Managing Burnout and Improving Business Performance in the AEC Industry

Burnout on Business Performance
July 17, 2023

In today’s fast-paced and demanding work environment, burnout has become a prevalent issue that impacts professionals across most industries. Professionals in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry, known for high-pressure projects and tight deadlines, are particularly susceptible to burnout. The consequences of burnout extend beyond personal well-being and often lead to a significant negative impact on business performance.

This is a people issue. And people are an AEC firm’s most important asset, so this is more than just an issue for your human resources department.

Gallup reports that 73% of full-time employees experience burnout often. Additionally, only 33% of workers are engaged at work, so it is imperative that leadership understands and effectively fosters a productive and healthy work environment. So how should you navigate burnout, what are the impacts on business performance, and what are some strategies to mitigate its effects?

Recognizing Burnout and Its Signs

Burnout is characterized by:

  • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Cynical or detached attitude toward work
  • Reduced sense of accomplishment

Employees experiencing burnout may exhibit the following:

  • Decreased productivity
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Reduced quality of their work
  • Diminished satisfaction with work

Both employees and employers must recognize the signs of burnout and take proactive measures to address it before it begins impacting business performance.

The Impact of Burnout on Business Performance

Burnout can have far-reaching consequences for business performance. When employees experience burnout, their motivation and engagement suffer, decreasing productivity, creativity, and overall employee satisfaction. Once these symptoms of burnout begin, they can lead to missed deadlines, lower-quality work, and unhappy clients. Moreover, burnout often increases employee turnover, which can disrupt team dynamics and necessitate additional costs associated with recruitment and training. Understanding the impact of burnout on business performance empowers organizations to take proactive steps to mitigate its effects.

Strategies for Managing Burnout and Improving Business Performance

Foster a Supportive Work Culture

Organizations should cultivate a work culture prioritizing employee well-being. Many behaviors that build strong relationships can be leveraged in the workplace. Creating a culture that encourages open communication for learning and contributing, where people feel heard and understood, creates a sense of belonging. This type of cultural initiative is the first stage of forming a psychologically safe space at work, per Dr. Timothy Clark’s book The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety. Creating a supportive environment that provides psychologically safe space is one factor in helping employees feel valued and motivated, reducing the risk of burnout.

Encourage Workload Management

Excessive workload is a leading contributor to burnout. When we hire employees, we tell them there will be times when “extra effort” will be required, and as professionals, we do whatever it takes to get the job done. However, as the demand for AEC services has increased and recruiting talent has become more difficult, “extra effort” often becomes the norm. Employers should ensure that workloads are realistic, providing employees with the necessary resources and support to complete tasks effectively and that the periods of “extra effort” are balanced with periods of relief. Encourage employees to prioritize and delegate tasks, leverage technology where possible, manage the workload across the available talent, and promote healthy work-life integration.

Provide Development Opportunities

Professional growth and development opportunities can help combat burnout. Employees who feel stagnant or unchallenged are more likely to experience burnout. Gallup reports that 94% of employees would stay with a firm longer if they provided opportunities to continue to learn. Providing training, mentorship programs, opportunities for career advancement, and upskilling helps keep employees engaged and motivated, improving retention rates.

Navigating burnout and managing its impact on business performance is crucial for firms seeking sustainable success. By recognizing the signs of burnout, fostering a supportive work environment, encouraging workload management, and providing development opportunities, firms can create a culture that mitigates the negative effects of burnout and drives overall business success.

Are your employees prepared to thrive?

SN’s comprehensive 12-week program equips architecture, engineering, construction, and environmental professionals with the critical non-technical skills they need to succeed in today’s environment. Investing in your staff is an investment in your company’s future. Contact SN today to learn more about our Interpersonal and Communication Training Program.

Kate Allen, PE, MBA