We do all we can for our employees: 5 things that actually make a difference for burn out prevention
Stress conditions or burnout are a major revenue loss for all employers. Statistics say that on average a company with 200 employees losses up to a million Euros a year due to stress related absences. There is much discussion out there and very little concrete help. But there are a few things not so often talked about that might help you change perspective on what is needed for more well-being and prevention. Based on research in neuroscience and my own experience, here are five things worth considering for a different management approach to well-being.
2. Learn how to recognize stress in others and in yourself
When we are in the overdrive that leads down the road of burn out, we are in a tunnel vision in which our brain keeps us addicted to the illusion of rushed work being efficient. It is not hard to see when others are entering the “hamster wheel” – it is only hard to see if we are in it ourselves. Check for three things:
a) Is there still real excitement for the big picture goal and are they still coming up with innovative ideas?
b) Are they constantly available, glued to their smart phones, mails etc. but not the ones jumping to help out with a task of colleagues or another team?
c) Do you get a sense that they talk more often than usual about being “too busy” or maybe needing more acknowledgement than usual for their busyness?
d) Are supportive offers from the side of the employer – such as work portfolio reductions – taken up or refused (maybe not even acknowledged as a real offer)? More tendency to complain but less willingness to take up offers of support?
e) Are there increased physical symptoms that appear repetitively despite appropriate medical treatment?
f) Is the performance not as good as it used to be although the time spent working has increased?
If all of those are to some extent present you are likely sitting across somebody whose brain’s alarm systems have created the stress tunnel view.
3. Talk about it
It is difficult for many to talk about harmful stress or burn out; most of us still see it as a weakness and are fearful of losing our jobs. Once we are in the “wheel” we are no longer capable to even become aware of it. If you observe this happening, it has to be talked about! And there is only one way: communication that is appreciative, direct, and committed, but above all does not make the employee wrong. Now latest is the time to make them aware of how human brains are wired and that their brain is taking them on a ride. But it is not the time to suggest that they are wrong, failing, or under threat. That would only alarm the protection mechanisms even more. Key is to understand that whatever you do as an employer on the work environment is utterly important – and at the same time it will not make the difference you intend unless everybody gets how energy management and the neuroscience around stress works.
4. Introduce response-ability
As employer and manager you carry responsibility for ensuring the work environment enables well-being for all. Take up that responsibility! At the same time, however, realize that no matter what changes you introduce around well-being, unless employees understand their responsibility in in becoming aware of their main brain stressors (which are individual) they will not become able to respond to the work situation (no matter how much you improve it). Bring people back into the driver seat, empower them to learn how to energy broker themselves, and bring them back into their power zone of responsibility. Whatever you can do to stop ongoing unhealthy complaining among employees about stress, do it and take it serious. The brain releases positive emotional surges for being stressed in ourselves and in others, there is a group effect here (check out our recent article on “The busi(y)ness blues or why being unstressed is not a party success” for more detail explanation).
5. Be practical
As manager you are not wonder woman/man and it is hard even for specialized coaches to detect what exactly is the main brain energy zapper in another person. Encourage employees to ask themselves a few “uncomfortable” questions and establish a culture of open communication and clear requests: what practical things would help them, and are they actually ready to take on board? What is their commitment to take help on board and reduce stress? Remember our brain rewards us for stress, so never judge yourself or others for going down that line. And still unless an employee is actually committed to experience the “withdrawal” from the overreaction in the R-System and take responsibility for it, nothing will change. What helps can be quite individual, so become flexible in responding to your “best horses” (which are usually the ones most liable to stress as performance is a key driver for them). There are easy things teams can learn in communication or practices that maintain awareness around how we as social beings give “good vibes” for “being stressed” rather than helping each other out of the hamster wheel. Just remain practical and react with individual flexibility on it.
Dr. Jonathan Beger is the founder of Q3T and the inventor of the Power of Potential Protocol©. He had a substantive career in international management, is an ICF certified coach, and a certified mediator and trainer. His passion is in uncovering the unique and unlimited potential of every individual and team, and showing them how to source themselves powerfully.