Reducing Employee Burnout in Professional Service Firms

Leanna Michniuk

Updated: December 19, 2023
December 2, 2021
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Reducing Employee Burnout in Professional Service Firms
Reducing Employee Burnout

Let’s be real — we all experience some level of burnout throughout our careers. The stressors of everyday life coupled with overwhelming workloads can lead us to just feeling flat out exhausted and drained. And it’s not shocking that the recent pandemic led us to feeling even worse. In fact, a recent report from Indeed found that 67% of workers believe burnout has worsened during the pandemic. Why should professional services firms be cautious of burnout among staff? Well, not only can burnout result in lower productivity, it can cause dips in job satisfaction, absences, low morale, and affect company turnover/resignations. 

So, how can you as a leader look out for your team while keeping your firm a healthy and productive one? Read on to learn more about the tell-tale signs of burnout, what causes it, and what you can do to prevent it. 

What does burnout look like?

Before you can stop burnout in your team, you need to know what it looks like. Of course, every employee is different and behaves differently when they’re experiencing stress or fatigue. However, there are several common signs of burnout you can look out for in your team, including: 

  • A decline in quality of work
  • Errors in work
  • Struggling to concentrate or pay attention to tasks
  • Missed deadlines
  • Taking shortcuts in processes to get work done faster
  • (This might be a surprising one) Employees working longer hours and/or outside normal hours
  • Employees taking off more time than usual 

What causes burnout? 

It’s one thing to recognize the signs of burnout, but it’s another thing to know what’s actually causing employees to act or perform a certain way. In order to prevent burnout in your firm, you need to have an understanding of what’s not working well and what can be improved. Realistically, of course you’re never going to have a totally stress-free environment (it is a workplace afterall). Things will pile up and deadlines will sometimes be tight. However, it’s all about balance. Now, take a step back and ask yourself if the following contributing factors of burnout are prevalent in your firm:

  • Unrealistic expectations, including deadlines
  • Disconnect between employees and project management
  • Lack of transparency from management team
  • Stress around deadlines and team performance
  • Unclear career pathing/growth
  • Lack of job performance feedback
  • Not having a voice in decision making processes 

How can I prevent burnout in my professional services firm? 

The burnout conversation is often not the easiest one to have, depending on the relationship between an employee and their manager. Employees can be nervous or even scared to admit that they are struggling with unreasonable deadlines, heavy workloads, and/or unrealistic expectations. And rightfully so! Job security is something that weighs heavily on most of us. And when having that tough conversation, it’s understandable that an employee may be worried about how it will be interpreted by their manager and/or colleagues. 

With all that being said, it’s important to create a workplace that allows, as well as encourages employees to come forward when they have issues — without being scared of any repercussions they may face for voicing their concerns. But how do you create this workplace? It all starts with the work itself. 

Skills Matching

Being assigned a job you have no clue how to do sounds stressful, right? In addition to causing unnecessary stress on your employee, not assigning the best team member to a job usually leads to less than satisfactory results. As a leader, it’s important to be aware of your team’s strengths and weaknesses. When your employees feel confident in their abilities and knowledge, that feeling will be reflected in their work as well as the relationships with clients and other team members. 

BigTime Can Help With That

How do you keep track of all your employees’ skills, strengths, weaknesses, and even current availabilty? That’s where BigTime comes it. We’re so excited to announce that our new Skills Matching feature is now available! This new feature provides a more efficient process when searching for which staffers are both qualified and available for a project. Now, when assigning a task, project managers can use our skill matching feature to see who within the proper skillset is available for the work. Skills can be associated with roles in BigTime as well as applied individually to each staffer and then ranked to provide an additional level of skill tracking and allows for a better way to create project teams. By taking advantage of a tool like this skills matching feature, managers can rest assured knowing they have the best talent on the job and they have the right amount of time to get the job done. For employees, this means workloads are being taken into consideration and respected, deadlines are realistic, and the task itself is something they feel comfortable and confident working on. 

Project Management 

Planning and estimating a project can be tough, we know. We also know it’s common for managers to underestimate how much time a task will take to complete. When it comes to preventing burnout, the last thing you want to do is drop a huge project on an employee with an unrealistic deadline attached to it. When you begin to budget and plan timelines for a new project, use the data you have from previous projects. If history shows it takes closer to 14 hours to complete a task, but the ideal staff member only has 10 hours to work, don’t force the task to fit within that constraint. 

BigTime Can Help With That

Two words — Gantt charts! These handy charts can be your best friend for project management and planning. The Gantt charts available to you in BigTime help you to visualize everything at a glance, including dependencies, critical paths, independent tasks, and milestones. These charts also allow you to set up your project in a bar timeline so project managers have a big-picture view of the project roadmap and the necessary time needed to complete the project. Pro tip: you can easily clone projects in BigTime to speed up this process and make sure you’re allocating the right amount of time to each task according to historical data. 

Time Tracking 

In order to be successful, a business needs to respect the time and well-being of its employees. As discussed, overworking an employee is a contributing factor to burnout. How does time tracking come into play? When employees regularly track their time, you’ll be able to see who’s working too much and help you address the problem head-on. When someone on your team is consistently logging long hours, it can be a sign they’re in danger of burning out. It’s even a useful tool for proactively preventing burnout.

BigTime Can Help With That

The time tracking tool in BigTime makes it a breeze for your team to enter in their hours regularly. With features like auto-save, auto-complete, and smart lookups with user-specific presets and defaults, tracking time doesn’t have to be a pain. What’s equally important as your employees tracking their time is leadership  using the data! Keep an eye on hours logged and who is working over their capacity. Take a deeper dive into their timesheets so you can see what projects are taking up most of their time. This timesheet data provided by BigTime will give you the information needed to spot a problem but it’ll be up to leadership to get to the root of the problem. By speaking one-on-one with an employee. you can get a better understanding of any issues they’re experiencing that can help you nip burnout in the bud. 

At the end of the day, it takes human connection and an open line of communication to help spot and prevent burnout. However, the methods and tools listed above will do nothing but aid in this communication and connection with your team. What’s more, BigTime gives your team the tools they need to take the initiative with data to back up their case for feeling over their capacity/workload.

Learn more about reducing burnout and boosting employee retention in our ebook,  Guide to Creating & Maintaining Healthy Culture in Professional Services Firms

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