7 Ways to Prevent Municipal Employee Burnout

Written by Jonathan Wiersma

Think right now about your best employees. What are the characteristics that make him/her so exceptional? Most likely they demonstrate a dedicated work ethic, go above and beyond, take on more than is asked of them, and stress the details to ensure the highest quality results. Not only do these characteristics help to define the most valuable employees, they are characteristics that can lead to employee burnout. When employees reach their breaking point, it can result in missed days of work due to illness, stress that can negatively impact their mood, or—worst of all—a resignation letter hitting your desk like a torpedo.

When it comes to employee personnel, “burnout” is defined as “an individual’s response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors within the workplace.”

To keep the best talent working hard for your community, local government human resource managers need to learn how to prevent employee burnout. We’ve compiled seven tips to help you cultivate the type of work environment that will allow talent to flourish—not flame out.

1. Evaluate Workloads

Workload evaluations should be completed by supervisors, with oversight from your human resource department. It can be easy to keep giving more work to the employee who never says “No,” and works the most efficiently, but that employee could be bottling up feelings of stress and exhaustion. Remember that production delays will be felt more acutely if your most efficient employee were to resign, so make sure each employee has a properly balanced workload. Ask your best employees to mentor or train others in their departments to help ensure quality results no matter who’s assigned to a task.

 2. Stimulate Employee Culture

When new employees are hired, their ability to fit the established department culture is an important factor. While no human resource manager can force all employees on a team to become best friends, efforts can be made to encourage social interactions, team building efforts, and the types of events that help give employees a sense of teamwork, camaraderie, and that they have a support system in place that they can rely on when times get tough.

 3. Ask for Employees Input

Lack of control can stimulate feelings of stress, helplessness, insecurity, and ultimately burnout. Allowing employees to have input into decisions that will impact their role or day-to-day activities can help to prevent the negative spiral that can result in burnout.

 4. Make Sure Employees Have the Resources They Need to Do Quality Work

To produce quality work, your employees need access to tools, resources, training, software, and systems that enable efficiency and quality results. For example, it would be a challenge for your parks and rec department to increase registrations of activities among young citizens and families if they’re still using a paper-based registration process rather than a digital rec management solution. Budget will always be a factor, so start by asking your employees what tools or resources they could use to do their jobs better, and then plan to budget accordingly in the short and long-term.

 5. Encourage Physical Activity

Sitting for too many hours per day can cause a variety of health issues, including stress. Make sure employees are taking allotted breaks and have time for exercise throughout the day. Consider holding walking meetings or plan quarterly team activities after work that encourage physical activity and the production of feel-good endorphins.

 6. Regularly Recognize Employee Accomplishments and Contributions

Employees will desire to be compensated financially, but simply praising quality work, both one-on-one and in an appropriate public forum, can be tremendously impactful in helping employees feel appreciated and having a sense that their contributions are important to the overall success of the community.

 7. Make Sure Employees Are Receiving Adequate Supervisor Support

Make sure you have a process in place for employees to receive continual performance feedback from their supervisors. The old system of once-per-year performance reviews is outdated and doesn’t provide today’s employees with the immediate feedback they want and need to remain encouraged and motivated. Make sure you are using a performance management solution that will make it easy for employees and supervisors to set regular goals and mark progress, and that gives your human resource department visibility into such discussions.

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Three Signs that an Employee is About to Burn Out

If despite your best efforts, you have an employee on the edge of a burnout, you’ll likely notice, some, or all, of the following signs:

  • A negative attitude ­– This should be especially concerning if observed in an employee who is usually positive and motivated.
  • Physical exhaustion – This comes as the result of a depletion of the emotional resources needed to cope with work stress or long hours.
  • A sudden change in efficiency or productivity levels – This is likely to be observed in tandem with a negative attitude and comes when an individual is no longer motivated to achieve established outcomes.

If you believe you have an employee on the edge of burnout, don’t wait to act. Sit down with the employee and the employee’s supervisor and hold an actionable meeting in which you openly discuss what can be done to ensure he/she has the support and resources needed to find a better balance. Whether the issues are related to office dynamics, workload, hours, or compensation, do your best to take the steps necessary to improve conditions and retain the individual.

For more information on establishing continual performance evaluations so that you remain informed of each employee’s job satisfaction and productivity, click below to download our eBook: “Why Continuous Performance Reviews are the Future of Employee Development.”

Download the Continuous Performance Management eBook