Your Business is on Fire, But Your Employees are the Ones Getting Burned Out.

I recently heard an employee at one of my client organizations ask the question,

“When are things going to slow down?”

I could hear the desperation in the employee’s voice, like she was running mile 24 of a marathon, knowing she could make it the entire 26.2 miles before she collapsed in the grass on the side of the road – but also knowing that collapse was imminent.

As a leader, I knew that question wasn’t merely a plea for a brief rest. I heard it as the alarm bell it was, signaling an underlying, more ominous concern – burnout.

Let’s face it – we live in a “microwave society” where we expect success in minutes rather than hours or days. Projects and initiatives that used to marinate in bureaucracy and cook in the crock pot of manual processes and procedures are now completed at the new breakneck pace of innovation. Business acceleration is ceaseless. Leaders increasingly want it now, demand that everything is a priority, and continually expand the workday to fit it all in.

Today, employees must grapple with the unsettling realization that the frenzied rhythm they’re experiencing isn’t a temporary spike but rather the sustained heartbeat of modern business.

There is no future slowdown, and any promises to the contrary are an illusion.

This pace is the new normal.

In this modern business landscape, opportunities, innovations, and ceaseless growth can easily overwhelm any strategic plan. However, while external milestones often gauge a company’s success, internal challenges often remain overshadowed.

When neglected, these challenges can sabotage the very foundation of that success: the workforce – the people making it happen.

Understanding the Challenges

In the continual march towards growth and profitability, leaders often create internal challenges that hamper employee morale and productivity, whether intended or not.

Here’s a detailed dive into the most prevalent issues thriving companies face:

Blurred Work-Life Boundaries

Before the pandemic, remote work was synonymous with freedom and flexibility. Then the pandemic started, and remote work became a compassionate safety measure.

Somewhere along the way, remote work permanently blurred the once-clear boundaries between work and personal time, regardless of an employee’s office or work-from-home status.

Today, it’s not uncommon for employees to find themselves working well beyond “regular hours,” leading to a life where work overshadows rest and recovery.

What’s the result? Burnout.

Overemphasis on Metrics

Now, more than ever, metrics dominate decision-making. Unfortunately, an obsessive focus on numbers often diminishes the acknowledgment of individual efforts, making employees feel like mere statistics.

When employees feel like statistics or bulk ingredients in the company’s latest success recipe, their “why” disappears.

While metrics can help hold people accountable, they can also create unrealistic expectations – just because you can hit a number doesn’t mean it’s the best long-term play for the company and its employees.

What is the result of using metrics based on unrealistic expectations? Burnout.

Lack of Skills Training

Technology is rapidly transforming industries, and employees often feel the pressure to upskill. When companies don’t spend their time and treasure creating organized training platforms and opportunities to support their changing industries, their under-resourced employees begin to feel inadequate.

What happens when employees feel inadequate for extended periods? Burnout.

Inefficient Communication Channels

Clear communication is paramount as teams become more distributed. However, many companies lag in adopting efficient communication tools, leading to misunderstandings and a fractured team spirit.

And many companies start strong with communications in the upper ranks, but their messages fizzle toward the bottom of the organizational chart. When faced with the last-mile problem of delivering communications to everyone, these companies put profits over people and consciously decide not to spend the money to create a real solution.

What happens when people don’t know what’s going on? Burnout.

Inadequate Acknowledgment

Significant accomplishments are celebrated, but countless minor achievements and efforts often remain unsung. And in business, significant accomplishments are usually born from a combination of many minor achievements.

When leaders neglect recognition of the small wins, or worse, treat them as insignificant, it can sap employee motivation, making dedicated employees question their contributions.

What happens when dedicated employees start to question their contributions? Burnout.

Unclear Growth Pathways

Companies spend countless hours and enormous resources charting their path to success but practically no time or treasure on individual growth paths. This ambiguity can lead to disillusionment and decreased commitment from employees seeking career progression.

What happens when employees don’t understand the path forward? Burnout (or turnover).

Overwhelming Workloads

As business booms, so does the workload. But without proportional team expansion or proper task delegation, existing employees find themselves shouldering burdens beyond their capacity.

When a company’s solution is “work more,” the battle has already been lost.

Employees will try. Productivity will suffer. Initially, it will begin to take three employees to do the work of 2. As the employees grow more tired, it will take two employees to do the work of one. Before too long, it could reach three employees to get the productivity of one under reasonable workloads.

What happens then? Burnout.

Navigating the Challenges: Proven Solutions

While challenges are part of growth, they aren’t insurmountable. Instead of inadvertently or purposefully burning out their most talented employees, many industry leaders have identified these hurdles early on and implemented innovative solutions, setting a benchmark for others to emulate.

Here are a few solutions that successful companies are already using to avoid burnout while achieving outsized returns on their investments.

Mandatory Downtime

Recognizing the pitfalls of constant work, Basecamp instituted shorter work weeks. Not only did they say, “40 hours per week is enough”, but they initiated a 4-day, 32-hour work week from May through August.

The initiatives re-energized employees and led to a surge in productivity and creativity.

Employee-First Approach

Companies like Google have fostered a sense of belonging among their teams by placing employees at the forefront of their strategies. They hire the best and brightest, use data to make HR more human, encourage and support employees with outside-of-work initiatives, make recognition and regular event, and operate in a flat, almost democratic hierarchy.

Their approach has reaped dividends in terms of employee loyalty, creativity, and productivity.

Microlearning Opportunities

A study from IBM stated, “84% of employees in Best Performing Organizations are receiving the training they need compared with 16% in the worst performing companies.”

Industry giants like AT&T and Siemens understand this data and have embedded continuous learning into their work cultures, ensuring their teams remain ahead of the curve and their businesses remain among the giants.

Centralized Communication Platforms

With tools like Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams, among many others, companies like Stagecoach, Virgin Trains, and USAA have revamped their communication strategies to ensure every employee gets the correct messaging on time and where they are.

These changes have led to individual employee satisfaction, enhanced team unity, and efficiency in project execution and business operations.

Regular Appreciation Rituals

Starbucks and HubSpot have leveraged the power of recognition to boost employee morale. Starbucks encourages partners (what they call their employees) to give out Green Apron Cards to acknowledge each other, and partners can also nominate each other for other programs, such as Partner of the Quarter.

HubSpot has HEART Awards yearly and facilitates “Mystery Dinners” to celebrate and foster cross-team relationships and successes.

Appreciation rituals such as these consistently link to increased company performance,  enhanced team collaboration, and increased employee satisfaction.

Transparent Growth Maps

As done by Adobe, taking time to set clear career roadmaps leads to higher retention rates and a workforce more aligned with the company’s vision.

When you give employees a place to go within your organization, they’ll stay with you longer.

Flexible Work Models

Taking inspiration from Google’s success with autonomous projects, companies like LinkedIn have embraced flexible work models, leading to groundbreaking innovations and a more engaged workforce.

Want a few flexible work models to try? To get started, you can research Job Sharing, Compressed Work Weeks, Flextime, and Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE).

Wrapping It Up

 We all know it – the rapid pace of today’s business world isn’t easing up anytime soon.

Leaders must embrace the need to understand the correct balance between achievement and employee well-being.

Employee burnout isn’t just an HR issue; it’s a business challenge with long-term implications for growth and stability. As leaders, addressing this not only improves our teams’ well-being but ultimately strengthens our organizations’ foundation.

Ensuring the well-being of those powering our businesses is not just the right thing to do – it’s smart business.

Scroll to Top

Sign Up For Our Newsletter To Receive Weekly Updates.

Newsletter Signup

By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy and provide consent to receive updates from our company.