Group looking at project plan together in manufacturing.


‘Burnout’ has been a hot-button topic for employers and employees over the last few years, and its impact has only grown since the pandemic. The paradox of burnout is that your best workers, the ones who overachieve and work the hardest, are often the ones experiencing it. The more you put on the plate of your best workers, the more burnout affects them and they can be rendered ineffective.

While much has been written about burnout in the press, articles often focus on its insidious effect on white-collar workers. Other industries, such as manufacturing, however, are also dealing with these same issues. In manufacturing, these problems exist but are often missing in the discourses within the industry and within individual companies. Workers and employers alike can often be reticent to discuss the negative consequences and mental health concerns surrounding burnout. Bringing burnout out from the shadows can be an important step to maintaining a healthy culture and a vibrant workplace.


Understanding Burnout


‘Burnout’ does not present as a single behavior, but instead can appear as a whole range of indicators. Being able to identify the burnout symptoms can help you assess how at risk your organization is. And burnout can be a big risk. According to one study by Kronos Incorporated and Future Workplace, 46% of HR leaders say employee burnout is responsible for up to half of annual workforce turnover. Reducing burnout can substantially increase retention, so let’s look at the signs.

Absenteeism can be a major indicator. Workers who are stressed and over-extended may choose to not show up rather than deal with the challenges and negative emotions they are experiencing. The American Psychological Association estimates that 550 million workdays are lost each year due to stress on the job.

A high-performing worker experiencing burnout can often lose interest in their job and the organization. Apathy towards the culture, co-workers, and their tasks is a coping mechanism to insulate them from the stress of not being able to meet or exceed expectations put on them by themselves, their co-workers, or their managers.

Overall, many employees experience burnout through ‘checking out’. This means that they are either not showing up physically to work, not being present emotionally, or just generally not demonstrating a sense of care or interest. This detachment can spread quickly through the culture creating a disengaged workforce that is ready to quit at a moment’s notice.

Many factors are at play in the rise of burnout in the US. Culturally, increased rates of depression and mental health conditions have plagued the US at large and especially workers. With the pandemic, these issues have only been exacerbated. Workers are feeling increasingly isolated and overworked. In manufacturing specifically, the labor shortage has caused some workers to work more and for longer shifts.


Assessing Your Organization’s Risk of Burnout


Have you seen some of the burnout symptoms cropping up in your workforce? If so, it’s important to assess your organization’s unique risk of burnout through research in order to create a plan to combat it.

Start by taking your workforce’s pulse through a survey. Ask questions about workers’ mental health, engagement in their work, and priorities. Make sure you create the survey to be anonymous and that employees understand that their privacy is protected. This ensures you are receiving accurate and truthful information and opinions.

For more objective data, work with HR to compile statistics around absenteeism, turnover, and performance trends. Analyzing these important trends can help you flag potential changes and risks. Observational trends can bring a troubling trend to the surface, but the survey will provide qualitative information on why those trends are occurring.

Another way to uncover the reasons behind negative trends is through a third-party assessment of your culture. This is harder to measure, but a comprehensive cultural analysis can help your leadership and HR spot issues that could be causing burnout.


Review Your Organization’s Policies Impact on Burnout


Now that you have an understanding of your culture and the current state of burnout, take a look at your policies and processes that could be exacerbating the issue, especially those related to work/life balance and advancement.

According to a Future Forum survey, 53% of workers who are unsatisfied with their level of flexibility are burnt out. If your scheduling policies are strict and limiting for employees, they may be a contributing factor to overall burnout rates. Look at how strict your scheduling policies are and where flexibility is allowed. Can employees adjust their schedules if needed? How long are shifts and is there any flexibility to adjusting shift schedules? How far in advance do employees need to request time off and how much time off are they given? Work with your internal teams to get a better picture of your scheduling and PTO policies and how they are perceived by workers.

If employees feel stagnant and unable to gain the proper skills needed for promotions and raises, they can quickly become overwhelmed and burnt out in their roles. Opportunities for growth and upskilling makes employees feel valued by employers. Employees who feel recognized and valued are often more engaged and less burnt out. To understand your company’s advancement opportunities, review your policies around promotions, education, and performance reviews. Are employees able to receive feedback on their performance in a regular, consistent manner? If they are lacking certain skills, are they given the resources they need to learn and grow? Are employees incentivized to pursue their own upskilling pursuits and interests?


Tactics to Mitigate Risk of Burnout


Now that your organization has a clear assessment of the cultural and policy factors impacting burnout, it’s time to begin strategizing on how to implement practical tactics to reduce and mitigate burnout in your workforce. Tactics fall into two broad categories: supporting individuals and building a strong culture.

Individual employees who feel supported and valued are less at risk for burnout and all its symptoms, including absenteeism, apathy, and checking out. After having reviewed your policies and culture, take a look at what changes you can implement to make scheduling more flexible and advancement easier to understand.

If your surveys and research indicated that scheduling policies felt too restrictive to employees, look at ways to add flexibility. Allowing employees to own their schedules and have some say in when they shift increases satisfaction. According to a study by Prudential, 20% of workers surveyed said they would take an average pay cut of 10% if it meant better work/life balance or that they could work for themselves. With manufacturing shifts, it is inherently difficult to introduce schedule flexibility. However, new technologies can be introduced to help employees pick and choose their own shifts within limitations.

Another way to support individuals is through accessible, and easily navigable advancement opportunities. This can come in many different forms including regular internal training, consistent and effective performance reviews, educational funds for outside upskilling classes, and clear promotion paths. There are also many easy-to-implement tactics to show employees they are valued. Ensuring that employees are engaged and learning keeps them from feeling stagnant, trapped, and ultimately burnt out.

While individual engagement and support is important, burnout is also linked to weak community ties. A strong culture that is supported through informed policies and processes creates a positive foundation for employees. Within a robust culture, one employee’s burnout is less likely to spread quickly to other employees.

Implementing a mentorship system builds community, creates connections, and combats isolation among team members. A well-established mentorship program can help employees reach out for assistance when they need it and learn how to navigate your organization’s scheduling and advancement policies. Mentors can also be trained to deal with and surface any indications of burnout to their superiors so that your organization can adapt policies quickly to combat concerning trends.

Creating a robust onboarding experience also helps build a strong culture. With a personalized and culture-first onboarding process, employees know they are entering a positive workplace on day one. Introducing employees to co-workers, leadership, and a mentor early on helps them build a community and feel a part of something bigger. Your onboarding process should also set clear expectations in regards to scheduling and advancement policies. If employees understand the restrictions and flexibility they are allowed, they will be better equipped to advance and grow within your organization. Clear expectations also reduce burnout by limiting uncertainty. Employees who are unsure of what’s next or feel stagnant are more at risk of apathy and checking out.


Work with Action Group Staffing to Build The Right, Empowered Team


Burnout can come in many different forms and is not exclusive to white-collar industries. Manufacturing, with its shift-based work and high turnover, can be ripe for burnout as well. By building processes and policies that support your individual workers and create a strong culture, your organization can keep burnout at bay and thus reduce turnover, absenteeism, and overall apathy.

With a strong culture in place, work with Action Group Staffing to find the right individuals to continue building up your burnout-resistant workforce. Contact us today to find the right talent for you.

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