Burnout — Is having a burnout leave policy a solution?

Many companies are giving time off to employees whenever they feel they are experiencing a burnout, but is this a permanent solution?

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That burnout is a serious issue requiring immediate attention was realised by companies only during the pandemic. It is not that burnout was unheard of earlier. It did happen earlier too, but not much importance was given to it by employers.

Organisations have been trying to deal with the issue in their own ways. The most common solution, however, has been to give employees time off from work to rest, relax and rejuvenate. Though companies began this practice as a test run initially, many have now created policies around it. So is it time to implement specific burnout leaves for our employees?

Bumble, a US-based dating app, has decided to give a short vacation twice a year to all employees. In fact, in India as well, the Godrej Group has made it a point to give time off to its employees. HRKatha reported last year about how Godrej Housing Finance wants to create a culture, where employees feel free to take time off from work. The Company has actually decided to give longer weekends off to all employees periodically, to make this possible.

“Burnout leave is just another nomenclature. The real problem lies somewhere else”

Reetu Raina, CHRO, Quick Heal

Even Goldman Sachs surprised its employees by granting them some time off to simply unwind and come back to work recharged.

As far as burnout is concerned, a little break may be just what employees need to refresh and come back. However, as per the HR leaders HRKatha spoke to, creating a policy around burnout leaves will not help much.

Leave policy is not enough

Merely increasing the number of leaves will not really bring about a change. “It is not as if the number of holidays being offered currently are not enough. People just need to manage them right to give themselves adequate time off work,” says Kamlesh Dangi, global HR head, Incred Financial Services.

Work on the culture

Christina Maslach, a professor at the University Of California, has done major research in this area and has also developed a tool called Maslach Burnout Inventory. This helps one measure the extent of burnout in people. She believes that the major cause of burnout lies deep within the working culture of organisations. Therefore, employers should try and change that to see better results.

Reetu Raina, CHRO, Quick Heal, is of the belief that having a burnout leave policy makes sense only when there are not enough leaves available to take. “Burnout leave is just another nomenclature. The real problem lies somewhere else,” states Raina.

Encourage employees to take leave

As per Dangi, at Incred Financial Services, the major issue has been that people do not use their leaves. In other words, they do not avail enough leaves, which can be one of the problems. He reveals that his friends in the BFSI sector also have the same story to tell. “The employees do not take leaves, and this phenomena has increased ever since the pandemic,” says Dangi.

“The problem of burnout is more to do with the individual than the company. If people are disciplined and adhere to their timelines things will get easier”

Kamlesh Dangi, global HR head, Incred Financial Services

This is quite understandable, because employees have been restricted to their homes due to the pandemic. They have had no option to go on vacations or plan trips or breaks.

In fact, even during normal situations, employees prefer to roll over their leaves for monetary benefits.

Discipline and time management

That is why, Raina also shares that Quick Heal encourages its employees to take leaves. They have actually made a leave chart and organised it such that people have enough time to rest and work. In addition, the Company strictly follows the working hours and is particular about not disturbing any employee after working hours or during breaks. “Respecting someone’s time is the most important thing. We will have to do away with a culture where everything is important even after work hours or during a vacation or break,” says Raina.

Dangi believes that this problem is more to do with the individual than the company. If people are disciplined and adhere to their timelines things will get easier for them and everyone around too. “As a company I can change my leaders and ensure appropriate behaviour or proper delegation of work,” tells Dangi.

Giving breaks to unwind is fine, but why create conditions that will lead to such a situation at all? Companies have confessed that their employees experience burnout and that is why they give these small breaks. However, the real solution to this problem is to ensure a working environment where people do not reach a stage of burnout at all. Rather than winning small battles, it is better to come up with a permanent solution.

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