Overworked employees

Overworked employees: 6 warning signs to watch for

Are you overworking your employees?

It’s natural to want your employees to be as productive as possible, and every company will have occasional times that are busier than others. But don’t make the common mistake of wearing out your top talent.

To avoid employee burnout, balance your high expectations with solid strategies to prevent employees from becoming overwhelmed.

Overworked employees can affect every area of your business. Here’s how:

  • Productivity plummets when employees aren’t able to get everything done.
  • Quality deteriorates when employees can’t take the time to do their jobs right.
  • Growth stalls when employees can’t break away to take new training or implement a process that could help the business.
  • Customer service declines when employees are focused only on getting by and can’t concentrate on building and sustaining customer relationships.
  • Reputation suffers when a company is known for running its employees into the ground.
  • Morale takes a nosedive when employees lose passion. They burn out or leave the company.

More than half of American employees feel overworked or burned out, according to the Staples Business Advantage Workplace Index 2016. It’s important to recognize the signs of overworked employees early on to prevent burnout and, hopefully, help reduce attrition.

Pay attention to these six warning signs:

1. Poor work performance

Keep an eye out for employees who are not meeting deadlines, turning in projects late or incomplete, or doing the bare minimum to get by.

 2. Absenteeism

Note when team members are frequently late or missing work.

3. Heightened employee emotions

Have you observed employees having a shorter fuse when stressed; are often distracted, unhappy or disengaged?

4. Poor customer feedback  

Do customers communicate that they’ve noticed a change in service? Have you heard comments such as “Gosh, I try to schedule things with Shannon, but she’s scheduling four months out. She must be very busy.”

5. Working long hours  

Watch for employees putting in time after hours, on weekends and holidays, and not taking vacations.

6. Revealing statements

Beware of comments such as, “I practically live here,” or “I wish I could take a vacation, but I would have to work 40 hours extra just to take one,” or “I can’t remember the last book I read for fun.” Employees may say these things half-jokingly, but they’re really a distress signal.

Getting to the bottom of burnout

If you see these signs, it’s time to act before burnout sets in. Talk to each employee one-on-one to find out the scope of the problem. You’ll also want to collect some more information about the employee’s workload or consider hiring a professional employer organization, or PEO, to dig deeper into your organization’s processes for managing workflow.

A job analysis can also provide useful insight.

What’s the employee’s job description? Is it reasonable? Or is she responsible for five jobs in one? Follow up with a time study. Is the employee in question spending 10 hours a week on administrative work, when she should be concentrating on selling your product or other, more important tasks?

If you’re seeing these signs in more than one employee, take a closer look at your organization’s culture.

Is working long hours the norm? Is it OK, and even considered a point of pride, for employees to say they’re being overworked?

If that’s the case, struggling employees likely won’t tell you when they’re stressed out and nearing burnout. They’ll just leave your company and find a job somewhere else.

Be proactive to prevent overloading your staff

The ideal scenario would be to prevent overworking your employees in the first place. While this isn’t always possible, business leaders often know in advance when they may need an employee to work more – for example, when the company lands a new client or an indispensable employee leaves.

Be honest and transparent when it’s necessary for employees to put in extra time, then put together a plan to help them cope. If someone is leaving your organization, maybe you could shuffle the workload around or bring in temporary or part-time help.

Be sure to tell employees step by step what you plan to do to help them until a replacement is hired, and your timeline for making changes.

Use these best practices to avoid overwhelming your employees

Managing the workload of your workforce, and making sure it doesn’t stress out your employees, is an ongoing process. Here are some practices you may want to try:

  • Check in with employees regularly, in one-on-one meetings, to see how they’re doing with their workloads, and to provide help and guidance. Make sure none of you misses the meetings.
  • Conduct company surveys, exit interviews and even stay interviews to see if your company’s culture normalizes overworking. How do they feel about how much they work? What support do they need?
  • Enable employees to work at home or work flexible hours. Not commuting to the office can make a huge difference when people are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Cut out meetings that are ineffective and without clear goals.
  • Emphasize efficiency as a critical part of your company’s culture, train your staff on what efficiency means in your organization, and help them eliminate inefficiencies.
  • Empower your employees to say no — whether it’s to an extra project or a client visit that could be handled just as easily with a phone call.
  • Provide lunch or snacks to employees who work overtime. (For employees entitled to overtime pay, be sure to capture, and pay for, all time worked, including lunches if worked. Follow all Fair Labor Standards Act regulations.)
  • Send out regular salary surveys to see how your organization stacks up. If you’re underpaying your employees, it’s going to lead to burnout faster, and they’re more likely to leave if overworked.
  • Make sure your staff uses their PTO and takes time off after busy seasons (such as tax season for accounting firms).

With these strategies in hand, you’ll be well-equipped to help your employees manage their workload. As a result, they’ll be happier, healthier contributors to your organization.

To learn how a PEO can help your organization build solid strategies to operate more efficiently and help prevent employee burnout, download our free e-book: HR outsourcing: A step-to-step guide to professional employer organizations (PEOs).

 

 

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