Can your organization afford to ignore staff burn-out?
Non-profit housing is a rewarding, but challenging sector. Every day, we experience administrative and community pressures that can wear us down. On top of that, our personal lives can make it even more difficult to manage workplace stress.
All these pressures can add up to burn-out, which can negatively affect our health and performance at work. While most employers are aware of the risks of burnout, many are unsure of how to help. In organizations without dedicated human resources staff, managers may feel they don’t have the time or the expertise to provide support.
According to research by Morneau Shepell, not addressing employee burnout is more time-consuming and expensive than taking action. While the costs are difficult to quantify, a distressed employee is much less productive than their colleagues. Lost productivity can take many forms, including “presenteeism” (being at work but giving less than 70 per cent of their best effort), gossiping or complaining about work to peers, and time-consuming complaints or disciplinary actions.
The study compared the costs of an employee assistance program (EAP) with lost productivity and absence from work. EAPs provide confidential support services to employees and their families so that they can manage work, health, and life challenges. The study found that organizations with more than 15 per cent of their employees or family using the EAP service had a return of more than $10 for every dollar invested.
How can you tell if a staff member is suffering from burn-out? Some of the signs to look out for, according to Leanne McDonald, Program Manager at Morneau Shepell, include changes in behavior, like sudden angry outbursts, and increased absenteeism. “This is the iceberg effect,” she explains. “What are you not seeing? This person could be dealing with childcare or elder care at home resulting in sleepless nights. All these things can bubble up to the surface and lead to undesirable workplace behaviours.”
McDonald recommends that supervisors adopt a five-step process to intervene when staff burn-out is suspected:
- Observe—Note changes in the employee’s performance, behaviour and physical appearance. Document and save your observations in a safe place.
- Assess—Recognize that your observations are likely only the tip of the iceberg. It may be a good time to ask colleagues with human resources expertise or your EAP service for help.
- Communicate—Make a plan to discuss your observations. Use open-ended questions to learn more about what is going on. Remain non-judgmental and focus on the facts and specific behaviours.
- Discuss solutions and offer help—Work with the employee to rectify their behaviour. Maybe they need extra support in their tasks or coaching.
- Follow-up—Put in a timeline of two weeks to ensure the employee is working on the agreed-upon plan and to monitor how they are doing.
Most importantly, ensure your organization is a welcoming place to talk about stress and mental health. It can be difficult for an employee to admit to a problem if they are worried about being stigmatized. A handy resource to have at your fingertips is ONPHA’s Human Resources Handbook. It contains best practices for difficult scenarios and will help you understand your legislative responsibilities with samples, templates and checklists. The latest edition can be purchased on our website. Other useful resources include Charity Village, HR Daily Advisor and HR Reporter.