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Retaining Employees by Avoiding Burnout

Employee retention is hugely important to your company, and if you don’t know that, it’s probably costing you.

Your employees are key to your business. If they go, you need to train new ones. If they aren’t happy, they likely aren’t working as hard. All of that is going to cut into your bottom line – and your time.

What causes a low employee retention rate?
There are multiple factors, of course.

Poor management. Limited opportunity for decision-making. Lack of recognition.

Some people just aren’t the right fit, but with the onsite wastewater industry busier than ever, we’ve heard a lot of employers talking about burnout.

According to Natalia Peart, PhD,  employees put in high-stress situation are “at risk of moving into fight-or-flight mode.” When our bodies feel threatened, the more emotional parts of our brains take over and “our ability to think long term, strategize, and innovate decreases. If we stay in this mode too long, eventually, we get burned out.”

Peart explains employers can counter this by building “a secure work environment and incorporate stress reduction habits.”

“Burnout isn’t simply about being tired,” explains Elizabeth Grace Saunders, a time management coach. “It’s a multifaceted issue that requires a multifaceted solution.”

So, where to start?
We’ve created a list of five tips to create a better work environment.

Set boundaries around time outside of work. A perceived lack of control can be a huge contributing factor in employee burnout. Let’s say you get a call for an emergency pump out or maintenance issue. Are you always calling on the same employee? Are you infringing on their down time? Are you encouraging employees to skip lunch breaks? A lack of separation between work and personal time is a significant source of job stress, and that can decrease employee retention.

Explore flexible work policies. Some people want to watch their child’s soccer game, attend a special event, or care for loved ones who need a bit more assistance. Can you add some flexibility to their schedule? Do they need or want to work reduced hours? Staggered hours could help employees who are struggling with a work-life balance. (And who knows? Maybe they’ll want those weekend hours other employees don’t!)

Find the best people for the roles. Not everyone likes the same tasks. If you have an employee who despises certain tasks, but excels at other ones, are you adapting your expectations? Can you reallocate work to ensure everyone is doing what best suits their talents and strengths?

Compensate your employees like you value them. Everyone wants to feel appreciated. Do you offer rewards? Do you celebrate employee successes? Money may not be the reason for a high-turnover, but fair compensation will likely make an employee feel more valued. And it isn’t all about money – positive feedback goes a long way too.

Build a community. Isolation can easily exacerbate burnout. A tightknit staff can work together to ease stress. It also makes communication easier, which means problems can be solved sooner, and while they are less of an issue.

Not all of these strategies may be easy to implement in your company, and there are undoubtedly many more tactics that can be used, but we hope this gives you somewhere to start.

Join us over on Facebook and share your tips for retaining employees! And keep your eye out for the Winter Onsite Informer for an article on Mental Health in the Workplace.

Source Material
Peart, N. (2021). Making work less stressful and more engaging for your employees. In HBR guide to beating burnout (pp. 139–148). Harvard Business Review Press.
Saunders, E. G. (2021). Six causes of burnout, and how to avoid them. In HBR guide to beating burnout (pp. 23–28). Harvard Business Review Press.

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