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August 25, 2022

Beating Burnout and Quiet Quitting

Stephen Massey

Burnout is one of the top priorities business leaders say they want to address this year.

Now, record levels of burnout are driving the phenomenon of “quiet quitting” — where workers put in their 40 hours but go silent, withdraw from their teams and do the bare minimum required of them.

Quiet quitting is a problem for employers because it’s a sign of burnout. And without properly addressing mental health in the workplace, it can turn into a contagious cynicism.

You can begin to take action by learning how to spot the signs of burnout and understanding the key drivers. This video from our most recent webinar features top experts sharing strategies to reduce employee burnout.

UNDERSTANDING BURNOUT


The first step to addressing burnout is to recognize it. Our partners at the Mental Health Coalition developed a chart to help you and your employees identify the signs of burnout.

Download the full roadmap here.


Dr. Ruth Chang, Chief People Officer at Northwest Permanente, offered us additional signs of burnout: 

  • An inability to free your mind from job worries
  • A decreased sense of meaning in your work
  • Emotional exhaustion

Once you can identify burnout, you need to know what causes it. Dr. Jacinta Jimenez, author of “The Burnout Fix,” told us burnout isn’t just caused by too much work. Rather, it occurs when there’s a mismatch between the worker and their job environment, usually in six main areas:


When you understand those mismatches, it’s easier to see how quiet quitting is both a coping mechanism (for example, taking on less work) as well as a warning sign of a bigger workplace problem (withdrawing due to a lack of positive connection).

Dr. Jimenez also explained the job mismatches that lead to burnout and the ABC’s of successful organizations.

BURNOUT SOLUTIONS FOR YOUR TEAMS


Strengthen your company’s psychological safety.
 

  • People need to feel safe speaking up with their ideas and concerns, not only when it comes to their mental health, but all aspects of their job. Normalize talking about mental health, job stressors and mistakes you’ve made. This encourages your team to take chances — part of the reason why psychological safety is a key element of successful teams.

  • Larger companies might consider hiring an outside consultant on workplace culture and psychological safety. As Dr. Chang told us, “It’s hard to perform surgery on yourself.”

Know where your teams are, from “in crisis” to “excelling.”

  • Share the Roadmap to Mental Health to give your employees a common language to assess their mental state.

  • Then check in with them regularly, in team meetings and casual conversations. Ask how they’re feeling or if they’re sleeping well. Look out for changes in mood that could signal burnout.

Uncover the mismatches that lead to burnout.

  • Equip managers to talk to their teams about whether any of the six mismatches listed above are wearing your employees down. Have them ask questions like, “How are we doing with overload?” or “Do you have enough control over your day and your responsibilities?”
  • Find out what’s working well, too. Then have managers and teams discuss solutions together to adjust the factors in your control and bolster what’s working well.
  • Start a team-wide conversation about building community. Employee resource groups (ERGs) can be a valuable tool for leaders to make sure that all the populations in your workplace feel included. 
  • Ask your managers and teams about who should be recognized for doing great work.

It’s more than just self-care. 

  • Remember that dealing with burnout effectively requires a combination of three factors — personal resilience (self-care), a culture of wellness and continuous improvement of your company’s systems and workflows.
  • “More yoga at lunch isn’t going to solve burnout,” Dr. Chang says. In other words, you can’t just put it on employees to figure it out on their own.

As a leader, be a model for setting limits.

  • If you’re emailing your team after hours or on weekends, you’re setting them up for a feeling of work overload. It’s also important that you not burn out, which is a particular challenge for small business owners. It may help to schedule a non-work activity for yourself each night to resist spending that time working.
  • Take your vacation time. Scheduling it and making plans helps ensure that you’ll actually get away. 
  • When you do go on vacation, fully disconnect. If you’re checking your email, you’re working (and sending a message that you expect the same from your teams). Set an out-of-office message to set expectations about your unavailability and let go of the guilt.
  • To make your return to the office easier, plan a quick check-in with the people who helped cover while you were gone — and thank them.

WE ASKED, YOU SAID


We asked the employers who attended our webinar which strategies they plan to implement to reduce burnout. Their top three answers were:

  • Set realistic workloads and deadlines
  • Foster psychological safety
  • Create new systems to recognize and reward employees

Learn more best practices for fostering psychological safety and supporting employee mental health in our Workplace Mental Health Playbook.