We know that most employees are more motivated, work better, and stay focused when they are engaged with their work. This means they have work to do, and the work matters to them. The employees believe the work they do matters to other people, as well. Many employers make it a goal to keep their employees engaged, believing it is best for everyone involved.
However, The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence conducted a study on the relationship between employee engagement and burnout. The results: "one out of five employees reported both high engagement and high burnout." Employees who were highly engaged with their work also reported high levels of stress.
High Stress in the Workplace
How can this happen? Think about a very dedicated and skilled employee who is given job after job because she consistently gets it done and she gets it done well. After awhile, the stress of working extra hard with higher amounts of pressure wears her down emotionally and physically. She starts having nightmares about her job, making sleep difficult. She is physically exhausted, but she feels like she can't quit because her boss is depending on her. She has less interest in her family life, and pretty soon, she realizes she can't handle her job anymore.
Double Awareness of Engagement and Burnout
Employers need to be aware that engagement is a good thing, but they also need to be aware of the risk of burnout. This sort of nuanced awareness leads to some smart changes in the workplace. HR departments should monitor the level of demands placed on individuals. They also need to be aware of the number of resources available to reduce stress, such as wellness programs, support from supervisors, and recognition for jobs well done. The workload and the resources ought to be fairly balanced for each employee. Also, work should be during certain hours, and the employees should be free to have evenings and weekends to themselves. This allows regular times of disengagement, which is healthy for the average employee.
The relationship between engagement and exhaustion lies in a gray area, making it confusing and oftentimes overlooked. An employer working on keeping his employees and keeping them motivated and producing quality work will also spend time making sure his employees don't become overwhelmed with work stress. To learn additional insight into this topic, visit the Management & Leadership and Career Advice sections of our blog.
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