I recently facilitated a workshop with around 25 members of a team. Every person in the room was engaged, and each one wanted to achieve the best results possible. Both at the workshop and in their daily work.
However, the common theme of the day was—what I heard repeated by every person in the room—there’s just too much work and not enough time or resources. This entire team felt that there was no end in sight. Finish one project and five more are in the pipeline. Each project is important…
I could see the stress in their body language and read the exhaustion on their faces.
The Impact of overwhelm
It’s important to understand the impact of overwhelm and burnout on employees and organizations. According to a study by Gallup, burned-out employees are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times more likely to be actively seeking a different job. Additionally, employees who experience burnout are more likely to have low job satisfaction and engagement, which can lead to decreased productivity and performance.
It’s hard to watch the performance of our teams, including our most high-potential employees, begin to decline. Overwhelm is a real problem.
A study by Kronos and Future Workplace found that 95% of HR leaders believe that burnout is hindering workforce retention. When employees experience burnout they may feel disconnected from their work and their colleagues, which can lead them to seek employment elsewhere. This can result in increased turnover and the associated costs of recruiting, hiring, and training new employees.
What we can do
While we can’t always avoid workload issues, there are things we can do to help our teams deal with overwhelm.
- Prioritize tasks and projects: Work with the team to identify the most critical tasks and projects and prioritize them accordingly. By focusing on the most important work first (which I’ll admit is easier said than done), the team can make progress on high-impact projects and reduce feelings of overwhelm.
- Provide resources for stress management: Help the team manage stress by providing resources such as mental health support, wellness programs, and mindfulness training. These resources can help team members cope with stress and build resilience.
- Encourage breaks and time off: Encourage team members to take breaks and use their vacation time. Make sure they don’t come back to a double workload. Nothing ruins a vacation more than dreading the return to the office.
Overwhelm is a real problem. Watch this space for more on the topic, including the fine line between overwhelm and burnout.
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- Gallup. (2018). Employee burnout: A closer look.
- Kronos and Future Workplace. (2017). Employee burnout: The biggest threat to workforce engagement.