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How to stop your employees from burning out

You might think your "always on" employees are your best assets (after all, they’re constantly checking emails, and they’ll even get back to you at 1am) but those who commit too much time to your business are at the highest risk of dropping out completely.

Being the boss of a small business is nothing like being an employee: a lot more responsibility sits squarely on your shoulders. You might be in charge of marketing, finances, product development, sales, orders and more: and your day won’t end at 5pm. That can make it very tempting to rope employees back in after closing hours – and if they’re receptive and enthusiastic, you mind find yourself communicating with them more and more.

While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with having an open line of communication and employees who are keen to help, it’s your job not just to run a business but to look after those helping you do it.

A 2018 report from Deloitte found that higher productivity doesn’t always result in long term success. Those employees who are willing to help you out after hours might get you better results in the short term, but they’re sacrificing their free time for your business. As a result, “always on” employees face increased stress, and in time, reduced performance and ultimately burn out.

Many modern businesses utilize digital tools in order to manage orders, sales, and communications. And while computers can be great for getting work done (it’s all too easy to quickly send an email or request), they result in no one ever really being able to put their work away. And in the same way computers can overheat and crash if they’re overworked, your employees can crumble if you push them too hard for too long.

How technology can eat into your employees’ lives.

You know someone has a smartphone. You have just one tiny question, and you know their smartphone is in their pocket. So you send it. And they see it. And no matter what they’re doing, you expect an answer.

But just because we’re all available technologically, doesn’t mean that we should be expected to be available mentally too. Sure, your employees can read your emails after dinner, but that doesn’t mean that they should.

That’s where technology is a bit of a double-edged sword.

On one hand, there’s the convenience of asking someone a pressing question quickly. On the other, there’s the disruptive nature of that question in their life: you can never really know what’s going on on the other end of the connection. Just because you can communicate 24/7, therefore, doesn’t mean that you should: in order to you their best work, your employees need to recharge.

Access how much your employees really ought to be doing.

I was recently told, during a master’s lecture, that in order to have a successful career I need to be available 24/7. Our guest speaker told us, matter of factly, that the person who picks up the phone during a 3am emergency is the one who will receive the promotion.

I sunk back in my chair and thought, ‘well, I guess that’s me out of the race.’

There’s no doubt that when I’m working I commit myself 100%. But when I clock out, frankly, I want to redirect that 100% to my other passions. And if I can’t, I’ll quickly become restless and my productivity will sink. I’ve experienced it before. For me, if answering the phone at midnight is a prerequisite for advancement, I’d rather sleep and keep my sanity. And then, ultimately, probably quit: because giving 100% during set hours should be enough.

People in different roles will need to be available for different periods of time; there’s no doubt about it. But if someone doesn’t need to be plugged in every night, don’t expect them to be. The mental drain of always expecting a text can be far worse than the occasional text itself. As an employer, you need to be aware that a quick message won’t take your employees ‘just five minutes’ – it will create a culture in which will your employee will need constantly check their phone after hours just in case.

Letting your employees clock out and take their yearly holidays is essential when it comes to preserving their commitment and energy. Letting them know you respect their time will result in them respecting yours: and bringing more of themselves to the office.

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So what are the responsibilities of your employees? Take the time to sit down and work out how much work each role should really entail, and then match your employees’ schedule to that work. If you can’t fit their work into their schedule, then consider hiring another person or cutting down on their to do list, instead of keeping them back after hours.

Evaluate which emergencies really are emergencies.

A Family Living Today infographic, published this year, stated that 57% of employees surveyed believed that being constantly connected via technology had ruined the modern family dinner. Because employers expect answers at any hour, employees can’t relax during family time: and 40% of them believe they have to answer urgent work emails even while at the table. In fact, being available 24/7 was also shown to result in higher stress levels, higher chances of developing depression and anxiety, and higher chances of heart disease and stroke.

Source: Family Living Today

Expecting your employees to be available all the time, even if they’re willing, simply isn’t healthy. If you want full commitment at work, allow your employees to have commitment to their families and lives too: and give them a script to follow if someone, such as a client, contacts them outside of hours. For example, ‘thank you, I have received your email, and I will update you soon’.

There may be times clients have legitimate emergencies; and these of course will need to be solved. But life will go on whether or not your employees are plugged into their computers 24/7.

Allow your employees to take time out.

Project Time Off found that 52% of Americans don’t use their vacation days because they’re afraid they’ll get in trouble if they do. Switching off isn’t just an American problem: It’s a problem faced the world over: in fact, France had to introduce a “Right to Disconnect” law in 2017 to prevent employers from punishing employees who didn’t answer phones after hours.

Expecting people to be available all the time results in resentment, poor performance, and high turnover. To prevent this from happening make sure you plan for holidays and make sure employees know that they’re allowed to take theirs: a good practice to adopt is setting up meetings and processes in advance to ensure that while employees are away nothing will slip through the cracks. This will minimize potential stress and upheaval, and will allow your employee to enjoy their well-deserved free time.


Letting your employees clock out and take their yearly holidays is essential when it comes to preserving their commitment and energy. Letting them know you respect their time will result in them respecting yours: and bringing more of themselves to the office. By helping them achieve balance, they’ll be more able and willing to chip in when you really need them.

Lena Klein

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