A photo of the entire receptionist team

Manage Burnout With Employee Supremacy

Good news: employee burnout has declined since 2022. Bad news: 82 percent of employees are still at risk for burnout this year. 

Job burnout happens when workers experience chronic stress because of their jobs. It takes a toll on their mental health, of course. But chronic stress is also known to cause serious health issues, including strokes and heart attacks. 

The Mayo Clinic suggests several factors contribute to burnout: toxic culture, lack of autonomy or clarity, poor work-life balance, lack of advancement opportunities, or overwhelming workload. 

McKinsey says a major factor is a disconnect between employers and employees regarding mental health in the workplace. In other words, employers believe their employees are happier and healthier than they actually are, and are therefore doing little to prevent burnout.

However, there is a way that employers can help: by practicing Employee Supremacy.

What is Employee Supremacy?

At The Receptionist, our business strategy is informed by our commitment to Employee Supremacy, a core component of our Just Cause: To build a world where the company’s profits fuel the mission to be in service to its employees and the community. 

The idea of Employee Supremacy is simple. “We want to grow shareholder value,” says Andy Alsop, CEO of The Receptionist. “But it’s not by focusing on the shareholders. We focus on the employees.” 

The well-being of our employees is a major factor when it comes to business decisions, and we have made several commitments to mitigate the possibility of burnout:

  • Employees are not expected to work more hours weekly than they are contracted
  • Individual contributors are not expected to take on the work of other roles
  • Managers encourage mental health breaks, and employees receive a monthly stipend to spend on therapy or other mental health services
  • There is an unlimited vacation policy with each employee required to take at least 10 business days off per year; plus, each employee receives a yearly vacation stipend
  • A hybrid working environment allows employees to go into the office when it works for them, but are not required to do so, except for quarterly company-wide meetings
  • A yearly professional development fund allows employees to advance their careers through continued education

As a result, our turnover rate is low, and our fun, authentic, bold, respectful, innovative, and collaborative (FABRIC) values are alive and well in our culture.

There may be skepticism around the idea of Employee Supremacy, with some even trying to make it political. But it’s a simple concept: if you take care of your employees, they will take care of the customers and the company, which therefore increases shareholder value. 

Other companies and brands follow a similar philosophy, though they may not label it the way we have. Richard Branson, founder and CEO of the Virgin brand, once tweeted, “Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” Over the years, Branson has been vocal about his commitment to his employees. 

Leveraging Employee Supremacy to Manage Burnout 

Even if your organization can’t fully embrace Employee Supremacy, you can always incorporate some of its elements in your day-to-day dealings with employees. 

Practice Empathy

Many workers have had managers who didn’t care about their problems, demanding instead that work gets completed at any cost. 

Example: Bob’s daughter fell and broke her leg at school, so he asks his manager if he can leave early to take her to the doctor. The manager indicates that it’s a very bad time to leave and doing so could have a detrimental impact on Bob’s standing at the company, so Bob’s daughter is forced to ride in an ambulance to the hospital. 

By contrast, an empathetic boss builds trust with their employees, creating a culture where people can rely on each other to ensure work gets completed and the customers are happy. A little empathy can go a long way. 

Maintain Flexibility

Employees are human beings and therefore have human challenges or events in their personal lives. When bosses do not acknowledge this or are unwilling to help in any way, they risk losing a valuable member of their team. 

Example: Jose’s parents are flying in to see him from out of state, and he needs to pick them up at the airport around lunchtime. He decides to work from home, but his manager insists that he come to the office and work through his break, so his parents have to take an expensive Uber to Jose’s house and wait for him to get off work. Jose spends the evening searching for a new job. 

Instead of focusing on number of hours worked, focus on employee output. If everyone is producing high-quality work and customers are happy, it shouldn’t matter if, say, an employee takes a short break to pick their parents up at the airport. 

Prioritize Learning

It’s natural for people to want to improve their situations. Most of us want a better life with more opportunities to do the things that make us happy. When organizations don’t allow their employees a chance to improve their skills, they may see stagnation in growth and customer satisfaction.

Example: Fatima has been with her company for nearly 10 years and has only received one promotion because her level of education doesn’t align with more senior roles. She would like to obtain some certifications that would grow her skill set, but her employer doesn’t offer any opportunities – monetary or time – to do so. 

However, when employees are encouraged to advance their skills, it benefits the organization in numerous ways

Hire Accordingly

Expecting one person to do the work of three is not only unfair to that employee, but it’s also unsustainable. 

Example: Maxine’s team lost three people because of layoffs. Since no one else knows how to do their tasks, Maxine is forced to increase her hours by 50 percent. Over the course of a few months, she becomes so worn down that she gets sick and is unable to come to work for more than a week, causing chaos and confusion among her team as they struggle to keep up with her workload. 

Ensure your teams are well-staffed to avoid scenarios like this. An unnecessarily heavy workload can quickly cause people to burn out. 

Allow Breaks

Our society often judges us by our output. Yet no one can be 100 percent productive 100 percent of the time. It’s just not possible. During an eight-hour workday, the average person is actually productive for about three of those hours

Example: Adam’s company has a policy that requires all remote employees to keep their cameras on at all times. He is timed when he takes a lunch or bathroom break. Because of these oppressive working conditions, he becomes exhausted and quits. 

Allowing your employees to have breaks during the day goes a long way toward their mental health and overall wellbeing. 

Set Expectations

A lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities is often a culprit of poor job performance. When employees don’t have a firm understanding of how to do their work, it’s not necessarily on them. 

Example: Ginny started a new job a month ago, but despite her repeated requests for more clarity on her duties, she has very little direction and doesn’t know what tasks should belong to her as opposed to what tasks belong to her teammates. As a result, she and her peers often work on the same projects, while other projects fall by the wayside as no one has been assigned to them. 

It’s a manager’s job to make sure everyone is trained properly and knows exactly what is expected of them. 

Final Thoughts

Every aspect of our employee-first approach may not appeal to or work for every organization, but there’s always room for compassion and understanding when dealing with people. Dignity, respect, and kindness go a long way to retaining your employees and ensuring your customers are happy. 

Share this Post