Five Metrics You Can Monitor to Reduce Employee Burnout

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Do some of your employees seem exhausted, detached, and less productive for a reason you can’t quite identify? Many of them may be suffering from burnout, a condition in which people feel disengaged from their jobs that is often caused by sustained heavy workloads and high stress.

According to an survey conducted earlier this year, over half (52%) of U.S. workers are experiencing burnout in 2021, up from 43% who felt burned out pre-pandemic. While organizations have made positive strides over the last two years toward increased workplace flexibility and employee autonomy, there have also been some unintended side effects of the migration to remote work. 

One significant driver of this pandemic-era spike in burnout is that employees have difficulty unplugging from their work and finding time to recharge. The same survey found that 53% of virtual or work-from-home (WFH) employees are currently working more hours than they were in the office.

So, how can managers recognize and reduce employee burnout, whether in-person or in remote work environments, and offer teams the support they need to bring their best selves to work each day? Here are five key metrics that can be measured to spot signs of employee burnout and help employees correct course. 

1. Workload Balance

One of the biggest challenges of burnout prevention is that strained employees often don’t advocate for themselves until it’s too late. Keeping an eye on workload balance makes it easier to identify team members who are silently overworking themselves. This added awareness can also empower you to help them more effectively find a solution to their stress. 

To detect off-kilter workload balance, monitor the utilization level of each employee to determine who has been burning the candle at both ends. Overutilization happens when an employee works beyond their number of productive hours each day (which can be different depending on the individual). A few overutilized days due to a big project being finished may not be cause for concern; however, if someone is showing many consecutive days of overutilization, then it’s time to initiate a conversation about workload management. 

2. Context Switches

Multitasking — it seems like a great way to squeeze as much productivity out of your workday as possible, right? In reality, switching back and forth between unrelated tasks is terrible for productivity. Many studies, including research from Stanford University, have confirmed that multitasking to get more done is a myth and that it’s actually better to give one task your undivided attention (especially a complex project). 

Context switching is basically forced multitasking. It’s what happens when your focus is interrupted by a Slack notification or ping in your inbox: You drop everything to address the request and then try to return to what you were doing in the first place. These distractions and shifts in momentum can happen many times throughout a given employee’s workday. It’s like trying to drive somewhere on the highway but your GPS keeps telling you to get off at every exit along the way. 

By measuring how frequently your teams switch back and forth between various tasks and applications, you can get an idea of how many focused hours they are able to commit to their work every day. Too much context switching can lead to a decline in productivity and quality of work, which can make staff feel more stressed. In such cases, it’s a good idea to reach out to the distracted employee and help them find a way to unlock more focused time in their days. 

3. Focus Sessions

The antithesis of context switching, a focus session is the amount of time a worker can engage in deep work without interruption. This is another metric that can be measured by a workforce analytics tool to gauge employee productivity and identify areas for improvement.

In general, increases in focus session duration and frequency lower stress levels and have a positive effect on the quality of a person’s outputs. Working with employees to pinpoint the things that are disrupting their focus sessions and causing them to switch contexts can be hugely beneficial for both their mental health and overall productivity. 

4. Break Time

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. It’s more than just a spooky proverb; not getting enough time to unplug from work can make high performers listless and rob them of the enthusiasm they once had for their job. Earlier this year, our Productivity Lab analyzed the digital activity of 5 million employees and discovered that over 78% of people work outside standard office hours, and 56% log in on the weekend. 

Of course, taking copious amounts of break time on a business day shouldn’t be a regular practice. But a complete lack of break time for extended periods can also be detrimental to an employee’s efficiency and well-being. Encourage employees who are taking minimal break time to step away from their computer and replenish themselves mentally, emotionally, and physically. 

In addition to looking at granular metrics, it’s also important to take a step back and examine macro-level productivity trends. A workforce analytics platform can help you derive useful insights from large quantities of data to determine which processes are working effectively and which should be refined, whether for an individual employee or an entire team. 

For example, you can access daily, weekly, and monthly summaries of productive vs. unproductive work time, as well as identify increases in working hours to assist with workload management and resourcing. An integrated analytics platform like ActivTrak can also visualize work patterns and productivity trends, making them easier to interpret and act on. Notice that a certain department has seen a steady increase in the number of hours they spend in meetings each week? It might be time to intervene and assess if the Zoom-fest is driving them toward burnout. 

Don’t Get Burned by Burnout 

People often don’t realize they are approaching burnout or they are afraid to speak up because they don’t want to be viewed as “lazy.” Measuring these metrics over a period of time will allow you to spot potential signs of burnout so you can support those employees in adjusting their work habits and addressing the factors that are hindering their productivity. Taking a proactive approach to burnout prevention will ultimately improve employee retention, engagement, and productivity. 

Interested in getting more actionable tips and tactics you can use to identify and reduce employee burnout? Download The Manager’s Guide to Burnout

About ActivTrak

ActivTrak helps companies unlock productivity potential. Our award-winning workforce analytics and productivity management software provides expert insights that empower people, optimize processes, and maximize technology. Additionally, with data sourced from more than 9,000 customers and over 450,000 users, ActivTrak’s Workforce Productivity Lab is a global center for ground-breaking research and expertise that helps companies embrace and embody the future of work.