Stress. Strain. Tension. Burnout. Lots of different words, more or less the same meaning. It can affect everyone, including your workers. But your employees are fundamentally the most important thing about your business, and they need taking care of to get the best out of them.
Burnout does no good to anyone. The symptoms don’t make for a strong and successful workforce. The World Health Organization defines them as:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.
This means it’s in everyone’s best interest to avoid them. That being said, the number of employees suffering from burnout is frankly huge. A mere 4% of workers never experience burnout, and 76% of employees suffer from it at least sometimes, according to a recent poll from Gallup.
By reducing the levels of burnout in your business, you could become one of the few workplaces where employees are genuinely looked after.
It’s difficult to think of any potential downsides. It means employees can get back to the most productive parts of their jobs and management can start looking for more material ways to improve the enterprise, like evaluating the top 3 alternatives to Trello or other business research.
Workflow automation requires new and exciting technologies too; artificial intelligence is key to implementing it. New tech is constantly being incorporated anyway, so when that incorporation happens, it’s important to think of how it can be used to ease the strain on employees’ working lives and make your business more productive.
Today, we’re going to look at some major ways that you can cut burnout. These methods and ideas include lots of useful tips and introducing as many of them as you can will maximize their efficiency.
We know that work is always going to contain elements of stress, but doing your best to reduce the strain and avoid burnout inarguably makes your employees happier and more productive. Everyone benefits – managing a project needs healthy employees and healthy managers, after all – so let’s get started.
Optimizing Business Processes
What is a business process and how does optimizing it help with reducing burnout? How is it related to workflow automation? How does workflow automation directly help to reduce and avoid burnout in the workforce?
Put simply, business processes are any task your business performs to accomplish its mission statement. So if your objective is the sale of a contact dialer solution, your business processes are everything that needs to be done to make that happen.
And, of course, if you want to optimize your business processes, you need to optimize workflows. Any technique you can implement to streamline this and reduce the demand on your employees is going to help toward reducing stress and burnout.
There isn’t just one way to do this. The first thing to do, before any kind of automation, is to sit down and examine your business: its practices, its workflows, its processes. Before you automate, understand exactly how your business functions. Those workflows that don’t contribute to your business are ripe for either elimination or automation.
Removing these pointless processes doesn’t just help productivity: it makes your employees happy, and happy employees suffer less from burnout.
(The cost of burnout. Source: SHRM)
What does it include?
So what does optimizing business processes include, generally?
- Removing redundant processes: having too many stages inside a business process, especially if those stages replicate each other in some way, is bad for productivity and bad for your employees’ mental states.
- Efficient communications: making transparency a central goal in your organization is useful because it unifies your objectives and avoids communications issues that cause conflict between employees.
- Looking to the future: any time saved with optimization of processes can be put into innovation. This might mean finding new solutions, products, or technologies that can help your business.
- Workflow automation: removing the human element from your workflows. Your computing systems can do all those repetitive tasks, cutting down on errors and letting your employees work toward your business goals.
So how does workflow automation help?
Reducing the impact of human error
Nobody wants to make mistakes at work; the stress of potentially making one, or having realized you’ve made one already, can be high. Any kind of workflow automation can help by removing the human input into automated tasks.
Not only does this reduce the stress for employees, who have less potential mistakes to worry about, but it frees them up to do other things. When those repetitive daily tasks are automated away, workers can focus on their actual tasks, like generating and nurturing sales, recruitment, networking, and/or attracting prospects.
Reducing the strain of being supervised
Nobody likes the feeling of being constantly watched or not trusted to do the job they’ve been hired to do. People don’t want to be observed if they have to look up “what is call monitoring” or any other question. Not having independence or trust from management not only hurts the morale of staff but puts them under undue pressure and stress.
Some people deal with that stress better than others; in extreme cases, even the idea of being over-supervised or over-criticized for a mistake can cause strain and burnout to employees.
However, with modern workflow automation software and techniques, you can make the responsibilities of employees clearer and more defined. This has two positive effects:
- It reduces the stress on employees from having a supervisor constantly watching them
- It frees up supervisors and managers to do other, more important tasks
It’s beneficial for both – employees get the freedom to do their work without someone looking over their shoulder and managers get the freedom to pay attention to the things that matter, rather than stressing over their workers all the time.
Improving organization and communications at work
Not all systems are as advanced as a search engine. Type in “contact center definition” and you get the answer straight away, no stress involved.
But systems at work are often not as up to date. Just looking at a poorly organized folder or file system can cause stress, let alone actually having to sift through it and find a file or document that you need.
Workflow automation can help here too. Automating the organization of files is not just good for reducing stress and burnout on employees, but it’s more efficient.
As with all workflow automation, it not only makes people feel better about doing their job but makes them more productive, cutting down on time wasted and getting people right into the work they need to do.
This has benefits for managers also; workflow automation can help improve the agendas and timings of remote meetings and other management activities.
Furthermore, workflow automation helps to improve not just the organization of workplace documents, but the organization of the communications system between employees. Better, more modern systems grant employees more direct communications with one another and better delineate the tasks and responsibilities of each person.
These responsibilities can be anything your employees have to do, from call center reporting to data entry to payroll – everything can benefit from workflow automation.
With this in place, the system begins to regulate and monitor itself, leaving staff to do their actual work rather than fighting or disagreeing over who has to do what and when.
Liberating your employees
(We know that burned out employees lose engagement. Above we can see the result of that lack of engagement in statistics. Source: LiveOakBank)
People want to be good at their jobs, and employees at any company like to feel satisfied that the work they do is good and useful. The pace and quality of this output make people feel confident in themselves, and this is another area where workflow automation can help.
Rather than having to do repetitive tasks again and again, staff can focus on what they were hired to do and the skills they bring to the workplace. The unfulfilling and frankly boring parts of their job can be automated away. Removing the tediousness from working life is just one more step to having a more engaged workforce.
In the UK, repetitive and tedious tasks occupy the top considerations for employees who decide they want to quit their job, and up to half say they’ve looked for a new job as a result. Bored employees aren’t productive or creative; engaged ones are. Most people don’t find it engaging to do repetitive work that workflow automation could handle instead.
This is true for management too; rather than worrying about whether employees are doing the little things right, they can do what managers are hired for – evaluating the latest RingCentral phone system, for example.
Employees can then focus all their energy and creativity on their specific role. Once again, everybody wins.
Give employees more break time
(Don’t let these statistics represent your company. Source: World Economic Forum)
Unfortunately, the image of a red-eyed, tired, overworked employee, getting by on endless instant coffee and energy snacks, is an all-too-common one. We can recognize this image in both traditional industries like finance and more modern ones like cloud computing companies.
Many Americans even eat lunch at their work desk, and some don’t eat at all. This doesn’t make for a productive workforce, but it’s impossible to ignore that the work needs doing.
Workflow automation can reduce the volume of work that needs to be taken care of, especially when it’s the sort of simple, repetitive work that most people find draining: data entry, sending mass emails, and so on.
This time saved doesn’t need to be spent doing extra work. It could be used to give employees a break. The health and productivity risks for overworking, especially on a computer, are well-known; headaches, migraines, eye, back and hand problems.
If the same amount of work gets done because of the workflow automation, management can reward employees by giving them break times to make up for it.
There are lots of ideas here; either regular breaks or perhaps social engagements for the whole office, either during work hours or after. It could be as simple as making sure that all employees get an hour-long break to eat where they can step away from the screen, as is common in Europe.
These activities don’t just make workers happier and more productive; they can build teamwork too and foster a sense of togetherness that can pay off when deadlines are tight. And due to the new technology, these workers can still outperform those in competitor companies who haven’t yet adopted workflow automation (you could even use business intelligence to stay a step ahead of your competitors in this area).
Hard work is essential to any business, and naturally there will be a degree of stress associated with it. But stress doesn’t make output grow, doesn’t make a workforce more productive, and doesn’t make a company more competitive.
If you can reduce stress but keep output the same, what would the downside be?
Simply put, there isn’t one.
Some final statistics
Stress is a modern disease of epidemic proportions, and burnout is just one example of it. It doesn’t matter if you work in an outsource call center or a bank or a sales company, there will be stress at work. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to reduce it.
The costs to an individual, to their work, and to society at large are extensive and serious. For this reason, every employer should be thinking about how to minimize stress and burnout as much as they can.
While there are competing interests – notice we didn’t discuss salary or working hours in this article – the ideas we mentioned above are generally either cost-free or improve worker productivity. We’re not here to tell you how to manage your business, but there’s also no reason not to take a further look.