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This One Thing Can Prevent Employee Burnout

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Every business owner strives to build a motivated workforce.  Company perks, a great benefits package, a positive office culture, and so on all play into building a team that’s engaged in what it’s doing.  And that’s a good thing.  Study after study confirms that motivated employees outperform less motivated peers, do better work, and create more revenue.  You want people who are motivated and go the extra mile for your company.  The problem is, people like that tend to burn out.

Employees who love their jobs end up working hard — often too hard — so much so that they end up hating their jobs. Eventually, productivity plummets and they leave.  It’s a vicious cycle that even the biggest companies combat.  It’s time consuming and expensive on the employer end, and does a great disservice for overall company morale(“If everyone keeps leaving, maybe I should, too”). So how do you stop it?  How do you keep employees motivated yet reigned in?  How do you prevent the burnout?

The answer lies in your company policy and it is cheap and easy to implement: require employees to disconnect after hours.  

The ability to check work email anytime, anywhere has created a need to check email all the time, everywhere. Employees just can’t seem to put their phones down, and business owners, who typically work wonky hours, play into that stress by firing off emails late into the night.  

In a new study, “Exhausted But Unable to Disconnect,” three university researchers conclude that employees are constantly worried about off-hour email, and are growing exhausted by the expectation that they’ll always be available.  Using data collected from 297 working adults, the study found that off-hour email negatively impacts employees’ emotional states.  With no feeling of work-family balance, which is essential for individual health and well-being, employees simply burnout.

“But I never told them they have to answer emails at night! There’s no written policy of that!” If that’s your response to all this, we get it.  Most companies don’t create formal policies that require employees to check work email after hours.  But company policies and culture tend to be two different things.  When supervisors routinely email after hours and expect a fast response (often because their supervisors are emailing them, too), the message becomes clear: when the boss emails, you email back.

To keep your ultra-motivated employees from burning out, make it perfectly clear that work emails need only be answered during work hours.  Perhaps even take it a step further by setting times when after-hours emailing is strictly prohibited — say, the dinner hour, after 10 p.m., or on weekends.  Then, follow your own mandate!  That will involve some discipline, but leading by example is a huge part of your management strategy.  If you simply need to “get it down on paper”, save your emails in draft form and send them in the morning to ease the expectation that your employees need to answer them right away.

If you aren’t convinced of backing off after-hours emails for the sake of employee morale, then do it to keep yourself out of legal and financial trouble.  New overtime regulations make it very clear that the 40-hour workweek not be breached for non-exempt employees.  

Preventing employee burnout is good for everyone.  Be clear about what you expect from employees, and even clearer about what you don’t expect.  After-hours emailing should not be a regular practice.

 

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