Employee Burnout and the High Cost of Misreading Your Workforce

Improve employee retention with these tips.

How well do you know your workforce?

Maybe not as well as you think.

In Bright Horizons' recent Modern Family Index (MFI), most managers (70%) told us they believe their organizations have a culture that supports employees' work/life balance and therefore is an environment where the workforce can flourish.

But 76% of working parents in the same study said their company doesn't have their best interests at heart; and 62% reported that their employer just doesn't care.

As a result, more than half of these employees told us they're unhappy in their current jobs, and 98% say they've been burnt out.

Dream Company Versus Employee Burnout: The Cost of Missing the Mark

All of that is the flip side of another study of ours, the Dream Company study, that says people who love their companies are way more productive and about three times as likely to stay in their jobs. And two of the top three characteristics employees say make their employer a Dream Company: the company cares about well-being and supports work-life balance.

So here's what we know: work-life balance and well-being are important to people; both managers and employees in the MFI said they believe achieving it is mostly dependent upon work culture (versus changes at home). And the rewards for delivering are great for bottom lines. And yet, the disconnect persists. So what gives?

A Disconnect Between Culture and Practice

As I ponder that question, the answer that comes to mind is the inadvertent message - either direct or indirect - that managers or organizational leadership are sending. In other words, the disconnect isn't between employees and their managers, but between an organization's stated culture and practice.

Four examples:

  • Managers think they're supporting work-life balance, but they're sending emails at 10 at night
  • Leadership members say they promote flexible schedules, but they plan early morning and late-afternoon meetings, and there are cars in the parking lot from 6am until 10pm
  • The company states its support for family involvement, but the boss hands out deadlines as an employee is walking out the door for a child's long-scheduled event.
  • The company line is that vacations help people avoid burnout, but employees are expected to check email while they're away.
As they say, actions speak louder than words. And no matter how pretty your values statement is on paper, it means nothing if real behavior doesn't support it.

Actionable Approaches to Being a Dream Company

So what can you do?

To make the leap, leadership is going to have to start being forthright about reaffirming those values statements - and so their organizational culture. And managers are going to have to be required to go through training so they become aware of the impact of their actions on the employees. Department leaders also need to know their changed behavior will be measured and that they'll be held accountable.

In the weeks to come, we'll be sharing data on the value of what's being called "family supportive supervisor behavior." But the value proposition is clear. On one hand, you have a disconnect between managers and workforces that's causing employee burnout right under employers' noses.

On the other hand, you have Dream Companies that are cleaning up in areas like retention and productivity.

Which side do you want to be on?

What are the benefits of being a Dream Company? Get the full data here.

Written by: Bright Horizons Blog Editor

About the Author

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The Bright Horizons Blog Editor frequently posts on the real solutions that meaningfully support employees, advance careers, and drive the world’s leading brands. The Editor curates the latest news, trends, and challenges facing HR pros because your time is scarce. Follow the Bright Horizons Blog to receive this insight in your inbox.