Prevent Burnout: Automation Offers a Simple Way to Boost Workplace Productivity and Employee Well-Being

It’s no secret that some of your employees are disengaged. According to Gallup, only 36% of employees are actively engaged at work — which means that 64% of us are not.

The reason? Well, there are many, but the most common one is burnout. And if you take a closer look, you can often see the signs:

  • Higher rates of absenteeism
  • An increased sensitivity to feedback
  • Decreased productivity

Studies show that 75% of employees report feeling burnout at some point and nearly half saying they experienced it during the pandemic.

Employee turnover is an expensive problem. If the “great resignation” taught us anything, it’s that even when you put the costs aside, finding people with the right skill sets is hard. The good news is once you know that burnout is a common problem, you can fix it.

Spare employees from “hamster wheel” tasks

Have you ever watched a hamster run in that wheel? Poor thing works so hard but never goes anywhere. It’s the same view, the same actions, over and over. It looks pretty boring, right? Boring with a side of frustration.

Employees tasked with performing repetitive, manual tasks can begin to feel this way, too.  Especially when they know there are better ways to do things.

Think about the level of convenience employees experience in their personal lives every day. Nothing good to eat in the house? Don’t feel like leaving to get something? No problem! Just order DoorDash. Got all comfy on the couch ready to binge watch a season of Yellowstone, but forgot to dim the lights? “Hey, Google, turn off my lights.”

That stops when they walk into work.

All that convenience evaporates, and it feels like they’ve stepped back in time. Here are a few examples of practices that turn your employees into “time-travelers”:

Printing and scanning work. I spoke with a client recently who hesitantly admitted they print every incoming document (email, fax, etc.) so that it may be manually scanned and sent to a vendor for indexing. Imagine being the employee responsible for those manual tasks. What decade do you think they feel like they’re in when they do this?

Physically reviewing PDFs. Have you ever lost your keys? Searched the entire house and, after much frustration, finally spotted them? Would you describe that experience as fun? Well, neither is searching for a single bit of data buried in a 100-plus-page PDF. Adding insult to injury, when you do find that piece of data, imagine the page isn’t even legible.

Manually assigning work. Managers are some of your most skilled workers, but I still see many who assign work manually, using color-coded spreadsheets to prioritize work.  This is incredibly time-consuming and steals valuable mind space.

Producing reports from scratch. We’ve all been here: It’s the end of the day and you get an urgent request from an executive requesting a report. The problem is, the report doesn’t exist and to produce it, you’ll have to create it. So instead of heading home, you’re in your office, cutting and pasting data from various documents to generate the report on the fly.

These scenarios only scratch the surface of the numerous tasks that create work environments that are ripe for burnout and they all have one thing in common.

How Technical Debt contributes to burnout

When you swipe your credit card, you accumulate debt. Maybe you’re super disciplined and you pay it off every month. But if you’re like most Americans, you’ll start to accumulate interest as you make payments over time.

Technical debt is similar. Outdated and inefficient technology racks up debt, but instead of accruing interest, it reduces productivity (which also costs money). Additionally, technical debt keeps your employees on those hamster wheels, which causes burnout and leads to turnover.

Can you fix it?

Absolutely! And, you don’t even need to tackle everything at once. As with the debt one creates with a credit card, you can tackle technical debt a little bit at a time, until it’s all paid off.

Start by identifying your most inefficient workflows. Then consider using automation to speed those workflows and get them off your employees’ plates.

For instance, when employees no longer need to spend time looking through a huge PDF file to locate a single piece of data, they’re free to focus on higher-level tasks. Likewise, managers who don’t need to review and assign work manually via spreadsheets have more time to solve bigger, more important challenges. And now, when an executive hits you with a report request late on a Friday afternoon, you’ll be able to pull the data together with the click of a button.

Automation helps ease workloads while encouraging employees to become more engaged at work. By shifting their focus to more meaningful and rewarding tasks, you’ll save their sanity and increase productivity by repurposing their time. Most importantly, automation is also a tool that can make a big impact quickly, to bolster both employee morale and the organization’s ROI.