How to avoid workplace burnout

More than 30 per cent of the Australian labour force now works from home. Add to this the rise of the gig economy, co-shared workspaces and the effects of globalisation and it becomes very clear businesses are now dealing with some unique HR challenges.

Working from home

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show approximately 3.5 million employed Australians work from home regularly. The reasons for doing so are varied with the three most popular being:

  1. To catch up on the work they couldn’t finish during office hours;
  2. The individual wanted a home office (limited overheads);
  3. Flexible work arrangements.

This article will cover the first of these reasons – keep an eye out for our follow up article on the HR challenges of the second and third points in coming days.

Under-resourced, inefficient or a moth culture?

More than 42 per cent of Australians working from home are doing so in an effort to keep on top of their workload– a statistic that HR expert Heather Warner, of Perth HR consultancy WCA Solutions, said is concerning for business owners.

“This ABS data demonstrates approximately 1.4 million Australians need to bring their work home with them in order to stay on top of their workload,” she said.

“The potential in this situation for burnout or for employees to begin to resent their workload is enormous”.

“Discontent within the workplace can also easily spread to fellow employees, even if they are not directly affected by excessive workloads, which affects the culture of a business.”

Heather said there are three key questions business owners should ask if they know employees are regularly taking work home:

  1. Do we have a staffing issue – are we under-resourced?

Finding the right staffing balance can be a tricky undertaking for small to medium businesses, which often have narrow profit margins and need to stay lean to be competitive. However, understaffed businesses run the risk of overworking their employees and potentially losing them to burnout. An effective solution could be outsourcing some duties or projects, allowing employees to focus on high quality, efficient work within office hours.

  1. Is the staff member inefficient when at work?

A second reason staff may be taking work home is simply because they are inefficient in the workplace. This does not necessarily have to be for negative reasons – some employees may be spending time helping their colleagues, or they could be being dragged into too many meetings. Other employees may simply work best outside of traditional work hours, in which case discussing flexible work arrangements or altering the hours they are in the office could benefit both the business and the employee.

  1. Do our staff feel they have to work extra hours to fit in?

Are you rewarding employees based on the number of hours they’re putting in, rather than their productivity and output? Many workplaces still reward long hours and reward that over actual work generated, resulting in a moth culture. This can transcend from the workplace into the home if employees feel the best way to gain recognition and reward is to be available at all hours to respond to emails or work on projects.

“Once you have asked these questions, managers should be able to pinpoint the reason their staff are taking work home and the situation can then be managed appropriately and with consideration of the root cause,” Heather said.

“None of the above situations need to be major hurdles for any business. Managers simply need to take a look at the early warning signs – such as employees working excessive hours or regularly taking work home – and then acknowledge and address the underlying issue.”

WCA Solutions offers outsourced HR services for businesses of all sizes and is available to assist with any staffing, mediation or business culture issues. For more information phone us on +61 8 9383 3293 or view our services here.