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Employee Burnout is a 100 Billion Dollar Problem for an Entire Economy

Monday blues or are you burned out? Either way it affects your company more than it affects you.

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Signs of employee burnout should never be ignored by a company

A co-author of, ‘Time, Talent and Energy’, writes in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) that the common phenomenon of employee burnout is not a just a personal problem best left to an employee to figure out but is a company wide problem best attended to on the double.

Eric Garton writes, “In our book Time, Talent and Energy, we note that when employees aren’t as productive as they could be, it’s usually the organization, not its employees, that is to blame."

Here are some serious issues raised in Garton’s story:

The psychological and physical problems of burned-out employees cost 125 billion dollars to 190 billion dollars a year in healthcare spending in the U.S. Garton says while this is an obvious impact because it’s quantifiable, the real “cost to business can be far greater, thanks to low productivity across organizations, high turnover, and the loss of the most capable talent.

Across the organizations reviewed, the authors found three common culprits behind employee burnout: Excessive collaboration, poor time management principles and overworking the most talented.

Excessive collaboration

Endless meetings, too many conference calls and CCing your whole 200 member team to discuss decisions is what excessive collaboration looks like.

Garton writes, “Our research found that senior executives now receive 200 or more emails per day. The average frontline supervisor devotes about eight hours each week (a full business day) to sending, reading and answering e-communications—many of which shouldn’t have been sent to or answered by those managers.”

Add to that the burden of multitasking – it’s exhausting and counterproductive. “…switching to a new task while still in the middle of another increases the time it takes you to finish both tasks by 25%. A Microsoft study found that it takes people an average of 15 minutes to return to an important project after an e-mail interruption.”

Poor time management principles

While the workplace may dictate excessive collaboration as the cornerstone of productivity (or lack thereof), it will be left up to the employees to decide how they will attend to all meetings, conference calls and emails. Regardless to say, most of us seem to fail to keep up with the overwhelming instances we need to be ubiquitous resulting in stress and burnout.  “They have limited ability to fight a corporate culture in which overwork is the norm and even celebrated. And few employees have the power—or temerity—to call off unnecessary meetings,” writes Garton.

Insights from a workplace analytics startup acquired by Microsoft said executives are often unaware how much time employees spend on activities that contribute to enterprise productivity, nor how much time is lost or spent on less productive activities.

“Our data suggest that most executives have an opportunity to liberate at least 20% of their employees’ time by bringing greater discipline to time management. Equally important, doing so gives employees back control over their calendars.”

Overworking the most talented

While employee workloads have increased, how much work can be completed by using digital productivity tools has been overestimated by companies and nor do they check to see if their assumptions are accurate according to Garton.

“The overload problem is compounded for companies because the best people are the ones whose knowledge is most in demand and who are often the biggest victims of collaboration overload. In one company we studied, the average manager was losing one day a week to email and other electronic communications and two days a week to meetings. The highly talented managers will lose even more time to collaboration as their overwork earns them more responsibility and an even larger workload.”

Giving people back the time to do work that drives the company’s success will pay huge dividends by raising productivity, increasing productive output and reducing burnout. Everybody wins.”

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