Recognizing the Tell-Tale Signs and Stopping it Before it Starts
The economic downswing makes it more challenging to hire extra help, reward employees with raises, and spend extra time mitigating problems when they surface at work or at home.
But overworking the office staff leads to burnout, sapping productivity, breeding discontent, and potentially leading to the loss of valuable personnel. “I think a lot of burnout comes from boredom,”opines Dr. Donald Eason,a Winter Haven pediatrician at Clark & Daughtrey Medical Group and Polk County Medical Association member.He rotates administrative work so they avoid that. “It helps to vary that routine a little bit,” he adds. “They [also] can fill in that situation in a crunch.”
Dr. Eason recommends combating burnout from the get-go by hiring quality people and training them properly. A good office manager is part of the mix. “We all have life’s emergencies and urgencies that come up periodically that put extra stress on the body and the mind,” he remarks. “A good office manager would kind of encourage that person to take some time off to deal with those life urgencies.”The office manager should be “caring” and “compassionate,” he says, yet “firm when they need to be.”
He says at his office they try to limit overtime, although it is sometimes necessary, and reward good performance with a bonus, extra day off or recognition as “Employee of the Month.” Sometimes flexibility is required to retain a good employee with an issue like not being able to work weekends, or not being able to work full-time any longer.
“We all have stresses that occur periodically,” he continues, “the more we recognize and address them, the less likely they are to build up and become major problems.”
So how do you recognize burnout, so you can nip it in the bud? Experts say a negative attitude and sloppy work are tell-tale signs. Key indicators include mistakes, a combative attitude, diversion from the employee’s regular demeanor,and absenteeism.
“Sadly, so many times people bring their domestic issues into the workplace with them,”says Baxter Troutman, founder and chief executive officer of Labor Solutions in Winter Haven, a temporary agency. “The first thing I would do is get that person off to the side and just talk to them about what’s going on in their life.”
Bart Richert, chief executive officer ofPro Med Health Care Services based in Winter Haven,a medical staffing agency, agrees it’s important to listen to employees and address their needs in a timely manner.“Each individual is different. Each individual has a different level of tolerance. There is no one formula,” Richert says. “A lot of it comes down to just understanding your employees, but also understanding […] people as a whole. How many days are they coming to work with their ‘A’ game?”
He suggests it is well worth hiring extra help to lessen work overload, averting burnout and staff turnover. “Maybe the doctor should spend a little extra money to keep people happier longer term,” he suggests.
Troutman helps to prevent burnout in his office by decreeing a four-day work week in the summer, their slow season. Staff members are paid for five days, just like usual. “I see morale go through the ceiling,” says Troutman,who served as a state representative between 2002 and 2010. “They work like mules for eight months out of the year […] They’ve been run ragged. The last thing I want to do is lose one of them.” His staff has an average tenure of 11 years, and his business is only 15. “I can’t afford to lose one of my teammates. They’re so good at what they do. They’re priceless to me.”
Dr. Eason agrees positive support is important. “Sometimes just a pat on the back [is needed]. It’s a little thing to do. It can mean a lot,” he says. “We probably all could do that better.”
Modeling a healthful attitude – being upbeat and consistent — also is helpful.“That just trickles down to the people they work with,” Dr. Eason says. “It does have to start at the top. You need a strong leadership. You’ve got to treat people like people, human beings.”
He breaks the stress for employees with things like “jean days” or “ice cream Friday afternoons,” changing the routine and giving staffers something to anticipate.When it comes to the office staff, it’s important to remember many of the team members may also be parents and as a consequence, they have another “full-time” job. “They are basically doing two jobs,” he adds, and balancing work and home life means one can “can get burned out easily.”
by CHERYL ROGERS