A few months ago, the World Health Organization added "burnout" to its list of official medical diagnoses. "Burnout can occur when we face chronic work stress," said David Ballard, Senior Sirector of the American Psychological Association's Office of Applied Psychology.
"We are really only equipped to handle stress in short bursts – so when we face elevated levels of stress at work for a long time, we risk burning out." David explained.
As a leader, how do you sustain your employees' effort without pushing them past the breaking point? Here are four innovative HR best practices from the leaders of Great Place To Work-Certified™ companies.
1. Give employees a break from the bustle
Mindfulness at Salesforce
Leaders today can help employees ease stress by providing a respite from the always-on nature of today's work environment.
Several years ago, technology company Salesforce was inspired to create permanent "mindfulness rooms" after hosting meditation classes with a group of 30 Buddhist monks. Complete silence is encouraged in these spaces on every floor of new Salesforce buildings.
Employees can find stillness inside technology-free areas and unwind, reflect, and meditate. In the rooms, there are digital guided meditation programs that stream preprogrammed content three times an hour on iPads.
From five minute breathing exercises to 20 minute visualization practices, the meditations run Monday through Friday, around the clock. The sessions run at odd times so that employees can make meetings that happen on the hour.
Quiet Time at Children's
The moon and stars signal "Quiet Time" at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Every day at 2 p.m., three floors hang up special blue signs, announcing it's time to slow down.
Employees still care for patients during Quiet Time, but at a lower volume. Staff silence their electronic devices and speak softly, physicians only perform necessary procedures, and volunteers stick to the public areas of the hospital.
A nursing student hatched the idea of Quiet Time at Children's. She was working on her advanced nursing degree when she started researching noise in hospitals. She learned that hospitals are loud places, and that increased noise can delay healing and contribute to sleep deprivation.
She discovered that noise also impacts staff and can create stress and burnout. She worked with a team at Children's to design an 8-week study to see if quiet time could work in a pediatric hospital environment and what effect it would have on patients, parents, and staff. The study indicated that quiet time was beneficial for everyone. So patient care services has rolled it out in all Children's hospitals.
2. Formalize time to recognize
Acknowledging employees for their hard work can be invigorating for them.
When clients of professional services firm Crowe respond to a satisfaction survey with the names of individuals who have gone above and beyond during projects, the survey creates a "recognize alert." Crowe features these superstars in their newsletter stories every other month.
Crowe takes recognize alerts one step further with a "Pay It Forward" program. Individuals who have received recognize alerts can "pay it forward" to other colleagues who played important roles but weren't mentioned.
Crowe shares the names of both kinds of kudos so others can learn from their examples, and the individuals feel appreciated.
3. Manage burnout like any other metric
If long hours and burnout are concerns, measuring and managing them should be taken as seriously as sales, profitability, or customer satisfaction.
The Resilience Committee at one of OhioHealth's hospitals invited its 6,000 associates to take the Abbreviated Maslach Burnout Inventory. The 10-question survey helps to quantify the level of burnout in people.
With the data from 1,500 responses, the committee identified nine departments in which to rollout needed resilience strategies.
4. Recall the positive
At St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the Resilience Committee invite employees to participate in "3 Good Things," a program designed to help people recall the positive things in daily life.
Employees can get daily reminders to write down three good things they had been a part of each day and how their specific roles are making it happen.
By remembering the positive, employees start to recognize rewarding events. In turn, those positive emotions improve physical and mental health. Submission are anonymous, and participants can see others' lists of good things to further share in the joy.
The Best are Burnout free
Burnout will continue to be a challenge that can affect everyone from bankers to bakers, but it doesn't have to be the reality at your workplace.
Employees at the 2019 World's Best Workplaces™ report that 84% look forward to coming to work and 80% say their workplace is psychologically and emotionally healthy.
To find out whether your employees are suffering from burnout, reach out to learn more about our employee experience platform. Our Trust Index™ survey will surface how your employees feel so you can put the right practices in place to ensure their wellbeing.