EmployeeBurnout and the need for Workplace Flexibility
Employeeburnout is one of the challenges faced by today`s organizations, aperspective that has been influenced by the increased trend wherework durations are expanded and prolonged. Burnout is the primarycause of decreased employee performance, the lack of motivation, andincreased turnover in organizations, hence the need to address thesame. This research paper explores the impacts of employee burnout inorganizations, the need for workplace flexibility, and givesrecommendations for improvement in this context.
EmployeeBurnout and the need for Workplace Flexibility
Inrecent years, the global economic environment has seen significantchanges in employee goals and motivation when it comes to work andemployment. Today`s organizations tend to focus more on growth,expansion, and profitability, which are achieved in less attractiveconditions, especially for employees. A common economic trend todayis the expansion of work durations for employees with severalorganizations gradually expanding the nine-to-five workday. Clearly,organizations are increasing the hours of work for employees eventhough their wages or salaries remain the same. According toresearch, Americans work for approximately 47 hours a week withanother 40 percent of the American population saying they work for aminimum of 50 hours every week. One of the implications of longeremployee hours is burnout, which has raised concern in the globaleconomic environment in recent years. Employee burnout refers to theexhaustion of employee physical and emotional strength, which isoften caused by prolonged or continuous frustration and stress(Leiter, Bakker, & Maslach, 2014). In organizations, employeeburnout can be manifested in various forms including frustration orlack of interest in work, persistent irritability, continuousabsenteeism, anger, and exhaustion at the workplace. Althoughemployee burnout cannot be prevented, it can be managed or controlledthrough ensuring workplace flexibility. The expansion of workplaceflexibility in organizations can include flex-time, telecommuting,reducing work hours, offering sabbaticals or leaves to employees, orembracing phased retirement. With these in place, employee engagementand motivation can be increased paving the way for improvedorganizational performance regarding revenue generation andprofitability.
Impactsof employee burnout in organizations
Asalready mentioned, burnout is common in occupations or organizationswhere employees spend more time working and supporting other peoplethereby being exposed to exhaustion of physical and emotionalstrength. Burnout has adverse impacts on employees and organizationsand influences the failure to achieve set goals and objectiveswitnessed in several organizations today. An adverse impact ofemployee burnout is that it can cause employees to adopt adepersonalized approach in the execution of their duties, which canfurther taint the reputation or image of an organization (Leiter,Bakker, & Maslach, 2014). With organizations aiming at acompetitive advantage, those with tainted reputations and imagesoften find it hard to succeed in a competitive market. Start-uporganizations that aim to penetrate and succeed in existing marketscome up with objectives, which are only realized when employees go anextra mile. Most of these organizations have a few employees withseveral tasks at hand, and therefore, most of them fail after shortstints because of the high turnover rates caused by employee burnout.
Burnoutis one of the factors that cause employees to become less focused ontheir duties setting the stage for increased errors in organizations(Landrum, Knight, & Flynn, 2012). Errors are highly discouragedin organizations as they drive away existing and potential customers.Increased organizational errors mean that the quality of serviceproduction is often jeopardized. Organizational errors go hand inhand with employee negligence characterized by the use of a wrongtechnology in production, the failure to follow organizational rulesand regulations, and the failure to take a keen interest in customerneeds.
Froma general perspective, one of the factors that remain crucial toorganizations in the achievement of set goals and objective is jobperformance. In recent years, the need to improve job performance hasseen organizations enhance communication between employees andmanagers, enhance coordination, and embrace team cooperation. Theglobal economic environment places emphasis on the need to understandthe aspects of employee performance because it directly affectsorganizational performance. Unfortunately, the exposure to stressorssuch as prolonged work hours and role ambiguity causes burnout thathas deleterious effects on employee job performance (Landrum, Knight,& Flynn, 2012). With compromised employee job performance,organizations are likely to remain behind in the competitive economicenvironment where client engagement is only achieved through improvedjob performance.
Patternssuch as those discussed above exist for the relationship betweenemployee burnout and job satisfaction. Research indicates thatemployee burnout remains a key predictor of lower work ratings aswell as low satisfaction among staff. In most organizations, higherrole ambiguity and longer work hours are the primary causes ofemployee burnout, and therefore, they are considered the keypredictors or causes of lower job satisfaction in organizations(Landrum, Knight, & Flynn, 2012). Employee satisfaction iscrucial to the growth, development, and profitability oforganizations as it ensures that effective service is offered tocustomer thereby setting the stage for the retention of existingcustomers and attraction of new customers. However, the fact thatorganizations have focused more on their growth and profitability atthe expense of employee work conditions has jeopardized employeesatisfaction in most organizations. In other words, employees arehardly contented with their responsibilities or work done in today`sorganizations as the pay does not reflect the work done and thelonger hours of work. In most cases, employees who report burnoutbecause of the stress-filled work environment also reportdissatisfaction with their jobs, and this often marks the downfall oforganizations.
Moreover,burnout is considered one of the precursors of counteractive employeebehaviors witnessed at the workplace (Landrum, Knight, & Flynn,2012). Some of these behaviors include disrespect for managers,coworkers, and customers, which in turn results in constant conflictsamong organizational staff. When an employee disrespects coworkersand becomes angry with managers, it is highly likely thatorganizational rules, regulations, policies, as well as safetyprocedures, will be disregarded. Counteractive employee behaviorsinterfere with relationships among organizational stakeholders, andorganizations that experience such behaviors often fail to realizetheir set goals and objectives.
Theneed for workplace flexibility
Thereputation and success of today`s organizations are threatened by theadverse impacts of employee burnout on these organizations.Therefore, to solve or prevent organizational failure and damage toorganizational reputation, stakeholders and other staff must shiftfocus to embracing and ensuring workplace flexibility. This meansthat significant changes should be made to what is considered"normal" working patterns where employees work for severalhours and receive pay or wages that are largely not proportional tothe working hours. Managers can ensure workplace flexibility by doingaway with fixed and repetitive working hours and involving changesand variations that benefit and motivate employees (Bal & Jansen,2016). Several organizations prefer to give time offs to theiremployees, a move that plays a crucial role in addressing stress,exhaustion, and the like in employees. An example of a time off isSabbaticals or leaves that give employees the opportunity to engagein other activities that relieve stress and exhaustion paving the wayfor improved performance upon return to work. Organizations alsoensure workplace flexibility by adopting flexible work arrangements(FWAs) including flex schedules where there are clear start and endtimes, breaks, and compressed workweeks. FWAs can also includeputting in place predictable schedules for employees, reducingworking hours especially through part-time work, job sharing, phasedretirement, or part-year work, as well as embracing a practice whereemployees change places of work frequently, what is often achievedthrough telework and having alternative work sites (Bal & Jansen,2016). Over the years, there have been concerns in the economicenvironment on why workplace flexibility is of importance toorganizations. Although several managers believe that workplaceflexibility is costly, its benefits underline the need for the samein organizational management and operations. As already mentioned,workplace flexibility remains one of the most effective interventionsused in reducing employee burnout in most organizations. This is whythe concepts "employee burnout" and "workplaceflexibility" are used interchangeably in most organizations. Theflexibility of the workplace allows employees or gives them thefreedom to handle work with minimal pressures and in a morethoughtful way.
Itshould also be noted that workplace flexibility breeds or sets thestage for increased organizational productivity, which is stilllinked to the fact that burnout is addressed. When employees work infavorable physical, emotional, environmental conditions, theyapproach their duties with completely different mindsets making theirtime at work worthwhile. Organizational productivity remains one ofthe organizational factors that boost the competitiveness oforganizations in the global economic development. To achieve this,managers have no alternative but to put everything in place to ensureworkplace flexibility.
Researchindicates that the mistrust between employees and managers coupledwith the lack of transparency is the source of organizationalconflicts that hinder the realization of common organizationalobjectives such as expansion and profitability. The lack oftransparency and mistrust in organizations is evident when employeesask for "mental health days" when in the real sense, theyseek space and time off to relax or deal with their exhaustion. Withworkplace flexibility in place, the mistrust and lack of transparencyat the workplace can be overcome as employees are unlikely to fake"mental health days." Workplace flexibility boosts theemotional and mental health of employees because it provides aplatform where employees manage their personal responsibilities andorganizational duties in ways that are friendlier and more realistic(Innanen, Tolvanen, & Salmela-Aro, 2014).
Employeeabsenteeism remains an issue of concern in today`s organizations, andthis is a practice that threatens the realization of organizationalobjectives. Despite paying or funding activities for their employeessuch as car fixing, medical insurance, and other personal problems,employees remain largely discontented and often lie about absences.In such scenarios, organizations are the biggest losers as they donot get a return on their investment in employees, and this is alsoconsidered one of the reasons organizations report more losses thanprofits. However, embracing workplace flexibility breeds mutual trustbetween employees and organizational managers (Innanen, Tolvanen, &Salmela-Aro, 2014), and therefore, organizations do not have to payfor the job not done but only for productive "on-the-job"time.
Acommon strategy used by organizations to ensure workplace flexibilityis job sharing, a strategy that sees employees do the same job but indifferent work schedules. Usually, job sharing not only encouragesand motivates employees but is also of benefit from the organizationperspective because it provides the management of an organizationwith two or more talented and skilled professionals for about theprice of one professional (Innanen, Tolvanen, & Salmela-Aro,2014). Through this, organizations have a greater capability to meetthe needs and demands of their customers worldwide. Of course,meeting customer needs is one of the precursors of improvedorganizational performance and profitability, and therefore,workplace flexibility has an underlying role in this.
Everyorganization prioritizes the hiring of best talents because it isthrough this that high productivity levels can be realized.Unfortunately, the acquisition of best new talents remains achallenge for most organizations because the young generation withthe best talents give preference to flexibility in the workplaceenvironment, something that today`s organizations are far fromensuring. With these perspectives, it should be noted that workplaceflexibility plays an influential role in the attraction of the bestnew talent for organizations. With flexibility in the workplace,organizations attract Generation X professionals who focus less onthe wages they receive but more on whether work/life balance isprovided. In the same vein, having flexible arrangements enableorganizations to attract higher levels of talents despite running onstrict and tight budgets. Of course, burnout is common inorganizations that lack flexibility, and the Generation Xprofessionals targeted by organizations cannot be lured or attractedin such situations. Research indicates that flexibility givesorganizations an upper hand when it comes to the recruitment processand improvement of public image. The retention and attraction of toptalented professionals depend on whether an environment that enablesor allows employees to thrive is provided or not.
Thepositive impacts of workplace flexibility notwithstanding, severalmanagers still oppose and question the need for workplaceflexibility, especially in its relationship to the reduction ofemployee burnout at the workplace. Several organizations that haveembraced workplace flexibility over the years have seen an increasein employee performance and productivity, which have triggeredincreased revenue generation and better client service and time.Besides, employees in these organizations exhibit a strongercommitment to their jobs and higher or improvement levels orengagement with their organizations. The mentioned perspectives arewithout a doubt in the list of the objectives and goals of severalorganizations.
Oneof the recommendations of improvement is that organizations shouldstrive to provide work flexibility to all employees (Bakker &Costa, 2014). Research indicates that in today`s global economicenvironment, more than 35 percent of employees demand more flexibleschedules with another 46 percent of the employed population sayingthat flexibility remains a priority when it comes to job seeking.
Anotherrecommendation in the context of employee burnout and the need forworkplace flexibility is that organizations should have fewer butmore structured meetings. Surveys indicate that most meetings held inorganizations are a complete waste of time and more hours are spenton the same. Instead of producing the intended results in terms ofimproved employee performance, these meetings cause burnout inemployees (Bakker & Costa, 2014). Therefore, organizationscommitted to improving in the context of employee burnout and theneed for workplace flexibility should have a few meetings that arestructured. Through this, employees will have more time to relax andthink of better ways to improve organizational performance.
Mostimportantly, organizations should encourage or push their employeesto take breaks at work to allow them to have downtime and socializewith their colleagues. Studies done on the same reveal that a meager33 percent of employees in the global economic environment takebreaks at the workplace. More of this should be done inorganizations, and the best strategy could be allowing or forcingemployees to leave their places of work during lunch through theprovision of incentives or free food.
Employeeburnout is primarily responsible for the bad reputation and lossesrecorded by most organizations in today`s economic environment. Thisis caused by the work overload and the increased trends whereorganizations extend or prolong employee working hours. Embracingworkplace flexibility remains the best solution to the adverseimpacts of employee burnout in organizations today. It is recommendedthat organizations should provide work flexibility to all employees,encourage employees to take breaks in the workplace, and have fewerbut more structured meetings that are fruitful and cause minimalburnout in employees.
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