During the 1970s, American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger made a valuable contribution to occupational medicine when, after an experiment with volunteers, he discovered a syndrome whose symptoms were depressive mood, demotivation and lack of energy at work, among others.
What Freudenberg dubbed as “burnout”, a concept still valid nowadays, not only has a negative impact on employees -to the point of jeopardizing their health-, but on the whole organization overall, increasing absenteeism in the workplace, compromising team productivity, generating internal staff conflicts or reducing the organization’s excellence due to drain of valuable human capital.
It is necessary that companies tackle this reality from a broad perspective, at an organizational level, and not exclusively by addressing each employee’s issues individually.
Eric Garton, partner and leader of Bain’s Global Organization Practice –one of the most prominent multinational firms in strategic consulting services-, mentions three main reasons for talent burnout to occur: excess of collaboration (to a great extent, due to new digital technologies), inefficient time management discipline and inclination to provide the most skilled professionals with work overload.
In the book “Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag and Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power”, which Eric Garton co-wrote, the authors present some actions that companies can implement to improve burnout situations. Regarding excess of collaboration, one of the recommendations is to streamline work meetings. Organizations must question which ones are really necessary, their periodicity and length, and which professionals are indispensable for them to take place.
In order to manage working time efficiently, technology has brought along some tools which are of great value for employees, not only at an individual level but also for the entire organization. We’re talking about software applications that allow to monitor how that time is distributed and its impact in terms of talent burnout and decrease in productivity. This way, required actions could be taken in order to, for instance, provide professionals with a higher sense of autonomy and, therefore, higher motivation.
These time-monitoring applications also help those more skilled to deal with work overload, by redesigning working flows in order to avoid burnout. It shouldn’t be forgotten that professionals with an excess of work run the risk of impairing their performance both in quantitative and qualitative terms.
Other experts point out that, to prevent burnout, the communication flow between employees and managers must be improved, so that the latter know first-hand if the former, for example, have enough human and material resources at their disposal to carry out their duties. Likewise, it is convenient to open up the decision-making circle: it brings along a highly positive effect, since the mere fact of listening encourages the employees’ sense of belonging towards the company.
Another action that companies may put into practice is to generate an environment that favours good relationships among the staff members, thus increasing their level of trust and assurance in the company and strengthening their commitment with the goals of the organization.
Developing staff’s occupational training and education is also a powerful weapon against burnout because, in addition to enhancing productivity, it improves the state of mind of team members.
Likewise, HR departments may promote leisure activities (cultural or sportive) in order to contribute to the prevention of occupational stress which, in the long run, leads to talent burnout.