The Secret to Avoiding Team Burnout

By: Alex Shattuck

Employee burnout is on the rise. The pandemic changed things. An Indeed survey shows that 52% of employees are experiencing burnout in comparison to 43% in their pre-Covid-19 survey.

I recently had a front row seat witnessing the impact on a stranger.

I had just fired up my MacBook to throw some words on the page while waiting for my tire sensor to be replaced. I thought I knew what I was going to write about but as I started to stare at the blank page one of the tire technicians walked by with a customer. I wasn’t trying to listen in on the conversation, however, I couldn’t help but hear it as they passed by.

“How’s it going today!?”

“Alright” the customer replied in a very lethargic monotone voice.

“Just alright?!”

“Yeah, I was mandated to work a 16 hour shift” responds the customer.

This dude looked broken.

I first thought about how grateful I was to not have to work like that anymore but then my thoughts immediately turned to questions:

Where does he work, and what does he actually do?

What business has a role where someone can be effective for 16 hours?

I’m not sure where he works or what he does, but I do have an answer to my question around what business has a role where someone can be effective for 16 hours. The answer is- there isn’t such a business. Most humans cannot give their employers their best for 16 straight hours. Mandate those 16 hours and you better believe you aren’t going to get their best for 16… you may not get their best for any of those hours in that situation.

As business owners, and leaders, should we just never mandate hours? I’m not saying that. There are some occupations where we need roles filled. If you are a Sheriff and in charge of staffing the county jail- I think I’d prefer you mandate the hours. If you are running an ER floor- I’d prefer there be someone there to fix me up if I get drug in there. Neither of those examples are small businesses though. Are there small businesses that meet the criteria to mandate hours? Probably. Is this a leadership issue? Maybe. Probably not though. I’m willing to make the claim that most of the time these businesses are dealing with a capacity issue in regards to staffing. Ultimately, we’re talking about a recruiting issue.

If you are mandating hours for your employees because you are struggling with staffing your business, you better be mandating yourself hours to recruit. If we slap an extra 8 hours onto an employee’s shift we should slap another 8 hours onto our day to focus on recruiting. The capacity issue disappears rather quickly. Once you are fully staffed, you’ll have a more effective team with much better morale. This will lead to you having an easier time recruiting because your staff will now be in your corner, an advocate for the business, and you as the business owner.

Maybe you don’t mandate crazy hours. You possibly have a traditional set of hours each week. Is there still room for more flexibility with your team’s schedules? What amount of hours per day, or per week is the sweet spot? By sweet spot- I mean that amount of time that gives the business what it needs to continue operations while at the same time keeping each team member in an optimal state while on the job. It may vary per role, or even per person, within the business. Psychologists have found the brain can’t focus on tasks for more than a few hours at at time. (That’s 2.5 more than me)

So what do we do?

Designate time for yourself to recruit everyday. Put it in your calendar and make it a priority.

If you are disciplined with this activity you’ll see the following take place:

  • You will immediately find your recruiting activity increase dramatically.
  • The increase in recruiting activity will lead to fixing your capacity issue.
  • Being staffed appropriately will lead to less employee burnout.
  • Less burnout will mean a happier workforce.
  • A happier workforce will result in more future hires coming from referrals from existing staff. It will also result in your employer brand being a positive one within the communities you serve.
  • An increase in employee referrals and a more positive brand will make it significantly easier to locate, and land, the talent you need and want.
  • All of this will increase your bottom line. 

So what’s the secret? Having proper capacity will help avoid team burnout.

You have to make the first move. 


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