Workplace burnout is a serious problem in the hospitality industry, as many restaurants are on a bootstrapping budget. Often, it is the most dedicated and hardest working employees who succumb to burnout, leaving restaurants with difficult-to-fill voids. To better prevent employee burnout, an understanding is needed, backed by a well-thought-out plan of retention.

“Even if companies haven’t literally lost their employees, many have lost them psychologically.” – Jon Gordon

Scope of Workplace Burnout

The findings from a recent study of 3,000 employees in the US and Canada, sponsored by Staples Inc., sheds light on the magnitude of business burnout:

  • 91 percent of employees say they work more than forty hours per week.
  • 65 percent cite feeling pressure at home that is a carryover from their jobs.
  • Working more hours to stay afloat is a pressure that causes many Americans to mentally check out of their work lives.
  • Frustration and cynicism are often the two main hallmarks of occupational burnout.

Perhaps the most interesting fact presented was that 59 percent of workers state that being encouraged to take breaks by supervisors helped to decrease their feelings of burnout, whether they actually took a break or not.

The response to the act of showing concern is an indicator that the Golden Rule, or law of reciprocity, is still the most important guiding principle in life and business. Simply, treat others as we want to be treated.

With this in mind, the Staples study lists the three simple “perks” that employees value above all others as wellness programs, comfortable break-rooms with technology and fresh snacks and beverages.

The Purpose-Driven Workplace

For nearly a decade, studies have consistently indicated that employees want to work for companies with a purpose. Employers that can facilitate this (marginally tangible) request seem to have better retention rates. Differentiating on this point translates favorably in today’s lean business model.

“A lack of purpose goes deeper than simple business burnout.” – Dan Pontefract

Of course “purpose” means different things to different employees but Dan Pontefract, author of The Purpose Effect, provides the following guidelines.

Be appreciative. Restaurants that have successfully implemented programs focused on rewards and recognition of their employees have reported better productivity, stronger engagement, retention, and loyalty. Cracker Barrel, for example, has a strong rewards and recognition program and boasts improved turnover rates.

Be engaging. Sharing organizational goals and plans with every team member, no matter their role, creates a feeling of purpose. In and Out Burger is one chain praised by current and former employees for its positive work environment.

Be ethical. This is key to an organization’s integrity. It says to employees and customers that the company is taking responsibility. This fosters a sense of pride in the company for the employee.

Be fair. When a culture based on fairness permeates the entire organization, the results are improved “people practices” throughout. Make sure that your organization has a level playing field for all employees to succeed and advance. Restaurants like Five-Guys and TGI Fridays consistently top lists of the “best restaurants to work” because they promote heavily from within. These brands also offer benefits that help any employ with the desire, advance to higher levels in the company.

Be inclusive. Identify and recognize all that are affected by your company, including clients, employees, families, community, and beyond. Next, seek ways to serve all these entities as stakeholders and acknowledge each group as an integral part of your success.

Be flexible. When possible allow employees the opportunity to self-schedule. This has been shown to increase employee satisfaction which is the number one driver of productivity.

Employees are the single most valuable asset of your business. Understanding when and how to show that you value your employees is imperative in management and retention. This will reflect outwardly in terms of productivity and workplace satisfaction. In the lean business economy of today, there is no easy solution for employee burnout. With these strategies, however, companies can move toward increasing employee engagement and satisfaction as well as improving retention.

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