A recent survey conducted by Aflac highlighted a shocking trend within organisations: More than half of employees are facing at least moderate levels of burnout. Yet only 45 per cent of employers are even aware that burnout is a problem for their organisations.
This is a failure of leadership, and long term it’s going to cause these organisations significant cultural and talent problems. Thankfully, there are solutions, and they start with the 360 degree survey.
Why employee burnout is a serious issue
Employee burnout is a state of chronic physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress in the workplace. It is characterised by feelings of fatigue, disengagement, and a decline in productivity and overall well-being.
This isn’t just asking a team to go above and beyond to meet a deadline. Every workplace has that and it’s an acceptable part of the working experience. Burnout occurs when “going above and beyond” is perpetual and becomes the norm.
When burnout becomes part of the company culture, it has some far-reaching and often catastrophic consequences, including:
- Negative Impact on Health: Burnout takes a toll on an individual's physical and mental well-being. Employees experiencing burnout are more prone to fatigue, sleep disturbances, headaches, and increased susceptibility to illnesses. The prolonged stress can also lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression, exacerbating the overall health problems.
- Reduced Productivity: Burnout leads to a decline in productivity and performance. Exhausted employees struggle to concentrate, make decisions, and meet deadlines. They may experience a lack of motivation, creativity, and engagement in their work. The quality of their output may suffer, resulting in decreased efficiency and effectiveness.
- Increased Absenteeism and Turnover: Burnout often leads to increased absenteeism as employees may take more sick leaves or mental health days to recover from the stress. Furthermore, employees suffering from burnout are more likely to seek alternative job opportunities, resulting in higher turnover rates. This constant churn negatively impacts team dynamics, organisational knowledge, and morale.
- Impact on Work Relationships: Burnout affects not only the individual but also their colleagues and work relationships. Exhausted employees may become irritable, withdrawn, or disengaged, leading to strained relationships and poor teamwork. Communication breakdowns and conflicts become more common, further eroding the work environment.
- Decline in Employee Engagement: Burnout diminishes employees' commitment to their work and the organisation. When employees feel overwhelmed and underappreciated, they are less likely to actively participate in their roles, share ideas, or contribute to the company's growth. This lack of engagement can have far-reaching effects on innovation, collaboration, and overall organisational culture.
- Financial Costs: Employee burnout carries significant financial consequences for organisations. The costs include increased healthcare expenses due to stress-related illnesses, higher turnover rates necessitating recruitment and training, reduced productivity, and potential legal ramifications if workplace safety and health regulations are not met.
- Reputation and Employer Branding: If burnout becomes pervasive within an organisation, it can negatively impact its reputation and employer branding. Potential candidates may be discouraged from joining the company, and existing employees may speak negatively about their experiences, making it challenging to attract and retain top talent.
A famous and extreme example of burnout affecting an entire organisation can be seen in BioWare, a video game company that went through a prolonged period of “crunch,” where, for more than 18 months, working so hard that there wasn’t time to go home in the evenings or even on weekends was the norm.
BioWare’s crunch was so ingrained into the company culture that the staff had a term for “stress casualties” – people who would simply disappear from work from one to three months, and often never returned. “People were so angry and sad all the time,” an employee told a journalist in a report about the working conditions. “Depression and anxiety are an epidemic within BioWare.”
BioWare is an extreme example, but the root cause of the crunch and subsequent burnout can be traced back to a common problem that organisations face; a lack of leadership allowing projects to spiral out of control, and the teams working on those projects being left to pick up the pieces.
The solution is to identify these lapses in leadership and project management early, and address them before they can become critical. This is where the 360 degree survey comes in.
How a 360 degree survey can help reduce burnout
Making a 360 degree survey a regular part of the office feedback loop will provide you with valuable insight into whether burnout is becoming a factor within the organisation, and help identify ways to address it before you start having “stress casualties” of your own.
Specifically, a 360 degree survey helps leaders to address a potential culture of burnout by:
- Identifying sources of burnout: A 360 degree survey involves collecting feedback from multiple perspectives, including supervisors, peers, and subordinates, as well as self-assessment. This comprehensive feedback allows organisations to gain a holistic view of an employee's work experience and helps identify potential sources of burnout, such as excessive workload, poor communication, or lack of support.
- Raising awareness: The survey results provide a clear picture of the current state of the work environment and its impact on employee well-being. It raises awareness among leaders, managers, and employees themselves about the prevalence and consequences of burnout. This awareness is crucial for initiating discussions, recognising the signs of burnout, and taking appropriate action.
- Targeted interventions: The feedback obtained from the 360 degree survey can guide organisations in developing targeted interventions to address burnout. For example, if the survey highlights a lack of work-life balance as a contributing factor, the organisation can implement flexible work arrangements, promote self-care practices, or encourage better time management.
- Managerial improvement: The survey provides managers with valuable feedback about their leadership style, communication effectiveness, and overall support for their teams. This information helps managers identify areas for improvement and adjust their behaviours to better support employee well-being, ultimately reducing burnout.
- Promoting a supportive culture: A 360 degree survey encourages a culture of feedback and open communication within the organisation. When employees see that their opinions are valued and their concerns are addressed, it fosters a sense of support and psychological safety. This, in turn, helps create a supportive work culture that actively addresses burnout and promotes employee well-being.
- Tracking progress: Regularly conducting 360-degree surveys allows organisations to track progress over time. By comparing survey results from different time periods, they can assess the effectiveness of implemented interventions, identify areas that still need improvement, and ensure ongoing efforts to reduce burnout are effective.
The 360 degree survey cannot “solve” burnout all by itself. Ultimately the quality of leadership within an organisation is going to be either the problem or solution there. However, what a 360 degree survey does do is provide the data to raise a red flag early, and allow an organisation to right the ship before the negative impacts of burnout can start to take hold.
Multirater Surveys has the 360 degree survey solutions that can help you build a winning leadership culture across the organisation. Contact us for more information or to get started!