Matt Featured In Advisor Perspectives: Beating Employee Burnout

“It’s better to burn out than to fade away,” Def Leppard sang in its hit song Rock of Ages. Maybe that’s good advice for a hair band, but for financial planners, not so much.

Burnout is real. It is a dangerous threat to your firm and must be guarded against with the same vigilance and determination you use in keeping your online transactions safe. Because burnout, just like cyber-criminals, will cause severe damage to your operation.

The burnout problem is getting a lot of attention. Heavier workloads, a perceived lack of control, and job insecurity conspire to generate high turnover, reduced productivity, and poor mental health. A seemingly 24/7 work pace and constant demands with dwindling resources create situations that breed burnout like mold in a Petri dish. Add an unstable economy, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for employee exhaustion.

Burnout is more than working until you feel tired at the end of the day. Burnout results from working past five o’clock and going well into the night, over weekends, and into holidays and vacation days.

Burnout is the realization that you are worn down to the bone – the feeling that you will drop if you have to walk just one more step.

Worst of all, burnout is infectious and can spread among your team members with devastating results. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent staff burnout. To combat the problem, you must first understand its underlying causes.

Start with a negative work environment. Ever had a job where the workplace was so toxic you dreaded going in each day? If you haven’t, you’re fortunate because most of us have put in a time at a place where the atmosphere was nasty and depressing. And there’s a reason why we don’t work there any more, too.

Choosing to remain mired in an emotionally draining cesspool is an open invitation to burnout. The opposite is true, as well. A positive workplace produces positive workers. But it goes much deeper than simply being affirmative and encouraging. Positivity must be part of your business’ DNA.

I have noticed the impact of a positive culture in my firm. We have worked to create a culture that represents and reflects who we are as people and as a business. Our authenticity has attracted team members who share our core values. That alignment creates a positive work environment where burnout is less likely to occur.

Management and team members have a role in preventing burnout. Managers must encourage an open dialogue where a team member can confidentially come forward and say, “I’m concerned I may be starting to feel the effects of burnout.” Likewise, the employee is equally responsible for telling their manager what is happening inside them. Good managers need lots of skills, but mind-reading shouldn’t be one of them.

Problems can only be addressed when they are shared, and they can only be shared when there is an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.

Team members can also take steps and make habits to stave off burnout:

  • Step back, unplug and chill. Take time off every so often. And by the way, “time off” does not mean working remotely outside the office. It means genuinely leaving work at work for a brief period. Whether it’s just a personal mental health day or a full-blown vacation, getting away relaxes the mind, soothes the soul, and refreshes the intellect.

Management should nurture a culture where team members understand that while they are valuable to operation, the team can carry on without them for a day or week. Even key staffers should feel free to occasionally turn off the text alerts and mute their cell phones in pursuit of real personal time.

  • Get up and leave your desk every so often. Go to the water fountain or walk down the hall. Give yourself a few minutes to detach from unpleasant people or situations.
  • Don’t be an overly eager beaver. Sure, enthusiasm and initiative are great. Going above and beyond when it’s needed is important. But don’t get carried away. You don’t want to be the person always standing at the doors when they’re unlocked at 6:00 a.m. or always found toiling away in the office on weekends. That’s an open invitation to burnout!
  • It’s okay to reach out for support. We all need a helping hand or shoulder to lean on from time to time. Carrying a heavy load hidden inside weighs you down and takes its toll on your job performance. Know when to say “when” – in this case, when to ask for help. Check with your employee assistance program; you may be surprised by the resources available and how helpful they can be.
  • Practice personal self-care. You probably watch what you eat and workout to keep your body fit. It’s just as important to keep your inner self in shape. That means making your personal well-being a top priority. This, in turn, means going on walks or bike rides, backing off from the booze and caffeine a little, and consciously trying to clear your mind every so often. The better your body feels, the healthier your head is, too.

Mediation is beneficial for some folks. Whether it’s taking a class from an instructor or teaching yourself with an app, there are many ways to use this practice to unwind and let out that stress and tension that built up.

Hobbies are another ideal tool to keep your inner self refreshed. Similarly, volunteering to help others through a community or faith-based organization is a great way to stay internally restored.

  • Don’t be a doormat. Stand up for yourself. Don’t automatically say “yes” to your boss or fellow team members. A healthy sense of self-esteem goes a long way to prevent feeling burned out.

Read the Advisor Perspectives article here.