Pedal to the metal: what to do when employees work too hard

In HR, we’re usually looking for ways to get a better performance out of employees. But what do you do when workers put in too much effort and risk burn-out?

Having employees who want to give 110 per cent all the time sounds like a dream come true, but it can actually lead to wellbeing issues.

In companies like Google, which has a reputation as a top workplace, workers feel so invested in the company that they overwork themselves, said Sarah Robb, head of people operations in Asia Pacific.

“We’re finding from the employment survey that wellbeing continues to be a source of concern, but interestingly, managers are supportive of wellbeing. They are self-inflicted issues.”

She said employees felt like they were company owners which was part of Google’s success, but “these people don’t want to take their feet off the gas pedal because they feel like owners. We haven’t found the balance yet. It’s not sustainable.”

Employment engagement consultancy TINYpulse founder David Niu said HR leaders can encourage employees to speak candidly when they are starting to feel burnt out on the job.

They can also use employee engagement tools to gather regular, anonymous feedback from workers and privately check in with unhappy or stressed employees.

“Companies can and should invest in wellness. HR leaders can advocate for cost-effective ways to incorporate wellness into the corporate culture.

“For example, Stoneridge Vineyards in New Zealand teaches its staff yoga on a regular basis. BodyBolsters in Australia holds regular staff meetings with everyone in gym clothes so they can stretch, tone and try out new exercises together,” Niu said.

Tips for employee wellbeing:
  • Make sure employees to take their breaks and spend time away from their work stations
  • Encourage social interaction in the office to boost collaboration and reduce stress
  • Check in with employees regularly to catch signs of burn-out early and address any workplace issues

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