Have you returned from the summer break to an overflowing inbox and a seemingly insurmountable pile of work? It can be tempting to dive back into bad habits with late nights and high intensity days, but experts caution on the harms of burnout.
“Work martyrs are drastically changing company culture and leading to a rise in cases of stress and burnout.”
This, according to a story published by the BBC last week. It comes off the back of a new study by The Workforce Institute Kronos that shows 81% of salaried employees in the US work outside of their standard work hours, with 29% doing it three or more days per week.
It’s a practice we’re all guilty of, but when it comes to consistent behaviour, the numbers speak for themselves.
Studies have linked overworking with numerous stress-related health problems, including depression, impaired sleep and heavy drinking. And a new study of US, Australian and European workers found that those putting in 55 hours or more per week had a 33% greater risk of stroke and 13% greater risk of coronary heart disease when compared with their peers working a standard 40-hour week.
Why it matters for HR
HR does more than manage people; you’re also a role model for employees. If you’re behaving like a work martyr, you’re not only enacting behaviour for others to copy, but contributing to a company culture that condones – and even expects – this kind of behaviour.
The Australian Workplace OHS recommends that HR departments support employees by developing clear measurable outcomes, sharing control in decision-making, providing fair reward for performance, promoting workplace respect and ensuring that HR policies are aligned with management ideals.
However, they also suggest that the primary cause of burnout is “a chronic mismatch of people with work.” Preventing burnout, therefore, means finding better alignments.
How to banish burnout from your workplace
- If an employee is working off the clock to get work done, they (or their boss) may be setting unrealistic expectations for what they can get done. Managers need to be be made aware if work is regularly spilling out of work hours and re-adjust their expectations.
- Positive feedback can only be a motivating factor for so long. If individuals or teams are working at 200 per cent for extended periods of time, it’s not only unsustainable, it’s a recipe for burnout and high staff turnover. Apart from short periods that may require high intensity work (such as a project deadline), managers should know what can be reasonably accomplished in a 40-hour work week.
- Bosses are often the biggest offenders of work martyrdom. Not only do they set the wrong tone for their employees, explains Ty Tucker, CEO of performance management platform REV, “but they’re ultimately slowing down the business when they make themselves so indispensable to the company that nothing can happen without them.”
- If you need to re-set your approach to work, here’s a handy guide to get started.
- And if you find yourself up against a deadline, here’s how to support a team under pressure.