Stephanie Dwilson

How to Avoid a Negative Work Environment and Help Overworked Employees

Everyone values a productive, dynamic work environment. Ironically, though, some of the things employers do to motivate employees to be more effective can actually create a workplace culture that hurts productivity in the long run. Here are five ways employers overstretch their employees — and how to turn a negative work environment around.

Excessive Meetings

The problem: Meetings can be an opportunity for engaged employees to put their heads together and come up with innovative solutions. But for every game-changing meeting, there’s one that falls flat. Filling up your employees’ day with too many meetings can be detrimental to your workforce’s productivity — 59 percent of employees feel that wasteful meetings get in the way of their core tasks.

The solution: If your staff’s calendars are bursting at the seams, shift some communication over to email or chat. When you do have meetings, give them a clear purpose, limit them to necessary participants and send out an agenda beforehand.

Off-Hour Emails

The problem: Ideally, employees should be able to fully disengage from work and not have to check their emails in the evenings or on weekends. That’s not just to be nice: A recent study from Lehigh University found that off-hour emails can hurt employees’ work-life balance and lead to burnout.

The solution: While emergencies do occur, you don’t want your employees to constantly monitor email after hours. Instead, set up an easily accessible means of communication — like a phone number where you can reach each employee — and set the expectation that you won’t contact them there outside of work unless there’s a truly urgent need.

Too Many Work Platforms

The problem: The answer to every problem isn’t always a new platform or software. A business may have multiple platforms in an attempt to get more done, but giving employees too many ways to collaborate can be overwhelming.

The solution: Try to streamline the tools your office uses. You should all have one email system and one collaboration platform. Look for options that already have chat and conferencing functions within them instead of piecing individual tools together yourself.

Long Hours

The problem: Even the biggest workaholic will eventually burn out after too many late nights at the office. While business owners may think that working longer hours is the key to turning out extra work, it can actually have the opposite effect in the long run, disrupting productivity and morale.

The solution: Sometimes long hours are inevitable, like when a big deadline is looming. But try to balance those instances out by offering extra time off later — your employees will appreciate the opportunity to catch up on sleep and return to work focused. Also keep in mind that overworked managers have a tough time being fair to their employees and, in turn, can cause them to be stressed and overworked, too. When you’re trying to sort out stress in the workplace, address the problem at every level of the company.

Lack of Communication

The problem: If you’re finding yourself wondering whether your company has a negative work environment, then you’re not taking advantage of the best resource you have: your employees. In this case, no news is probably not good news. It’s easy to address complaints as they come, but that won’t give you the full story. Not all overworked employees will complain — some will let their work slip or allow their health to suffer — or they’ll just leave.

The solution: Surveys can be a great way to check in with employees’ burnout levels. First and foremost, they should be anonymous. To get more honest responses, don’t ask respondents to give themselves negative labels. Instead of questioning whether they consider themselves to be burned out, for instance, ask if their workload is reasonable for their role. Also leave space to write in answers and add extra thoughts.

When it comes to productivity, sometimes less is more. Give your employees breathing room and the tools to be effective — and if any problems do arise, ask them to tell you what needs to be fixed. Your employees are what makes your business successful, so it pays to give them the best work environment possible.

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