Long service leave is usually a reward for 10 years of loyal service to one company. Its origins actually date back to the 1860s when Australian settlers were given time to sail home and visit their families in England.
With the average tenure for an employee in Australia roughly 3 years, advocates for the new system argue that the majority of employees never reach the 10 years and are therefore more prone to burnout.
The simple fact is, if successful, this new model would have a detrimental impact on businesses in an already difficult market and misses the point when it comes to boosting productivity and sustainable working.
Yes, there is little doubt it is time to review the centuries-old system but portable leave is not the answer to avoid employee burnout. The key to an engaged, productive and sustainable workforce revolves around three key areas:
- organisational culture;
- managing psychosocial hazards in the workplace;
- and leadership.
So with this prompting my thinking, I wanted to share my 5 tips for building a sustainable and engaged workforce… apart from waiting until they are eligible for long service leave.
- Overwork and long hours never ends well – With an uncertain economy, ultra-competitive workplaces, limited resources, not to mention that we are now technologically connected to the office wherever we go – it is no wonder people working longer hours than ever before. However, the consequences of fatigue are significant and a line has to be drawn. Encourage your staff to leave on time, disconnect from the office when at home and make sure leaders set the example. Of course there will be times when we need to put in a little extra but be careful to ensure this doesn’t become a habit or worse… a culture.
- Manage your team’s stress and anxiety – According to recent research, the workplace has never been so stressful and, like fatigue, stress can have a serious impact on an employee’s ability to sustain productivity and performance.As a manager, the simplest place to start is listening to your staff and reading the non-verbal cues. If you see an employee in a stressed state, check in with them and get to the heart of the issue and help them find a solution to the problem. Organisations should also be proactively identifying psychosocial hazards and implementing initiatives to boost wellbeing in the workplace. Employee wellness programs could include personal development and resilience coaching, healthy living promotions, physical activities such as walking or running groups, or simply encouraging staff to take breaks during the day to get out of the chair and away from the computer screen.
- Empower employees with decision-making authority – There’s nothing quite like trust and empowerment to energise employees and boost productivity. Equip your employees with a greater sense of control, handover some of the responsibility, allow them to make mistakes and watch them grow.Additionally, in the name of progress and professional development, sometimes a manager just needs to get out of the way and trust their team to make the right decisions.
- Recognise individual success and celebrate wins – We are all human and sometimes we just need to know that we are doing a good job and our efforts are both valued and appreciated.This recognition does not need to be a financial incentive. It sounds obvious but “thank you” can often be forgotten during the ‘crazy’ weeks/months or handed out without any real meaning or emphasis. Whether it is in an open forum like a team meeting or one-on-one, a genuine “thank you” or meaningful acknowledgement of an employee’s efforts can instantly change a mood, inject much needed confidence, and/or provide that boost of energy when that metaphorical wall has been hit.
- Have a little fun in the workplace – Lastly, research shows happy workers are more likely to be more effective and committed workers, and a key ingredient to that is having a bit of fun in the office. Yes, there needs to be an appropriate balance, but regular, fun activities can have a significant impact on culture, communication, building internal relationships and bringing up the collective mood of an organisation. Talk to your staff and find out how you can create a happier, more fun environment for them to come to everyday.
Employee burnout should not be addressed with a one in ten year break. Instead, organisations need to be constantly working to ensure the wellbeing of their employees.