Workplace burnout plagues all types of employees and personalities. A burnout-prone workplace leaves your staff exhausted and disengaged -- a surefire recipe for unhappy customers, lost opportunities, and a shrinking bottom line. 

And truth is, burnout is at an all-time high. Recent research conducted by Gallup found 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. That means up to two-thirds of your employees could be experiencing burnout on the job at any one time. 

While no company is "perfect", there are steps great leaders naturally take to create healthy, happy employees who perform at a high level. One of those leaders I recently connected with is Shawn Riegsecker, CEO and founder of Chicago-based ad tech provider Centro

Riegsecker shared with me ten key takeaways for building a human-centered workplace.

1. Establish a vision. 

Having a vision is critical. While it's easy to get excited about achieving your goals, it's impossible to move forward without a defined vision.  A clear vision statement helps shape your path forward as a company and allows your teams the space to create change. 

2. Define your values. 

If you don't define your values up-front, someone will define them for you. "Your values define who you hire, which is the most important decision you make as a leader. Your company's success is 100% reliant on the talent you attract and retain," says Riegsecker. 

3. Set high expectations.

We all yearn to experience the feeling of success. But if "success" is ill-defined or not defined at all, your team won't have anything to measure their progress against. Setting guidelines empowers your team to deliver on results and achieve long-term success. 

4. Define what you don't do.  

"Organizations aren't defined by what they do, but by what they don't do," shared Riegsecker. Leaders must define who fits into your culture, and who doesn't. Your employees should reflect your values and align with your expectations. If you hire everyone that comes through the door, then you don't have a strong culture. 

5. Don't overlook mental health.

While stress is motivating in the short term, it's detrimental in the long term. If your employees aren't physically and mentally healthy, you won't achieve consistent results. Benefits like a work-from-home policy and extended family leave are obvious solutions, but even small things like encouraging employees to leave their desks for lunch can go a long way toward cutting down on workplace stress. 

6. Foster a culture of professional intimacy. 

Office friendships boost individual performance and increase lifetime happiness. A recent Gallup study, for example, found that women who have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged than women who don't. Look beyond the bottom line to create an office that encourages friendships in and out of the office. 

7. Take a hard look in the mirror. 

A healthy workplace culture lives and dies with its leadership. To thrive, employees need a CEO who cares about them as human beings. If asked whether their CEO cares about their well-being, would your employees answer "yes"? If so, Riegsecker says, your company is 75% of the way to becoming a human-centered workplace. If the answer is no, it's time to reevaluate your vision and values. 

8.  Embrace vulnerability. 

Your employees have their own thoughts and feelings. To create psychological safety, teach your leaders to treat their employees like adults. Trust that your employees can take the good with the bad. If the company is hitting a rough patch and you are fearful about the future of your organization, tell them that. 

9. Create transparency.

Employees need context to grow. Without consistent feedback on what's going well -- and what's not going well -- how will your employees know what high performance looks like? As Riegsecker stated, "If you play a game and don't get feedback from your coach or even know the score, you won't want to play that game anymore."

10. Invest in employee growth.

"Investing in your employees' growth is an investment in the growth of your company," says Riegsecker. If your employees aren't learning, growing and developing, your company will die from the inside out. Give your employees the tools they need to take charge of their self-development - whether it's mandated time for training or education reimbursement. 

An organization that cares more about shareholder value than its employees' own happiness is bound for failure. Companies like Centro advance by investing in their people. That's why building a truly human-centered workplace means balancing growth and employee well-being as a means to financial success, not as an adjunct to it. 

Published on: Nov 18, 2019
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