Could engagement be a recipe for burnout?

For many business leaders, it's easy to define their engaged group of workers. These are the staff who always arrive early, remain productive and helpful throughout the working day and are ready to respond if an issue crops up – at night or even on weekends.

However, having workers switched on 24/7 may not be a recipe for productivity, it could be leading to burnout.

Author and founder of The Energy Project Tony Schwartz explained in a recent article that while the common definition of engagement is the "willingness to invest discretionary effort at work", this could have less than desirable effects – certainly not the consistent high performance employers are after.

Mr Schwartz cited a 2012 engagement study conducted by consulting firm Towers Watson, which explained that traditional engagement is no longer the answer for high performance.

"Companies in which employees reported feeling well taken care of – including not working too many hours – had twice the operating profit margins of those with traditionally engaged employees, and three times the profit levels of those with the least engaged employees," Mr Schwartz said.

Of course, preventing burnout is not exactly an easy task – especially if the company has stringent targets and deadlines. This could be the implementation and management of a new IT security initiative, or any other large project. 

In a study published in the Journal of Paediatric Oncology Nursing at the end of 2013, mindfulness was assessed as a possible tool to reduce burnout in nurses and other medical professionals.

In effect, it means slowing employees down and keeping them relaxed – through use of a 'relaxation station' or another initiative.

The results found that such practices can be taught in the workplace and can prove useful as a component of a wider strategy to reduce burnout. These practices can also be applied to the wider workplace.

It's no secret that many modern workplaces are stressful environments – and there's a real danger of burnout if staff workloads aren't carefully managed.