By Renée Goyeneche—
In today’s world, a scarcity mentality is hard to overcome, especially given the constant barrage of messages suggesting we should do more with less. It is seen as a necessity in both our personal and professional lives; we have to find a way to balance the overwhelming workload, because resources are limited and there will never be enough.
It’s especially common in the workplace, maybe now more than ever. The lasting effects of the pandemic: a changing workforce, ongoing challenges in supply chains and an increased need for technology are driving an ever-changing business environment. In uncertain times, businesses and small businesses alike are trying to reduce costs, find ways to be more efficient and expand their existing resources.
While this approach makes sense from a financial standpoint, it fails to recognize that stretching existing resources usually means that employees are expected to bridge the gap. In an effort to maximize efficiency, employers are calling on their teams to work longer hours, take on additional responsibilities, and prioritize other people’s work. urgent tasks above their own work.
This repositioning has been conceived as a temporary measure, with the idea that when circumstances shift in their favor, the workload will ease and business will resume at a later date. normal pace. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. That’s because a new standard has been established under this scarcity model, and if workflows continue to function, it’s hard to argue that additional resources are essential.
This is problematic on several levels. Although organizations that running lean might have efficient day-to-day execution, they risk never having the time or bandwidth to plan for the future. In addition, trying to work in these conditions over the long term puts a high cognitive load on both leadership and staff. Both groups work in a fire alarm state: according to this model, continuously meeting urgent, unmet needs. They just run from one task to another, plastering over problems instead of focusing on long-term, high-impact results.
The scarcity mindset also manifests itself as difficult trade-offs, leading to disappointment or guilt about the outcome. The effects can be professionally expressed when the final design of an important project does not meet the vision due to a lack of resources. Or it can pop up in person when people miss outside obligations due to urgent work deadlines. In either scenario, a constant feeling of not being able to focus on priorities is a losing game.
Doing more doesn’t necessarily lead to meaningful results, but it will almost certainly lead to feelings of overwork, frustration, and disillusionment. We see this happening in real time, as recent studies show burnout is increasingespecially among women.
Indicators that you are on the way to burnout
- You don’t have the agency to prioritize or negotiate your own workload
- You cannot perform your own tasks due to urgent requests from others
- You can’t say no to new projects, even when you’ve reached your threshold
- You don’t have enough time to plan or complete projects
- You feel you have a reduced mental bandwidth due to stress
What leadership can do
Those in leadership roles have an additional layer of responsibility in this scenario, as they must follow the capabilities and limitations of others as well as their own.
Because human resources are finite, there is a limit to how long people will continue to produce optimal results if inadequate infrastructure is the status quo. Something has to be given, and it will probably be productivity and employee retention. It is also important to remember that according to the Work Institute Retention Report 2022, less than 10% of workers leave a job because of pay issues. In fact, they report that workload/stress accounted for almost half (47.2%) of all work-related reasons for leaving.
There are some universal signs of employee burnout, for those who pay attention.
- Look forward to:
- Arriving late or absenteeism at work
- Decreased engagement/commitment levels
- Expression of apathy
- Difficulties in interpersonal relationships
- Withdrawal or isolation from peers
- Higher sensitivity to feedback
It can be easy to think of burnout as temporary fatigue and hope it will pass, but seeing these traits in your team makes it critical to dig deeper and address the issues. As a manager, you don’t have to completely agree with what is being communicated, but you do have to understand how an employee experiences the situation.
Finally, it is important not only to hear the message, but also to act on it. One-off complaints are usually the norm, but if you’re hearing the same concerns from multiple sources, it’s time to look for a solution.