Workplace Laziness 2

Are you feeling stressed at work, and do you have the impression that time is working against you? You are not alone. The majority of employees are working harder and feeling more overwhelmed at work than ever.

A Gallup poll showed that the 40-hour work week is now pushing 47 hours for the average American worker. According to the 2016 Staples Business Advantage Index, 3 of 5 generations feel overworked and burned out, which reduces employee engagement, affects performance, and increases turnover. I wrote in a past article how you can measure employee engagement.

While cutting back hours may seem like the logical solution, it’s not very practical in today’s competitive business environment. According to Gallup research, it’s not very effective either, because long hours are less likely to cause employee burnout than a number of other factors.

Rather than send everyone home early, we invite you to try these 6 proven strategies for reducing workplace stress and boosting employee motivation.

1. Offer Positive Feedback

Workplace recognition is a huge part of employee engagement. While hard work is often a fact of working life, knowing that your contribution has been noted and appreciated can make a huge difference.

Many organizations are increasing the frequency of feedback to give employees continuous recognition. You can now go high-tech with digital feedback solutions such as Tap My Back and Impraise, but the old-fashioned face-to-face approach—or even a quick email—can be just as effective. The important thing is to show employees that their efforts are appreciated and their contributions are helping to move the dial.

2. Show Mutual Respect

A lack of respect corrodes workplace morale, making long hours at work seem even longer. The 2016 SHRM Employee Job Satisfaction Survey revealed that respectful treatment of employees at all levels was the most important factor in enhancing their well-being.

Close to half of employees reported that the respect their immediate supervisor showed for their ideas was “very important” to job satisfaction. To demonstrate more supportive employee leadership, try to create processes that give employees an opportunity to voice their ideas and be heard.

3. Create Work-life boundaries

While long hours can affect employee motivation and performance, a new study shows that the “always-on” expectation contributes to exhaustion regardless of the hours employees spend at the office. When workers respond to emails around the clock, it means they don’t get a chance to disconnect from work and recharge their batteries.

France recently made headlines by giving workers the legal right to ignore emails after work hours, and some North American companies are creating their own policies limiting after-hours emailing. While allowing employees to switch off in the evenings and on weekends won’t reduce the workload, it can help employees arrive at work feeling refreshed, empowered, and in control.

4. Know the Purpose and Meaning

Working hard for a worthwhile cause can be exhilarating. Without that sense of purpose, the experience can be deeply demoralizing. A survey from Net Impact showed that employees who feel they make an impact are two times more likely to report satisfaction at work than those who don’t. An SHRM survey echoes those findings, with 76% of happy and engaged employees believing their job is meaningful.

A sense of purpose needs to come from the organization—the “why” that drives everything the company does (for a great introduction to finding the “why” for your organization, watch this Ted Talk by Simon Sinek). When employees feel as though their work is directly contributing to the achievement of something inspiring and meaningful, it boosts employee motivation, performance, and resilience.

5. Build a Trusted Leadership Team

The SHRM survey reveals that trust between employees and leaders is one of five key contributors to job satisfaction. Managing the workload can be stressful enough, but distrust and uncertainty can place an additional emotional burden on the employee’s shoulders.

Open, honest employee leadership can go a long way towards lifting that burden and preventing employee burnout. Leaders need to keep the door open—literally and figuratively—to ensure that employees feel informed and included. Some companies hold regular “Ask Me Anything” meetings in which members of the leadership take no-holds-barred questions from employees, while others use technologies such as TinyPulse or Culture Amp to take the emotional temperature of the organization on a regular basis.

6. Look beyond the hours

Employee burnout is on the rise, but the logical response—reducing work hours—isn’t always possible and may not address the underlying issues.

Workplace stress isn’t always about the number of hours worked. It can be triggered by a range of different factors. Focusing on HR processes that create trust, purpose, respect, and recognition in the workplace can help employees become more resilient, focused, and engaged—even during stressful times.

Have you found innovative ways to reduce employee burnout in your organization? Share them with us in the comments below!


  • Melissa says:

    Great article. I think the biggest step which we can implement in order to prevent employee burnout is to offer flexible working hours and the possibility of telecommuting. Nowadays, everybody has their own working rhythm and the 9-5 in an outdated solution.

  • Tracy says:

    Thank you for this awesome topic. When I was younger, I always felt appreciated when I walked into work to find that my boss bought coffee and bagels for the group. It gave me a little extra motivation for the day. Therefore, when in a position of management, we need to pay attention to the little things. It doesn’t cost anything to show your appreciation.

  • Tom S. says:

    I think the most important action we can take is to catch the warnings. This is not difficult to do if we know some indicators such as: decrease in productivity, frustration, decline in health and lack of enthusiasm.

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