5 Creative Ways To Prevent Employees Burning Out

The secret to keeping employees from burning out is to fix their work/life imbalance. Here are some ideas for doing that.

5 Creative Ways To Prevent Employees Burning Out
[Photo: Flickr user Jenny Hudson]

We’ve all seen it–the employee who walks in the door at 8:17 a.m. and is out of the door before the clock strikes five. The employee who can’t seem to stay awake during team meetings and avoids the water cooler at all costs.


In our always-on work culture, it’s easy for employees to burn out. And burned-out employees don’t just damage individual productivity, they damage company-wide performance and potential. As employees begin to show symptoms of burnout, they transfer their stress (and workload) to others–and the burnout spreads.

The problem: There is a work-life imbalance

A recent workplace flexibility study found that nearly 70% of HR professionals think that their employees have a balanced work-life, yet almost half (45%) of employees feel they don’t have enough time in the week to take part in personal activities. There’s an obvious disconnect between employers and their employees on what makes a balanced work-life.

Considering that employees are 20% more engaged when they have better work-life balance, according to Quantum Workplace’s 2015 Workplace Well-Being Study, the key to keeping employees from burning out is to get them out of the office and into their personal activities.

Here are five ways some of today’s leading companies are doing just that:

1. Support Side Hustles  

There’s no better way to give employees a much-needed (and deserved) break from the monotony of the work day than to allow them to work on their side hustle, a sideline project based on their unique talents or interests. Not only do side projects improve individual creativity and satisfaction, they can also benefit the company.


For example, Dropbox encourages side hustles by holding a “hack week,” during which employees can work on anything they want (work-related or not). What’s more, there’s the possibility that cool projects could get launched.

2. Give Dads a Break, Too

In an episode of The Office, Jim Halpert takes several days off for “jury duty” to help his wife with their two young children. While his co-workers were initially peeved at having to pick up the slack while Jim was out of the office, when they see just what he had to deal with, they decide “that was no vacation.” And neither is maternity leave.

In an effort to provide employees with a greater sense of work-life balance, more companies are opting to provide not just maternity leave, but paternity leave, as well. Outdoor clothing company Patagonia gives eight weeks of paid paternity leave and provides on-site child care. It doesn’t get much more balanced than that.

3. Consider a Vacation Embargo

They say you should leave your work at the office, but in an age where work lives on our mobile devices, it can be difficult not to bring work home with you. The temptation to answer phone calls and emails, check on assignments and projects, and play catch-up or get ahead is always there. The key to keeping employees from working after hours unnecessarily is to encourage them to unplug.

Bandwidth, a communications technology company (ironically enough), offers its employees guaranteed time to unplug. A strictly enforced vacation embargo policy prevents any and all contact with employees while they are off. As a father of six, it’s no wonder co-founder and CEO David Morken values the work-life balance this communication restraint creates.

4. Redefine the 9-to-5 Workday

As more companies begin to do business in the cloud and adopt BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies, more employees are beginning to work remotely and flexibly. And with 20% of job seekers willing to take a 10% pay cut for flexible work options, according to a 2014 FlexJobs survey, more companies will move away from the traditional 9-5.


Basecamp is one such company. While their main office is in Chicago, employees are free to live and work wherever they want–even remotely. They’ve also experimented with a four-day work week to help employees pursue outside interests and side hustles.  

5. Encourage Employees to Socialize

Whether it’s for a short lunchbreak or an afternoon of team-building activities, employees need an occasional break. Make breaks mandatory across the company by celebrating birthdays, going out for team lunches, or take a page from design company Zurb’s book and hold a company-wide challenge.

Zurb’s Friday15 requires employees to come together to solve a brief creative challenge in 15 minutes, ranging from designing a new company logo to playing capture the flag to an afternoon of improv. These challenges are a great way to build camaraderie, get the creative juices flowing, and to take a much-needed break from work.    

Matt Straz is the founder & CEO of Namely, the HR and payroll platform for the world’s most exciting companies.

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