Human resources must also become involved at the solution level. The department may not set strategy but it may be able to provide counseling for employees during a period where the company has identified an acceleration trap and is attempting to resolve it. Human resources can also ensure that the needs of the company during this period — such as additional employees to relieve some workload — are met thereby facilitating the recovery process.
Burnout is a major strategic issue for any organization, and it often comes as the result of an acceleration trap. Todays intense competitive environment and increasing pace of life are driving burnout in the workforce. When burnout hits on an organization wide level, it can erode productivity, profits and the companys employer brand. The strategic implications of burnout, therefore, are long-term and self-sustaining.
While companies do need to enter periods of accelerated activity, managers need to be cognizant of the fact that such periods must be temporary. If they are not, burnout is a high risk factor. There are ways, however, for the company to reduce its likelihood of burnout. One way is to slow things down every now and again.
If a fast pace is responsible for burnout, then naturally moderating that pace will help to reduce the likelihood of burnout. In addition, clear goals and a coherent strategy will give the employees sufficient focus that they will be able to avoid burnout.
The human resources department may not be able to change the pace of the organization or of the business world in general, but it can spot the warning signs of burnout. Remember that burnout has many stages — HR can identify the symptoms early and allow the organization to prevent full-scale burnout. In addition, HR is in the unique position to work directly with the employees to reduce the impacts of burnout on their daily jobs.
Bruch, H. & Menges, J. (2010). The Acceleration Trap. Harvard Business Review. In possession of the author.
Schaufeli, W., Leiter, M. & Maslach, C. (2009). Burnout: 35 years of research and practice. Career Development International. Vol. 14 (3) 204-220.
Peterson, U., Demerouti, E., Bergstrom, G., Asberg, M. & Nygren, a. (2008). Work characteristics and sickness absence in burnout and nonburnout groups: A study of Swedish health.