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Preventing burnout across your business - AU & NZ

Burnout and the hospitality industry tend to go hand in hand. But why is this and what can we do to reduce burnout across the industry? 

Burnout can be triggered by a range of different factors such as chronic stress, detachment, and negative thoughts, alongside symptomatically feeling extremely tired and overwhelmed. When personal stress intertwines with the social environment and pressure of work, it can quickly escalate out of control, often leaving individuals feeling as if they’re not doing well or accomplishing anything.

Those at the greatest risk of burnout are those who hold management positions (219% more likely), and workers under the age of 29 (206% more likely)1. The median age of hospitality workers (accommodation and food services) is 26 years old2.

Australia has a particularly high rate of burnout when compared to the rest of the world, with 62% of Australian workers reported being burned out at work, compared to the global average of 48%3. Moreover, 66% of Australian managers suffer burnout compared to 53% of global managers. 

As business leaders, it's important to approach burnout with the view that although it is experienced by each individual, unfortunately, it can be “contagious” and perpetuate itself through social interactions on the job. Burnout should be considered a characteristic of culture and work groups, and as such, it is imperative to initiate burnout-preventing strategies throughout your business, rather than targeting individual employees.

Staffing shortages are higher than ever across the hospitality industry, and with 44% of workers planning to actively look for a new job in 20234, it’s vital to reduce burnout within your organisation. By focusing your resources on reducing burnout, you will inadvertently reduce the chances of employee turnover within your organisation.

Thanks to over two decades of research, the scientific causes of burnout can be divided into six key categories: workload, control, community, reward, fairness, and values5. By understanding how each of these pillars applies/feel to your team, you can create better working environments that reduce the chances and repercussions of burnout. 

Workload: When there is no opportunity to rest, recover and restore balance then employees will struggle to meet the demands of their position. Providing sustainable workloads creates an environment in which your employees feel empowered to succeed, thus improving overall job satisfaction. Having a good perception of what each of your employees enjoys about their position, as well as areas they want to develop in, and how much workload they can handle confidently, will allow you to delegate tasks and manage effectively.

Control: A key preventative to burnout is to ensure your employees feel that they have their workload under control. Check in on your team about how they feel they are performing and whether they think they are handling their role and responsibilities. Taking a genuine interest in their opinions will help identify any barriers or roadblocks they are facing to doing a successful job. 

Community: A lack of community can be defined as a lack of support and trust. By integrating systems to effectively deal with disagreements, employees will find it easier to speak up about issues they are having if they know appropriate action will be taken to resolve the issue. A workplace culture with great social support encourages employee engagement and positivity, which is equally as contagious as burnout!

Reward: When employees feel like they aren’t being appropriately rewarded and recognised in the workplace it can affect their behaviour and attitude towards the company, their peers, and the work they’re doing. By creating a consistent reward system that provides an equal opportunity for all employees to succeed you'll create a community of encouragement and engagement. 

Fairness: If an employee feels like they are not being treated fairly, it can lead to emotions of cynicism, anger, and hostility. To increase a feeling of fairness, you can include employees in decision-making processes, as well providing an equal platform when raising concerns or sharing feedback. 

Values:  Values are what take a position beyond the utilitarian exchange of time for money or advancement. If employees feel a disconnect between the work they want to do and the work they have to do, they will find themselves making a trade-off of their values in exchange for their performance. Ensure you are continually checking that the ideals and motivations that originally attracted people to their job are still in place. 

As somebody in a leadership role, it’s important to take any changes in your team seriously, even if it feels like a difficult topic to approach. If you're noticing the signs of burnout in one or more employees, it’s likely that they’re already experiencing mid to severe burnout, and action should be taken swiftly. 

The best thing, to begin with, is initiating a conversation. If you’re only noticing small changes in your employee then simply ask “How are you going, today?”. By using “today” you're stopping them from reflecting on how things have been or may be in the future and allowing them to focus on their present self. 

If you’re noticing a big difference, consider asking them into your office or offsite for a coffee to have a good chat in a non-judgmental and supportive environment. Make sure they know beforehand that they’re not in any trouble so as not to worsen their stress. A great way to start the conversion is by expressing your care and concern, rather than trying to get them to admit to any stress or burnout outright. Letting them know that you've noticed a change in their mood and behaviour can show that you’re looking out for them and that they're not alone. 

Those experiencing burnout can often be more cynical and irritable, so be prepared that their response could present itself as anger or frustration towards you, your team or the business. In most cases it's not personal to you however, this is a natural response to being under a state of constant stress. Allowing your employee to express their feelings without shutting them down can be liberating for them, and can help them address issues they may be suppressing within themselves. 

If they're ready to talk, listen actively without judgement. Make sure to hold back any suggestions or defences as this can be perceived as minimising their problems. Instead aim to create an open environment and try to understand their perspective and feelings. If they’re not ready to talk, expressing your concern and care while letting them know you’re here for them will still help immensely. 

Remember to check in regularly, while not being overbearing. Your genuine support and encouragement will help make work a positive, safe space for them.

If you are experiencing any of the following, consider reaching out to those around you or one of the helplines available at the bottom of the page. These symptoms can be due to burnout, but can also be symptoms of other underlying health concerns. Either way, it's important to seek advice and help.

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you find it hard to concentrate?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

Remember burnout is a serious condition characterised by a state of physical or emotional exhaustion, it also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. If you’re feeling burnt out you are not alone, and help is available.  

New Zealand National Helplines

Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP).

Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat.

Samaritans – 0800 726 666 

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO).

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Australia National Helplines

Lifeline - 13 11 14

beyondblue – 1300 224 636

MindSpot Clinic – 1800 614 434

Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

SANE Australia – 1800 187 263