0 Comments | Nov 22, 2010

Preventing Employee Burnout

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There’s a very expensive ailment plaguing businesses. It’s difficult to diagnose, and even more difficult to cure. There’s no pill, procedure, surgery, or diet that can cure it. And it affects a whopping 77% of employees at one point or another.

It’s burnout.

Talent Management’s Lois Melbourne provides a few employee burnout recognition clues, including:

  1. Avoiding/skipping meetings
  2. Absenteeism
  3. Irritability
  4. Lack of attention to details

Once it affects a few employees, the malaise can spread faster than the flu, leading to adverse organizational trends such as higher voluntary turnover, increased absenteeism, and productivity losses.  Those are business killers, particularly in the shaky post-recession economy.  The hidden costs associated with voluntary turnover alone can reach crippling proportions – for example, the average 100-person IT firm spends in excess of $4M per year in direct replacement costs and lost productivity (view our extensive turnover research here).

Prevention is clearly preferable to cure, but the problem is widespread.  Stress is a major contributor to employee burnout, and three out of four employees describe their job as either “stressful” or “very stressful.”

While employees’ direct supervisors are the first line of defense against burnout, and effective leadership goes a long way toward alleviating the problem (read more here), there is something that human resources employee benefits folks can do to help the team avoid the negative consequences of burnout.

Help employees take vacations.

Three out of four executives view vacations as an important tool in burnout prevention.  Yet two out of three American employees gave back vacation days last year, and 43% have no vacation plans for this year.


Three reasons:

  1. Employees need help affording vacations.
  2. Employees don’t relish the hassle of planning vacations.
  3. Employees don’t believe that management really wants them to take vacations.

Here’s where the employee benefits folks come in, with a program called Vacation Wellness™ (watch a short video here).  It’s designed to remove all three barriers to the healthy practice of employee vacations.

More than just avoiding burnout, regular destination vacations also play a key role in overall employee health, which can give your employee health and wellness programs a boost.  It seems almost too simple to work, but the research shows that

  • Regular vacationers are up to three times less likely to suffer depression, the most expensive employee health problem.
  • Regular male vacationers are up to 32% less likely to suffer heart attack, and female vacationers are up to 53% less likely to have heart problems.  Heart disease is the second-costliest acute employee healthcare issue.
  • Regular vacationers are eight times less likely to suffer premature morbidity.

Isn’t it fantastic to have a bucketful of legitimate business reasons to take vacations?  Just make sure you’re providing your employees the best opportunity to get away.  It’s not the silver bullet for burnout, but it’s darn close!