and help them remain grounded in facts
  • Identify the best ways to become effective communicators and ensure that they keep their teams highly motivated
  • Uncover and dismantle unconscious biases by virtue of meaningful, contextual, and continuous dialogues that enable change

In Conclusion 

When organizations enable peer coaching, they provide managers the platform they need to seek help, be vulnerable and explore opportunities for improvement. With peer coaching, managers can develop the power skills like that of communication that drive effective collaboration. 

As we enter the new world of work, organizations have the opportunity to grow and become better than they were yesterday. By enabling peer coaching, organizations can effectively build a culture where lowering walls is not seen as a liability, but an asset. 

Better employee performance and elevated manager throughput become the consequence of these actions.

Connect with our team of experts to see how our AI-powered coaching platform can empower your managers and help them with the right tools to lead their teams and themselves to success.