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6 Tips To Reduce Stress and Burnout

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Stress in the workplace, whether the workplace is at home or at designated place, has been proven to play a big role in employee burnout, absenteeism & retention issues.

In 2019, ‘burnout’ for the first time was recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an ‘occupational phenomenon’.

We all recognise that lockdowns drastically affected our work-life balance and working environments with the lines between work and home life becoming increasingly blurred.

Many of us are working longer hours, have been looking after children during the working day, and for many, our means of social interaction and social environments have changed.

Gallup reported in 2021 that their surveys showed that "manager burnout" is now significantly worse than previous years.

Having stressed and burned-out managers is never good, but it's a particularly urgent problem right now. According to Gallop forty-eight percent of people in the workforce are either actively looking for a new job or watching for openings.

What is Burnout?
Listed below are all factors that people who are diagnosed with burnout report experienceing. Take a moment to reflect on whether you see these common signs of burnout listed below in your colleagues - what behaviours would see if they were feeling this way?
  • Feeling tired or drained most of the time
  • Feeling helpless, trapped and/or defeated
  • Feeling detached/alone in the world
  • Having a cynical/negative outlook
  • Self-doubt
  • Procrastinating and taking longer to get things done
  • Feeling overwhelmed
The question we most get asked about burnout is what causes people especially managers to suffer with stress and burnout?
What Work Conditions Cause Burnout?

The research literature suggests that conditions that cause burnout can be broken down into six key domains to do with workload, control, reward, community, fairness, and values.  

Read the descriptions below and reflect if your workplace causes excess stress for you colleagues in these domains? How could you find out? 

Simply put work overload contributes to burnout by depleting the capacity of people to meet the demands of the job. When this kind of overload is a chronic job condition, there is little opportunity to rest, recover, and restore balance. 

Likewise research has shown a clear link between a lack of control and burnout. Does your work give you or your colleagues a feeling that you have control or does it continually make you feel like you are out of control?

The good news is when people have the perceived capacity to influence decisions that affect their work, to exercise professional autonomy, and to gain access to the resources necessary to do an effective job, they are more likely to experience job engagement.

The area of reward refers to the power of reinforcements to shape behavior. Insufficient recognition and reward (whether financial, institutional, or social) increases people's vulnerability to burnout, because it devalues both the work and the workers, and is closely associated with feelings of inefficacy.

Out of 10 where would you rate your workplace in this domain? 10 being your have a fantastic recognition and reward system and 1 is you will leave when you get an opportunity. How do you think your colleagues feel about the same question?

The area of community has to do with the ongoing relationships that employees have with other people on the job. When these relationships are characterised by a lack of support and trust, and by unresolved conflict, then there is a greater risk of burnout. 

The area of fairness is about the extent to which decisions at work are perceived as being fair and equitable. People suffer burnout when they continually perceive the quality of the procedures, and their own treatment during the decision‐making process as unfair. Especially when they feel they are not being treated with the appropriate respect.

Values are the ideals and motivations that originally attracted people to their job, and thus they are the motivating connection between the worker and the workplace, which goes beyond the utilitarian exchange of time for money or advancement. When there is a values conflict on the job, and thus a gap between individual and organisational values, employees will find themselves making a trade‐off between work they want to do and work they have to do, and this can lead to greater burnout.

Recent research, however, added more factors that can contribute to stress and burnout: surface acting and an employee’s tendency to easily swing from one emotional state to another can contribute to psychological and physical fatigue.

Researchers Daniel Beal and his team, studied how showing emotions you don’t really feel - i.e., surface acting, which is a requirement in most customer service jobs - plus the tendency to easily shift from one emotion to another, can lead to stress and fatigue.

They used 64 restaurant servers (waiters) for their research and monitored them over 10 shifts. The participants were asked to complete a short online questionnaire on their emotions and behaviours at four stages: during the start of their shift, prior to the rush hour, after the rush hour and at the end of their shift.

The questionnaire focused on any surface acting they had carried out, had them measure their fatigue and stress levels and asked them to rate their emotional states.

The latter was used by the researchers to determine "affect spin” or how they swung from one emotional state to another. The participants were identified as "high spin” if they showed a range of emotions in one particular shift and "low spin” if they were more emotionally stable.

The researchers were interested in the level of fatigue that participants felt after their shifts and how it was affected by their emotional labour, caused by any surface acting they had carried out and their affect spin.

The results of the research confirmed Daniel Beal and his team’s theory that the more the participants performed surface acting, the more they felt fatigued both psychologically and physically as they forced themselves to show emotions that they were not really feeling.

They also discovered that high spin employees - those who were able to shift more easily from one emotional state to another (i.e., from joy to anger) - were more stressed when they used surface acting than those who were more consistent in their emotions.

Results also showed that high spin individuals, even though they’re more prone to stress, coped with stress better. Unfortunately, they still ended up more fatigued than the other participants.

How To Avoid Stress & Burnout at Work?

Stress and burnout can be prevented in the workplace by using Business Emotional Intelligence to enable to enable people to understand others and manage their emotional behaviour better.

And the good news is that dealing with emotions and the behaviours that causes stress and burnout, need not be difficult or expensive.

Here are some tips on how to manage colleagues and staff who may be at risk from stress and burnout:

Tip 1 - Listening and not jumping in
Pause before responding to a situation and then respond by feeding back what you have understood. Listen rather than offering advice, solving the problem for them, intellectualising, ridiculing, disagreeing, pacifying, relating similar stories ... and so on.

Tip 2 – Wait, and choose your moment
Always wait until you are "getting along" to talk about what happens to their behaviour when they are outside their comfort zone or stressed.

Tip 3- Comment on what you've noticed
Without judgment or complaint comment on what you've noticed. For example, "I've noticed you are quiet at the moment, how are you feeling?" rather than a challenging question, "So what's wrong with you?"

Tip 4 - Speak Gently
Speak with authentic kindness. Have a softened, pleasant tone of voice, a clear voice, an easy rate of speech - not harsh, tense, whiny or fast. Sound quiet, calm and patient and genuine. Don’t let your response escalate the situation.

Tip 5 - Don't push for a response
If they don't say much in response to you, don't hound them for an explanation about their emotions.

Tip 6 - Demonstrate an attitude of wanting to listen
Put aside your own issues for now. Express words of support, but never give promises you can’t fulfil.

If this post resonated with you, why not book a call and discover how Business Emotional Intelligence Assessment Toolkit can be used to reduce stress and burnout contact EBW Team here


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