CEOs lead organizations through a myriad of challenges and opportunities. Organizational growth and sustainability depends on the agility and ability of the organization to utilize all of its resources to accomplish the goals and objectives of the company. The key component of the utilization of employees, is to use them without depleting them. This is one key strategy that many organizations are failing to accomplish.
Employee burnout has been on the rise over several years, but since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it’s getting much worse. NordVPN released a study in the spring of 2020, indicating that Americans are working an extra 3 hours per day since the pandemic began. Workers were working longer hours BEFORE the pandemic, so adding an extra 180 minutes each day to the work day is making matters worse.
A recent Monster survey indicated that 69% of employees surveyed are claiming they are burned out since they started working from home (WFH). If you have a team of 50 employees, 35 of them are burned out. That will impact your company deliverables to clients, the quality of your products and services, and the morale of the organization.
The HR department is drowning in these statistics, and often feel paralyzed in being able to address this growing epidemic, that is starting to feel more like a pandemic. Outdated time off policies, a lack of a clear workplace wellness program, and inconsistent application of work/life scheduling is making the burnout epidemic grow at an alarming rate.
CEOs are also burning out, because the demands from their boards of directors to their management team is eating up their smartphone battery life. CEOs are working longer hours to try and keep ahead of all of the demands.
It’s failing and it’s not sustainable to operate this way. Here are some key strategies for CEOs and the C-Suite to address burnout.
Establish Company Mandated Boundaries Around Working Hours
Employees are worried about losing their jobs, so they are working longer hours to “demonstrate” they are hard-working employees. Hard working doesn’t equate to being better employees. Smart and efficient employees will create more successful organizations. The graveyards of closed businesses are littered with “hard working” employees.
Productivity in an 8 hour work day is on average only 2 hours and 53 minutes. So 5 hours of every work day are unproductive, due to interruptions, lack of communication, micro management, pointless Zoom meetings, etc.
Companies need to switch from the antiquated Industrial/Henry Ford assembly line mentality of what “work” is, and switch to more task-based activities. Compensation should also match up with this by eliminating the 40-hour workweek model, and truly adapt a salary-based model where if employees can accomplish their tasks in 20 hours per week, awesome. If it takes them 40 hours, so be it. Anything longer would require additional training and/or a review of that employee’s work loads.
Have your HR team look at the job descriptions of every employee and determine what truly is those employees’ tasks, and start getting crystal clear on assigning tasks and deadlines for those tasks.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. (But ease up on the Zoom meetings, ok?)
With the pandemic, gone are the days of stopping by employee desks to see how they’re doing on a project. Micro managers have replaced that tactic with endless Zoom meetings, which take away from the time employees need to actually work on their tasks.
Zoom meetings should be like any other meeting: Is there an actual, documented meeting agenda? If not, Click NO on that meeting invite. A better solution would be to clearly articulate to your team the outcomes and expectations of what to produce for the company/customers, and then get the heck out of the employees way and let them do their job.
Don’t just communicate with your employees on clear guidelines, but also reach out to your customers to find out what they need from you RIGHT NOW. Yes, you might be working on some long-term projects with your customers, but during this pandemic your clients may have more immediate needs that you could address. Reach out to them to find out what they need NOW.
Monitor Your Managers Interactions With Your Employees
There’s no shortage of bad management in this world. People don’t leave companies, they leave because their managers are lousy at what they do. Organizations are partly to blame for not properly training their managers in how to manage. Egos, internal competition for promotions, and lack of self worth by managers comes to the forefront in how many managers run their teams. Seek confidential feedback from your teams on how their managers are interacting with them, to weed out the bad managers as quickly as possible. Tom Peters tells us to hire slow and fire fast. This is definitely a rule of thumb for the C-Suite to apply to its management team.
Practice What You Preach
As a CEO or C-Suite executive, you set the tone for how the organization operates. If you’re sending emails from 6am – 11pm 7 days a week, your team will behave the same way. Your organization is spread too thin if that type of work is required. Rested employees are productive employees. Burned out employees will bring your organization down, and potentially cause its demise.
CEOs need to stop working after hours. You made it to the top. This is supposed to be a “good life”, so why are you working at 10 pm on a Saturday night? Establish boundaries on when you are available and when you are not.
C-Suite executives lead organizations to the direction they will go, by properly utilizing resources. If you’re allowing burnout to exist in your organization, eventually your organization will suffer, and potentially cease to exist. You can lead organizations without causing mental and physical harm to your employees, so I recommend you change the course of your company by implementing anti-burnout protocols, before you lose key personnel.