“What’s your strategy for preventing burnout from employees that are still working on location and are having to pick up the extra workload of staff that is no longer employed?”

A leading cause of employee burnout is unmanageable workload. And unfortunately, due to layoffs and redundancies in both the US and the UK, many employees have been asked to shoulder the work that was previously done by their peers, in addition to their own regular tasks. Indeed, a recent survey in the UK by outplacement firm Randstad Risesmart, found that almost half of workers (42%) said their managers asked them to take on more work after the redundancies were made. The follow-on impact to employee morale, the survey also found, is swift and negative, with 54% of employees surveyed saying they are disengaged and just going through the motions at work, up from 34%.

These numbers indicate that leaders of companies who are facing staff reductions need to take into account more than the morale of the employees who remain after redundancies. Impact on workloads must also be considered, in order to avoid causing employee burnout and disengagement.

Actions leaders can take to prevent employee burnout

  • When planning for redundancies, look objectively at workload, and determine whether it will be appropriate for the remaining team. Make adjustments as necessary to ensure expectations align reasonably with capability. These adjustments may include prioritising projects, pausing some work, extending timings, and adjusting quotas. Realise that while people may be willing to put in extra effort in the short term, however, “going the extra mile” isn’t a long-term strategy.
  • Focus on outcomes, rather than inputs. For a call center, that means measuring reductions in call volume and customer satisfaction, rather than contacts per hour or time per call. Shifting the end goal to satisfied customers, rather than the speed with which reps can get clients off the phone – will create very different motivations for the team.
  • Set clear and realistic goals and priorities post-redundancies, and communicate them with the team. Short-term, SMART goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) are especially useful in these conditions.
  • Coach the whole team – managers and employees alike – to be aware of when they feel the work is becoming unmanageable. Employees need to learn to speak up, and be reassured that their managers will listen, be supportive, and help employees re-prioritise their work. In particular, managers should make a point of assessing how their people are doing against the revised goals.

Our founder, Stefan Wissenbach, is fond of saying “Play a game you know you can win.” When planning for redundancies, revising company plans and re-defining what success looks like in the short term is both necessary and smart, to prevent employee burnout while keeping morale and engagement strong.

View the full “Ask the CEO: Culture & Employee Engagement in 2021” webinar here.