We’ve all been warned about the perils of employee burnout, but it’s important to note that it doesn’t occur overnight. Instead, it happens in a series of stages, which also means that it can oftentimes be reversed if caught early enough.
HR Grapevine dubs this pre-burnout stage as a brownout. In the brownout phases, people feel overworked and overstressed and thus show up feeling disengaged, discontent and demotivated. Job enthusiasm tanks and fatigue and irritability quickly set in; some employees may even become so disengaged that they become tardy or even absentee all together.
So how common is it? A recent survey of 1,000 executives suggested that just 5 percent were burnt out. However, a staggering 40 percent suggested that they could identify with the qualities listed in brownout.
What makes detecting brownout is that it often takes place on an individual basis and is often deeply personal. An employee in brownout may be internally dissatisfied, but at the same time be able to continue performing at a high level, often still putting in long hours, meeting deadlines and even reassuring higher ups that they are happy in their role!
However, it is crucial to identify these individuals and prevent this employee transitioning to full on burn-out and eventually opting to leave their role. Those at risk include those who feel that they are unable to achieve both personal and professional goals. This can include those who have:
1) A lack of understanding about their role: Those employees who don’t understand how their specific job plays into the broader company “machine” can quickly become disenfranchised and disengaged.
2) Lack of opportunities: People who feel there is no opportunities for career growth in their current role or the broader company can easily feel unmotivated and thus more likely to experience burnout.
3) No clear divide between work and home: Employees who receive emails, phone calls or other notifications “after hours” – including during weekends and holidays – report higher rates of burnout as they feel that they can never fully “leave” their jobs, relax and recharge.
However, HR Grapevine notes that brownout can be easily reversed at any time through the following steps:
1) Establish realistic goals: Although long working hours – and sending emails post-working hours – are a fairly common place part of doing business in today’s society, you should encourage your employees to set their own realistic goals for work-life balance. Being able to state your personal limits – and discuss them with your employer – ensures that expectations are understood and honored on both sides.
2) Provide opportunities: To ensure continued engagement, provide opportunities for employees to collaborate and work on projects with members of other departments. This will not only help employees understand their role in the company, but also help them to gain new experience and responsibilities that promote continued engagement.
3) Don’t take work home with you: Again, work-life balance is such a large component of avoiding brownouts that it is essential that employees understand that they are not expected to check emails/respond to work notifications whenever they are out of the office. Instead, you can propose that they plan to check in once or provide an out-of-office response that they will tend to the issue at hand – within reason of course – upon their return to the office.