Burnout is not something that happens from one day to the next. It conceals a gradual process. Experts have divided this process into twelve stages. These range from negligence of one’s own needs and changes in one’s behaviour to a complete inner void and a manifest depression. Precisely because this process occurs gradually, it is important to note the warning signs in good time. These can be very varied; here is a sample:
- Disturbed sleep and tiredness
- Loss of appetite
- Frequent colds and infections
- Loss of concentration
- Irritability and inability to control your own impulses
- Muscular tension, headaches or migraines
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Depressive moods
Problems and challenges relating to burnout which companies face
Employers are obliged to care for the safety and to protect the health of their employees. This is defined as the employer’s duty of care. This is counteracted by permanent pressure to perform, which many employees experience in the workplace. Many people feel the time and competition pressure at first hand, and accordingly work even longer and harder. On top of this, in many industries there are permanent staff shortages and the need to take on additional duties. When a lack of support from one’s superior is added to these difficulties, and unrealistic performance expectations are placed, then for vulnerable people a burnout is almost preprogrammed.
How can companies solve these problems?
Nowadays, psychological problems and states of exhaustion, such as burnout, are too often still stigmatised. That’s not the way to do it. Because ever more people are affected by chronic exhaustion, it is important that this subject is given an airing. In companies, the issue of burnout has to be brought into the open. Both management and employees need to be sensitised to this important subject. A professional and open approach counteracts its stigmatisation. For this, it is important to obtain medical and psychological advice and to provide support to those affected. It often helps to seek dialogue, demonstrate understanding, and offer support. Companies can actively challenge and optimise their structures and organisational processes.
What we as a company do against burnout
We know that today companies play an important role in the prevention of burnout. Often it is the professional situation which drives people into burnout. That is why, in our company, we have taken important steps to contribute to the prevention of burnout. With us, flat hierarchies ensure that no power imbalance arises, and that a trusting rather than a hierarchical working relationship is possible. A company which allows open discussions across all hierarchical levels creates a trusting atmosphere. Whenever people work together, mistakes happen. It was therefore important to us to establish in our company a culture which accepts mistakes. We tolerate mistakes in order to learn; we do not punish them. In an open culture we provide mutual feedback and allow ourselves to grow from it.
Employees whose commitment is seen and encouraged are more healthy emotionally. This includes not only the recognition of performance, but also a right to have a say, a positive working environment, and fair pay. Additionally, we ensure an appropriate workload and we take responsibility for the career development of our employees. Companies can deal with burnout through their healthcare provision and support. We provide mindfulness courses for managing and coping with periods of stress. This enables us to do something beneficial for our employees.
In addition, management training sessions, coaching, and supervision courses contribute to the empowerment of employees. These options provide space for reflecting on one’s own experiences and learning from them. Many employees experience the twin duties of job and family as an increasing burden. Here we support them by offering family-friendly working hours. This includes flexible working times and the option of working from home.
Unfortunately burnout affects many people in our hectic, fast-moving society. However, what matters is that we as a company can do a great deal to help our own employees to stay healthy. We look after our employees’ psychological well-being, and we have established structures so that burnout does not arise in the first place.