We’ve all heard talk of the ‘Great Resignation’ and ‘quiet quitting.’ Whether you discuss the issue with colleagues or get your agency gossip from social media, there’s no avoiding the elephant in the room: agency burnout is a problem that needs to be addressed.
Burnout has been a ubiquitous and worrying theme in advertising and marketing agencies since the first ad man put pen to paper. Long hours, demanding clients, and high turnover have all factored into agency employees feeling undervalued and overworked, leading many workers to quit their jobs due to burnout.
While many agencies have recognized the pressure on their teams and looked to make changes by investing in wellness programs, destigmatizing mental health, and adopting new, more flexible ways of working, change only sometimes happens fast enough to save employees from the effects of burnout.
Today, we’re talking about identifying burnout, why it’s such a significant problem for agencies, and what steps businesses can take to prevent it.
Burnout, according to the World Health Organization (2020), is:
A syndrome thought to be caused by chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.
Let’s break down that definition:
Chronic workplace stress: Every job involves some stress level, and a healthy stress level can motivate people to perform better. However, when that stress becomes chronic and toxic, it can hurt performance and a person’s mental health. Chronic stress, if left unchecked, can lead to burnout.
Stress cannot be successfully managed once it has been identified. Employees and managers or organizations both have a role to play in this.
“Hustle culture” is reducing your and your employees’ productivity.
Burnout, also known as “workplace stress,” can cost anywhere from $125 to $190 billion per year.
“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” according to the World Health Organization. Three dimensions distinguish it:
- Feelings of exhaustion or depletion of energy
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, as well as feelings of negativism or cynicism about one’s job;
- Decreased professional efficacy “Burnout refers to phenomena in the workplace and should not be used to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
Symptoms of burnout
1. Energy depletion
Burnout can cause people to feel tired, drained, or even exhausted most of the time: not just tired on occasion, but with a consistent lack of energy. Sometimes the decrease in energy levels is subtle, and you may be unaware of it.
Another common symptom of burnout is a negative and cynical attitude toward your job, and this can lead to an obsession with workplace problems and a propensity to complain constantly. People suffering from burnout may be unable to see beyond the problem rather than actively seeking solutions.
3. Control issues
People who are burnt out may feel overwhelmed. They feel trapped in a bad situation, leading to helplessness and powerlessness.
Burnout can also cause a loss of self-esteem. People’s performance suffers due to a lack of energy to deal with problems, and they may begin to believe they can no longer do their job.
5. Desire to flee
People suffering from burnout may try to avoid their problems rather than confront them, leading to procrastination as tasks are put off indefinitely. People may also attempt to escape by bingeing on items they believe will provide them with pleasure (alcohol, food, box sets, and so on).
6. Decreased performance
People’s ability to do their jobs suffers as a result of burnout. They can no longer meet the standards they once met due to a lack of energy and commitment.
Not everyone suffers from burnout and exhibits all these symptoms, and the combination of symptoms varies from person to person.
Here are some of the most common causes of burnout:
- Working on repetitive tasks
- Working long hours
- Sleep deprivation
- Taking on excessive responsibilities
- Pandemic COVID19
- Working from home
- Having a creative block
- Inadequate vacations or breaks
- A lack of focus and clarity
How to Manage Burnout
Encourage work-life balance and mental health support
Yes, work is important, but so are our personal lives. Agencies owe it to their employees to provide the best work environment that is stimulating, rewarding, and allows for rest. This includes encouraging a healthy work-life balance and providing employees with the resources to care for their mental health.
Culture is created from the top down. Set a good example by encouraging senior leaders to take breaks when necessary. If junior staff members see their mentors working long hours, they will believe it is expected of them to do the same. It’s past time to break the cycle.
Also, make mental health an open topic of discussion. Discuss the importance of turning off all-hands meetings and company-wide emails, and then take steps to make it easier. Some businesses, for example, have prohibited employees from sending emails after hours, while others have implemented wellness programs that provide access to therapy and mental health resources.
According to research, multitasking makes you less productive because it forces your brain to switch between actions constantly.
Instead of attempting to do a little bit of everything, concentrate on one most important and urgent task at a time. This includes switching between open browser tabs and attempting to work while on a conference call.
Make your health (rather than your job) a priority.
This may take some practice if your health has only sometimes been a priority. First, ensure you’re eating well, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and spending quality time away from work. Next, ensure that you’ve established some workplace boundaries.
Communicate effectively and distribute heavy workloads as evenly as possible during busy periods.
Unmanageable workloads are the most frequently cited cause of employee burnout, accounting for 25.3% of all complaints. Every team experiences busy periods, but marketing teams bear a disproportionate burden. There may be weeks and months when working overtime is encouraged and required, and your team is aware of this. Communication and workload distribution, on the other hand, have merit. During busy seasons, be upfront about your expectations and be accommodating if team members need to work remotely during overtime. Distribute responsibility as evenly and fairly as possible so that the burden of the work does not fall solely on a few shoulders.
Consider outsourcing some of the workloads to an outside agency. According to MarketingProfs, by 2020, 50% of B2B organizations will have outsourced their content marketing. As the world became more remote, marketing teams were under more pressure than ever to deliver lead-generating content. We witnessed this firsthand, as many of our clients experienced increased requests from sales teams to create content that could be delivered digitally instead of in in-person meetings.
Allow employees to have a say.
Employee burnout was cited by 15% of those polled due to a lack of control over their work. While your team may only have a say in some decisions (especially if you work at a marketing agency), try to identify some decisions in which they can participate and encourage them to speak up.
Show your gratitude.
Insufficient rewards were mentioned in 15.7% of survey responses. Employees feel unappreciated and unnoticed, and they work hard and want to know their efforts are appreciated. Show your team that you notice and appreciate everything they do to help your company succeed. Provide incentives and raises, and, with so many people working from home, find ways to inject some fun now and then (maybe a virtual happy hour or game day).
Be sympathetic and compassionate.
At 13.4%, lack of manager support is only slightly lower on the list of burnout complaints. Working with basic human decency is one of the most effective ways to foster a positive culture and maintain morale. This includes supervising and treating employees how you would like to be treated. Be aware that they may have additional jobs and a busy personal life outside of work. Kindness, respect, and comprehension will go a long way toward making your team feel supported and valued.
When possible, avoid hasty and harsh punishment.
Even though it is a much smaller issue, unfair treatment accounts for 10.2% of workplace burnout complaints. If an employee behaves in an undesirable manner, it may be beneficial to understand why the behavior occurs. Most of the time, these problems can be traced back to a misunderstanding or resolved with a simple conversation. You don’t want to lose a team member over something as trivial as a communication breakdown.
Use time management techniques.
Finally, avoiding employee burnout can imply altering your approach to your work. Making minor changes to how employees manage their time can significantly impact your agency’s bottom line by allowing employees to work more productively — without burning out.
Intelligent task prioritization is the key to better time management. It’s easy to regard every task and request as urgent and critical, but they aren’t.
Dozens of time-management techniques, such as the Eisenhower Decision Matrix, ABCDE Method, Pomodoro Technique, and Time Boxing, assist employees in prioritizing their to-do lists and making the most of their workdays. Employees can prioritize and plan their time more effectively with better workload management, which helps reduce feelings of overwhelm.
Understanding how your employees spend their time can assist you in this process. While obsessing over utilization rates can lead to employee burnout, understanding how your team spends their time can help you encourage better time management and task prioritization. Forecast, the all-in-one project management tool, allows you to identify when task loads are not being distributed evenly across the organization, address inefficiencies that are causing stress, and better support individuals on your team to do the best work of their lives.
Sensing possible burnout in one of your employees
Your organization should strive to foster a culture where employees feel comfortable approaching their manager with concerns about their mental health.
Additionally, train managers to be more aware of the signs of burnout.
Remember that having regular meetings with employees doesn’t mean you know how they’re feeling or if they’re having difficulties. They may be hesitant to express their emotions to managers and ensure that it is not perceived as a weakness.
We’ve established that marketers are frequently under pressure to outperform consistently, stay ahead of the competition, provide endless KPI results, and always back up their trials and errors with hard data. This can result in a very stressful environment, which impacts productivity. It is up to you to find ways to prevent this from happening.
Remember that the best ideas come when you’re content or at least physically and mentally comfortable.
To increase productivity properly, you must take a step back and consider what you require to be at ease. Be your advocate within the company, and strive to achieve a harmonious balance of life and work. This is why Ruskin Consulting helps business owners and marketing and development agencies to grow by taking the workload off of them. Ensuring they avoid burnout while maintaining a comfortable work environment for our team.