Three ways data can help resolve employee burnout

Burnout is defined by Merriam-Webster as the “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration.” Has there ever been a word more relevant to how most employees are feeling right now?

Employee burnout should be of the highest priority for leaders in 2021, as they start to plan their recovery from the upheaval of 2020. Burnt-out employees can damage productivity, and are likely to leave if they perceive that they can recover themselves better in another role. Beyond cold hard numbers, many organisations also seem willing to do the right thing by their people, many of whom stood by their employer during the pandemic, and now in turn may need support to be their best selves at work.

In this blog, I want to discuss three areas where workforce data can help organisations tackle burnout – both dealing with the current state of play where organisations have burnt-out employees they need to support, and helping protect the workforce from burnout in the future.

1: Data enables better workload management

Though the causes of employee burnout are varied, the largest cause of burnout is overwork – or too much of the wrong kind of work for a certain employee. It’s imperative that organisations get a handle on how much work they are expecting of their employees, what those employees are actually getting through, and the work that’s coming down the line. Armed with this data, managers can divert workload away from burnt-out employees while they recover, and gradually increase their workload as they regain their wellbeing. By getting a holistic view of the whole team, those managers can see whether they should be diverting that work within the team – perhaps to an underworked team member – or whether they should be looking at additional short-term resource to fill the gap. And as the year progresses, managers can use data to spot sudden drops in productivity that may indicate an employee is struggling, allowing them to take proactive action to protect the wellbeing – and productivity – of their team.

Being able to see where your employees are spending their time may also help you identify whether they are in the right kind of work. I recently used an example from the insurance world where an employee who is highly detail-oriented should not be given low-value claims to process, as they will likely spend too much time on each claim to be effective. At the same time, it’s also likely that they will become increasingly frustrated and dissatisfied with their work, which can contribute to burnout. With the right data at their fingertips, there are simple steps managers can take to rectify these sorts of issues and prevent burnout.

2: Data helps managers engage employees more effectively

Employee engagement is attained by understanding, and providing, what employees want from their work – whether that’s being involved in decisions that affect them, measurable and actionable feedback, ongoing development, or a sense of satisfaction and purpose. Disengaged employees are at an increased risk of burnout.

A raft of tactics to engage employees already exists – but what I want to add to the conversation is that organisations can use data to help better identify disengaged employees. Software that aggregates workforce data can identify employees who are off-task for significant periods of time, or who spend a lot of time using training sections of programmes – both of which may be signs that they are disengaged and struggling. That data can be used as the basis for a productive and objective conversation between employees and managers to help analyse and resolve the issues affecting those employees.

A final piece of the puzzle to consider is how to free up managers to spend more time engaging their teams. Many middle managers are so busy gathering and analysing data that they don’t have much time to actually manage their people. Organisations need to look at systems that free up management time, to increase opportunities to engage employees.

3: Data brings hybrid work to life

The move to hybrid working styles has presented both opportunities and challenges for employee wellbeing. On the one hand, the ability to flex work around personal life, and vice versa, gives people the power to remove many stressors and inconveniences from their lives. But on the other hand, having emails at our fingertips can lead to ten minutes spent in an evening responding to an email – which can turn into four hours of work time that should have been family time. If left unchecked, this can lead to burnout.

At present, many organisations are lacking a transparent view of the time employees spend working, especially during their non-working hours. Technology that enables organisations to accurately track when employees are logging on, showing managers how well employees are balancing work and rest, will help managers proactively intervene to protect their employees from overwork, and thus burnout.

Measuring things differently

Finding meaningful solutions to employee burnout isn’t just a social responsibility for organisations –though that is incredibly important if organisations want to live up to their values and be an employer of choice for the best talent out there. Beyond that, reducing burnout is vital to an organisation’s top and bottom lines.

Organisations with a high level of burnout will soon (if they haven’t already) see their retention rates plummet as employees look for other roles where they can recover themselves. This damages employer brand, and also incurs significant costs as the organisation has to hire and train replacements for those employees they lose. Eliminating burnout, therefore, can reduce the cost of churn for organisations.

Perhaps more obviously, a workforce that is engaged, happy, and working at peak performance will be more effective, adding to the organisation’s top line by securing new business or retaining existing business.

Key to the success of any organisation’s efforts to reduce burnout is to revisit how they measure employee productivity. It’s no longer enough to look simply at outcomes, or volume of tasks completed. As work has grown more complex, the methods of measuring success have also increased in complexity – and often, organisations find it very hard to measure performance without technological intervention.

ActiveOps is helping organisations to prevent and cure employee burnout by giving them the insight necessary to gain a complete picture of employee productivity. Through employee performance management technology and our proven management methodology, our customers are better able to identify issues before they become problematic, and can empower managers to take action to keep their teams healthy and happy.

If you’re seeing the issues outlined in this article, why not get in touch and talk things through with us?

“Awais Farooq is the US Insurance Practice Lead at ActiveOps, responsible for helping industry leaders drive measurable results in their organisations through truly innovative technology and management process automation. Awais has over thirteen years of insurance industry experience, both operationally and including serving as a trusted leader at organisations including State Farm, Chubb and Berkshire Hathaway Guard Insurance Companies.

Awais holds a Master’s degree in Insurance Management from Boston University. He holds the designations of CPCU, AIC-M, AIC, and LPCS, and is an active member of the insurance community where he serves as a mentor to professionals in various areas. He is also a founder and an advisor to a local youth group. When not in front of his computer, he enjoys spending time with his children and exploring local coffee shops.”

Awais Farooq, Insurance Practice Lead, ActiveOps