Workforce productivity is strongest when employees are actively engaged. Engaged employees tend to stay longer with their employers, lowering the recruitment and training costs associated with employee turnover. Unfortunately, disengagement is common in the modern workforce. According to Gallup, a staggering two-thirds of the U.S. workforce is disengaged.

Actively disengaged employees resent their employer and can lower team morale and disrupt business objectives. Gallup estimates that the U.S. economy takes an annual hit of $483 to $605 billion dollars in lost productivity due to actively disengaged employees. What causes employee disengagement? How can HR professionals and business managers recognize it?

Employee burnout: Modern workers are frustrated and overwhelmed

Employee burnout causes many workers to tip over from engagement to active disengagement. Recently recognized as an “occupational phenomenon” by the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout occurs when employees sustain too heavy a workload for too long. Reorganizations and downsizing often force employees to do the work of multiple positions and over demanding managers may ask too much of their best employees. Whatever the cause, once burnout strikes, its effects are brutal, including physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. Employees feel depleted of energy, and their effectiveness on the job is dramatically reduced.

4 causes of employee disengagement

Employees are unique, so there are many causes of stress and dissatisfaction. Employers can do little to remediate personal life stress for employees, but they can influence what happens at the workplace. Here are four common work stressors contributing to employee disengagement:

1. Lousy managers: Nothing causes dissatisfaction faster than a bad boss. Research shows micromanagers have a particularly deleterious impact on engagement. Micromanagers cost large businesses (10,000+ employees) an estimated $600,000 per year in lost productivity, so it is important to train managers to lead confidently.

2. Unrealistic workloads: Even the most competent, productive employees will burnout if unrealistic demands and too many tasks are heaped on them. Help people managers learn to set realistic goals and balance workloads across teams.

3. Career stagnation: When employees work hard, they want to be promoted. Over time, stagnation causes boredom and resentment. Engage employees with opportunities to learn new skills and advance.

4. Burnout office culture: Walk through your offices one hour after quitting time and observe how many employees are still at their desks. If employees believe they need to work on days off, weekends and vacations, company culture is facilitating burnout.

7 symptoms of a disengaged employee

Train your people managers to watch for these 7 employee burnout signs:

1. Silence in meetings: When an employee quits participating in collaborative meetings and this keeps up over time, it should be a cause for concern.

2. Lack of motivation: Disengaged employees aren’t willing to go the extra mile outside of their normal, required duties.

3. Withdrawal: Disengaged employees pull back from normal workplace banter. Are they suddenly eating lunch alone? Avoiding work-related social functions?

4. Increased absenteeism: When employees are miserable at work, they avoid it. They take extra days off, or they come in late, leave early and take more breaks.

5. Productivity slump: When a previously productive employee can’t seem to finish projects or meet deadlines, they could be suffering from burnout.

6. Apathy: Disengaged employees seem as if they just don’t care about their work product. They no longer feel accountable and do not bother to debate ideas or defend their work.

7. Moodiness: Burned out employees feel awful, and it can show in their behavior toward others. A once cheerful, pleasant employee can become curt, cynical and rude.

Encourage stronger engagement in your workforce

When your managers recognize disengagement in employees, it is important to act quickly. Talk to the employee and try to address the root cause of the problem. Asure Software’s HR consulting team can help your organization implement best practices to overcome barriers to top performance and improve engagement.

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