Staffing Management

Hourly Worker Burnout Is a Major Problem. Stop Overlooking It.

By Steve Kramer

Oct. 22, 2019

When you hear the word “burnout” in the context of the workforce, a specific image comes to mind. You might picture a lawyer or consultant logging 80 hours a week and managing high-intensity clients, pushed over the edge by a messy court case or a business trip gone wrong.

You’re probably less likely to picture the service worker giving you your burger and fries or health care provider caring for your aging parents at home, overcome by prolonged periods of mild stress. However, shift workers are equally, or perhaps even more, prone to burnout than corporate professionals.

As technology and automation advance to simplify the lives of skilled laborers, the needs of low-wage hourly workers are forgotten. Corporations feel pressured to increase productivity, which creates a chronically stressful environment for workers who are on the frontlines dealing with customers every day.

The Wave of Burnout in Hourly Workforces

Burned out employees are now commonplace in industries requiring an hourly workforce. White-collar workers may take certain job elements for granted, such as predictable hours and flexibility over where they work for the day. But these perks rarely exist for hourly shift workers. Shift managers receive pressure from higher-ups to build schedules that maximize profits and minimize the number of employees needed on a shift, meaning schedules promote high stress and often differ from week to week.

Erratic scheduling is made worse by chronic understaffing, thanks to low unemployment – ultimately leading to increased demands on the existing workforce. For the first time ever in the U.S., the number of open jobs has been higher than the number of people looking for work for 17 straight months. Low-skilled workers such as nurses and restaurant workers are in the highest demand as more people go to college and more baby boomers reach retirement.

This has led hourly workers to form different relationships with their work. For once, low-skilled workers have leverage in the job market and may be inclined to find new workplaces if their own current conditions are not optimal. In July, 3.6 million people quit their jobs – the highest number ever in a single month.

Employers should be feeling more heat than ever to improve work conditions and worker satisfaction. Doing so needs to start with empowering your workforce through better management practices that give employees control and recognition. Using a digital workplace is a powerful, cost-effective way to ensure your workers don’t burn out.

Leveraging Digital Workplace Tools to Prevent Burnout

Promoting worker engagement can be the difference between burned out workers on the verge of quitting and satisfied employees. Digital workplace tools enable managers to spend more time engaging with customers and employees and give back some of the power frontline workers lack. By optimizing these areas with new technology, you can set up your workforce and customers for lasting success.

  • Keep communication fluid. Just as it’s important for workers to receive clear communication from higher-ups, it is crucial for managers to accept feedback from those working the frontline. An internal communications platform simplifies the process for getting in touch with employees and opens up opportunities for your workforce to connect, share and receive important information. These tools can also boost retention by ensuring that employees receive the recognition they need to stay satisfied through measures like badges, gamified leaderboards and mobile communication.
  • Allow agency in scheduling. Burnout among hourly workers is often attributed to stress over scheduling, particularly in industries where employees may not know their hours for the week until the day before. This is exacerbated by paper schedules that hinder last-minute changes. A digital workplace allows employees to request time off and swap shifts with coworkers directly, giving them a healthier work-life balance and a more predictable schedule.
  • Create opportunities for upskilling. Providing ongoing training to build new skills is an excellent way to ensure employees feel satisfied at work. Unfortunately, it’s often neglected because it can be time-consuming to build and deliver, and therefore costly. Digital tools enable employers to deploy low-cost, personalized training across your company to boost engagement and productivity.

Though retention and workplace management seem trickier than ever, employers are not powerless against the labor shortage, nor the wave of burnout. Instead, use this as an opportunity to stand out as an excellent employer by taking your management processes to the next level. Doing so positions you as the upstanding employer that workers will turn to when another has driven them to burn out.

Steve Kramer is the CEO and president of WorkJam.

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