Preventing burnout as a company ‘cultural norm’

1st May 2023

Burnout is on the rise – in fact, Glassdoor cited that it increased by 48% between Summer 2021 and 2022 alone.

Burnout is not easy to address, as every case is as unique as the person experiencing it. In this article, Trickle’s Senior Customer Wellbeing Managers, Cass and Victoria, share their thoughts on this ever-growing issue.

What causes burnout?

A recent article by Harvard Business Review (HBR) defined burnout as “a management and organisational issue, not a physical or mental health issue, so promoting self-care won’t usually help employees recover.”

The article goes on to identify the root cause of burnout as “a response to chronic job stressors”, made up of six core mismatches reflecting a poor fit between the job and basic human needs such as competence, belonging and psychological safety. These can apply to everyone, regardless of position or job title:

  • Workload – mismatches can come from not having enough time, resources or faulty equipment, resulting in people feeling inadequate in their job.
  • Control – people who feel that they have an inadequate level of autonomy to do their job successfully can result in a mismatch in control.
  • Reward – a simple thank you goes a long way, and not feeling appreciated takes a toll.
  • Community – feeling psychologically safe and trusted at work is vital to avoid a mismatch.
  • Fairness – feeling discriminated against can create feelings of uncertainty or tension.
  • Values – a mismatch in values could arise through ethical or moral conflicts within the workplace.

Over the past 3 years, Cass and Victoria have sat with leaders who frame burnout as an organisational concern and see that these leaders are more likely to identify the root causes for burnout, which can prevent key themes from recurring in the future, in addition to supporting people who are suffering.

How can organisations get ahead of burnout?

Crucially, improving mismatches and understanding key stressors can steer people away from burnout. Victoria added “something we always talk about with customers is how listening to what people need to thrive and do their job effectively – rather than making assumptions – is key. Although this sounds scary, Cass and I have found that it’s often the accumulation of smaller, more easily solvable issues that mount up over time and contribute to burnout.”

By listening to their people through the Trickle app, Cass recalls one organisation that discovered people were consistently dehydrated at work as there weren’t enough accessible drinking fountains when wearing PPE. This was acted on quickly and sentiment, which was measured through the Trickle app, immediately improved.

Understanding an organisation’s key stressors requires listening to and involving people from all levels of an organisation so leaders can understand what is really important to help people succeed and thrive. From this, organisations can put measures in place to ensure key stressors are effectively managed from the outset. This approach as opposed to a retrospective “burnout strategy” creates a culture of burnout prevention rather than burnout panic, when it’s too late.

From Cass and Victoria’s experience, organisations who do this experience significant benefits across the organisation in terms of sentiment, productivity and retention. However, it’s important to highlight that this isn’t a one-off project as stressors change over time. Continuing to listen to your people and gain insight will only strengthen a team’s ability to succeed and overcome more stressful and testing times should they arise.

How can organisations get started with identifying key stressors?

The Trickle app is a psychologically safe platform for leaders and employees alike. Employees can raise issues, suggestions or improvements at department, location or organisational level with the option to remain anonymous which can remove feelings of judgement. For serious or sensitive issues, employees can seek one-to-one support by confiding in a specific individual or group, again, with the option to remain anonymous. As Cass commented “sometimes organisations worry about what might be raised anonymously, but almost always, this type of feedback is so fruitful. One person coming forward can often bring about change for many. We can’t work with what we don’t know – that’s the beauty of the feature!”

To get started with identifying key stressors, Trickle can help you understand people’s sentiment about something – with individual answers remaining anonymous. A sense of community and reward can be built using ‘Shout Abouts’ to share updates to specific teams, locations or departments and sending ‘Fist Bumps’ to say thank you and show your appreciation.

Trickle can be moulded to any organisation – for one a one-off project, within a specific team, or across a full organisation. Why not book a short demo with one of our friendly team to find out how Trickle can support you?


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