Around 18 million days are lost in the workplace every year in the UK due to work related stress, depression and anxiety. These are the key contributors to mental health related absence and employee burnout.
Those figures from the Health and Safety Executive highlight the need to better understand the effects of stress of your employees and how to prevent burnout in a team.
What is burnout?
Burnout is a symptom felt by those who reach exhaustion caused by prolonged emotional and physical stress. People who suffer with burnout can no longer perform in their job role at an acceptable level, they feel the pressure to continue, but their performance will be significantly impacted by their inability to concentrate.
This can leave a person overwhelmed and emotionally drained by their work situation, which can have a negative impact on their home and personal life.
More is being done to recognise this as a condition by employers and many have made great efforts to find out how to prevent burnout in a team.
Why do field engineers burnout?
Engineers and Field Service Technicians feel a great deal of responsibility. They tend to be very driven and are encouraged from the top to deliver expectational customer service.
It’s often in their nature to be problem solvers. Their occupation expects them to be able to think on their feet and come up with practical solutions.
This urge to find solutions to problems and go above and beyond helps them achieve great things. From the outside looking in they appear to be high performing individuals.
However, that determination and dedication comes at a price, often an engineer’s mental health and overall well-being is effected and sooner or later they will experience burnout.
Are field engineers overworked?
A lot of Field Service businesses work on tight margins and their teams are expected to be as productive as possible. This often means they work long hours, do plenty of travel and tasks such as admin and finance are brought home with them.
Every week, hours that would normally be an engineer’s downtime are spent writing reports and completing the forms from their inspections. This is counter productive to achieving a healthy work life balance.
Engineers and Technicians tend to be their own worst enemy when it comes to asking for help, it’s in their nature to take responsibility and be seen as smart problem solvers. Rarely do they manage other people and prefer to tackle the issues themselves.
A combination of ambition, wanting to please and a heavy workload makes them susceptible to burnout.
How to prevent burnout in a team
It’s tricky to spot burnout and stress related illnesses early. Business owners and Managers will need to look for telling signs that their team is working under too much pressure. They will need to discover how to prevent burnout in a team so it doesn’t effect team capacity, the welfare of their employees and the quality of the service they offer their customers.
The impact of not dealing with these issues is likely to lead to longer term absence and serious health issues so it’s worth discussing with your team about their general working conditions and workload.
Here are some early warning signals of burnout and stress in your team:
- You seem to be constantly hiring
- Arguments between employees is a regular occurrence
- Frequent absence due to sickness
- Small and regular mistakes are happening
- You’re receiving complaints from customers
Communication and setting expectations with your team are key to preventing burnout. No doubt you’ve filled your team with high performing motivated engineers, technicians and administrators who all want to be recognised for their work.
It’s up to business owners to be clear on the expectations of each individual and how as a collective team you can reach your goals.
A problem shared is a problem halved is a saying that is true for workloads too.
You can read more on how to tackle work-related stress in this workbook from the HSE. Learn more.
How big an issue are mental health issues in the workplace?
70 million work days are lost each year due to broader mental health issues in the UK. Improving an employee’s work life balance is key to avoiding burnout, stress, anxiety and similar conditions effecting engineers. Learn more.
Are remote workers at more risk of burnout?
In a survey of over 3,500 remote workers, 20% said they suffered with a feeling of isolation, lack of communication and burnout. This highlights a need to address risks for employees who aren’t in the office or seen by the team everyday day.
We’ve given our Top 5 tips for looking after your remote workers in this article which includes details on that survey and how to prevent burnout in a team. Learn more.
How do engineers deal with burnout?
Your Field Engineers and Technicians will no doubt be aware if they are under increased pressure and will find ways to deal with burnout themselves, but it might not always be handled in a productive and healthy way.
They will feel a decreased sense of job satisfaction and feel less fulfilled in their role. Their productivity is likely to dip and will eventually cause them to change jobs leading to high staff turnover for your business.
How do you recover from burnout?
Anyone who has experienced burnout or high levels of stress will know there is a way back from it and it often involves a sympathetic employer or client and some self care.
Here’s some tips on how to recover from burnout:
1. Tune out/Switch off
A person experiencing stress and burnout has a very busy mind. It’s going to be near impossible to relax, slow down and recharge if you’re constantly bombarded by messages and requests. Turn off the notifications on your phone and social media.
2. Get some fresh air
Getting outdoors is a good way of finding some peace and headspace. Even if you don’t live next to a park or outside space, a walk about the block will make big difference to your mental well-being. Try to avoid crowded spaces and If you’re lucky enough to have some recreational space or a park then make an effort to use it.
Nature is therapy. When you’re concentrating on where you’re walking and what you’re looking at, you’re less likely to be thinking about the work that needs doing.
Studies have shown that 15 minutes of exercise a day can reduce the risk of depression by 26%. The reason why exercise is so effective in treating stress and burnout is biological. Your body releases endorphins when you exercise, these effect your brain helping you create a feeling of calm and well-being.
4. Eat well
A healthy diet can aid your stress levels as much as exercise. Often people who are overworked fail to find the time to eat the right things. Fresh fruit and vegetables are often substituted for convince food with high salt and fat content. Eating poorly can effect your energy levels and your sleep patterns.
Prioritise rest over everything else. Your body and your mind recovers during deep sleep so when you wake you feel more alert. Sleep has numerous benefits including improvements to your ability to learn, your memory, your creativity and focus. All of those benefits will help you perform better in your work and home life.
Summary: How to prevent burnout in your team
As an employer you have a responsibility to the welfare of your employees. They are all working together to the common goal of serving your customers and growing your business.
When your team is put under too much pressure to perform, either by your expectations or often the pressure they put on themselves, it can lead to burnout which will greatly affect your business.
Try to spot the early warning signs such as small and regular mistakes, apathy towards their role and prolonged sickness. Talk about measures you can take to recover from burnout, find ways to ease tension and stress within the team.
A health work life balance is key to good mental health and a high performing team.