How to re-engage employees and ward off burnout before it gets too late.
I read an interesting article in The Collective magazine the other day titled ‘Before the Burn’ which talked about a new phrase named the ‘Brownout’. It’s basically the step before someone goes into full blown burnout, and people who experience it often feel (but don’t show) overwhelmed, disengagement and a loss of work mojo.
Unlike someone who suffers extreme burnout and reaches a point where they have no choice but to change, brownout is not as apparent – people seemingly perform well and act efficiently, yet feel a sense of unhappiness and lethargy.
Burnout was described as being like the flu, and brownout as a common cold. Both have similar symptoms but one is more crippling.
Examples of how brownout can start to manifest:
- A passion or hobby you once had no longer gets any of your time or attention.
- You constantly miss your kids milestones like first soccer matches and birthday parties.
- You are going through the motions at work, your heart is not in it.
- The idea of a deep, restful sleep is just that, an idea.
- Challenges and pressure which you can normally handle feel harder to solve.
Whether this leads to under performance at work, losing clients in your business, missing out on a job promotion, or simply feeling no drive or interest in your work, it might be time to look at some simple strategies so that you don’t head further down the path towards burnout.
Getting more vs giving support
It’s one thing to provide training, development and set KPI’s that focus on getting ‘more’ out of your teams, but it’s an entirely different strategy to support your people to bring their best to work.
There is nothing wrong with having high expectations of those in your employment, however if the mentality is “I pay you well, so that’s a fair exchange”, then you might find some of your team feel unhappy, demotivated and disengaged – and that does affect your bottom line.
It’s estimated that untreated mental health, which can occur when someone is constantly feeling unhappy and disengaged, costs Australia workplaces approximately $10.9 billion a year.
If brownout is something you think may be affecting your workplace, here are some simple tips to help you (as a leader or manager) boost morale and create a better internal culture:
- Provide flexible hours so that your people can balance work and life responsibilities better and come to work less stressed.
- Promote movement at work like walking meetings, standing desks, nano breaks and using the stairs because movement is the best way to get creative and solve problems.
- Set up regular low cost wellness lunch and learn sessions where an external provider comes in and gives simple tips on areas of wellness that your people have chosen (such as sleep, eating, exercise, stress management, meditation or yoga)
- Utilise your internal communication systems to encourage people to post pictures of themselves doing activities they love on weekends. It’s a great way to start conversations and find common interests amongst your teams.
- Create a calendar of events that involved fun, team-oriented activities that can be done as a group one afternoon a month.
- Have more in depth conversations with your people about their roles – what they love and what frustrates them. Feeling validated can have a big impact on someone’s mental state.
- Play music at work more often, or allow people to listen to their own at certain times of the day. Music can have a profound influence on mental state.
The most important thing as a leader is to walk the talk and share your own experiences. Your teams want to know you are “human” just like them. A leader who is enthusiastic about a hobby, talks about his or her family, is seen to be using the stairs, only has meetings walking outside and chooses the healthy option at a business lunch will create the sense that they value these things in their employees as well.
A cultural shift from getting the most to encouraging the best from your employees can lead to happier, healthier, more engaged people who want to stay with you for the long term, and that in itself is a huge cost saver!
Lisa Mills is an Executive Wellness Coach. Click here to view an unedited version of this article.