Burnout is a serious but common issue in the business world. Many preach of the importance of work-life balance, but not many actually achieve it.
Especially today, with many employees expected to be always on, workers often find themselves assuming extra projects, working late and accepting calls off the clock. This type of behavior, while it might seem characteristic of a hardworking and passionate individual, is overrated and will likely lead to burnout in the long run.
Don't let your employees fall into this habit. As a leader, you should work to ensure burnout doesn't wipe out your team. Here's how to recognize and prevent it.
Signs of burnout
There are many symptoms of impending burnout, but not all are easy to spot. Your job as an employer is to pay close attention to each employee, and their behavior and attitude in the workplace.
Here are a few specific signs, outlined by Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster:
Physical and emotional exhaustion
Detachment from work
If you notice any of these signs in your workers, you can then take precautions to prevent and/or treat the threat of burnout.
Prevention is the best way to avoid the issue altogether. Here are some ways to do so.
1. Manage your employees' workloads.
Salemi advised making sure every employee's workload is appropriate for them. No worker is the same; some might be more flexible and willing to take on more work, while others might be more precise and need extra time. Determine the best arrangement for each individual, and adjust accordingly if there are any issues, Salemi said.
2. Check in.
Open communication between an employer and their employees is crucial. If you don't check in with your team on a regular basis, they'll likely think you don't care, and you could miss out on any concerning patterns or potential issues.
"Communication will help spot things like work-life imbalances, misalignment of expectations, and if any processes or aid have not been clearly communicated," said Tabitha Scott, CEM, CDSM, CEO of Cole Scott Group. "It also creates a safe zone for employees to speak out when they feel mistreated, overworked or that procedures are unfair. Literally, the act of allowing someone to release their frustrations aloud can reduce stress and mitigate a more serious blowup."
Salemi advised simply making conversation with your workers, asking how they're doing and if they need help with anything.
"As you engage in conversation, watch their body language," she said. "Do they look exhausted or lethargic? Are they dragging?"
Don't be afraid to bring up any concerns you might have. For instance, if you think your employee hasn't been performing as well or seems quieter, let them know you're willing to make adjustments to ease their stress.
"Most people feel as if they're the only ones suffering, so acknowledging extra workloads, longer hours, additional preparations with the holidays approaching is the first step to getting people to share and release some of their frustration," Scott said. "Creating this safe zone to talk about frustration – before it becomes burnout – is critical."
3. Set a good example.
As always, you should lead by example. If you clock in on the weekends, send emails after hours or skip lunch often, your employees will feel pressured to do the same. While looking out for your workers, also look out for yourself.
"If you're concerned about your employees reaching burnout and want them to truly create boundaries, then this is an opportunity to lead by example and not reach the point of exhaustion either," said Salemi.
You might believe you're working extra hard to help your company perform better, but you're really setting yourself up for failure. Prioritizing your job over your health is not an efficient or sustainable habit.
If your employees do reach burnout, don't fret. It's bound to happen at some point in one's career, and with your help, they can recover.
"If burnout is reached, often the employee is mentally checked out and may be looking for a new job externally," said Salemi. "Employers can help burnt-out employees by not only saying changes will be made, but by making them."
Ask your employees what they want and don't want, and really follow through on any compromises you promise to make.
"Employees need to see employers are true to their word, but if nothing changes and nothing is being done to alleviate the situation, it can be very challenging for employers to get employees back in the game," Salemi said.
Above all, value your workers. At the end of the day, they are the most important part of your business.
The internet has changed the way consumers shop, presenting them with a seemingly endless variety of choices. No matter what type of business you run, there are always new companies offering a better – or at least cheaper – version of what you are already selling.
The good news for companies is that this might not matter: millennials, studies have found, are the most brand-loyal generation out there. More than 50 percent of them say they are very loyal or quite loyal to their favorite brands.
So how can your business cut through the clutter of options and gain the trust of these loyal customers?
According to Will Fraser, CEO of customer-loyalty platform SaaSquatch, you first need to understand what actually inspires consumer commitment in the age of the internet.
Focus on customer experience
"User experience can be a key factor of customer loyalty," said Fraser.
You can probably think of examples of this from your own experience as a consumer: when a company makes returns easy or their employees are always pleasant, you are more likely to choose them than the competition, regardless of other factors.
Creating a positive customer experience is within your control, and Fraser emphasizes that businesses need to be alert to all its aspects, from making your website easy to use to resolving concerns efficiently. Otherwise, even loyal customers may hear about problems and be put off.
"With the internet, consumers are always connected, have more data available than ever before and are quick to share good and bad experiences anywhere people will listen," explained Fraser. "This mean the cost of a bad customer experience is greater than ever before."
Offer the right rewards
When someone hears the words "customer loyalty program," rewards are probably the first thing they think of, says Fraser.
"The challenge today is providing rewards that also work with your modern business model," he added.
If you use a rewards program, choose one that inspires a long-term relationship with your customers. Customers who take advantage of a one-time or shotgun offers, for example, are unlikely to feel a strong sense of loyalty.
Likewise, flashy tactics like points programs or gamification are unlikely to interest most consumers.
"Points programs are great for your credit card ... however, this model just doesn't connect with the majority of modern products and services," Fraser said. "Badges and false gamification aren't fooling anyone these days. Don't try to make your website or app into a game, unless it is one."
Instead, focus on rewards that fit both your customers' purchasing habits and the type of business you are running. These rewards, unlike one-time offers, inspire customers to keep coming back for future purchases.
"This might be a credit if someone orders three [times], a discount when someone refers a friend or a gift card when you complete your customer profile," said Fraser. "The interesting thing is that rewards really do motivate people regardless of their spending habits and income."
"Corporate values can be a great reason for a consumer to stay loyal to your brand," said Fraser. "Toms [Shoes] is a great example of a company who has used their values to drive customer loyalty."
However, to connect with customers over your values, you also need to show these values reliably over the course of your brand's life. Especially in the age of social media, enforcing your values inconsistently at different levels of your supply chain or workforce can lead to backlash from disappointed consumers.
"This can make it hard to implement," said Fraser, "but also a potentially strong competitive differentiator if you truly believe in your values."
Know your numbers
Like any aspect of running a business, consumer loyalty is something that needs to be tested, measured and improved over time. According to Fraser, "data and testing is your path to profitable customer loyalty."
Customers will respond differently to certain initiatives. Some may be strongly influenced by a marketing campaign centered around your corporate values, and that may be enough for them to start using your products and stay loyal for the rest of their purchasing life. Others may be more persuaded by different rewards programs that encourage them to make repeat purchases. Others may simply love your products, regardless of other factors, and stay loyal no matter what as long as they can still get their favorite toothpaste or work with their favorite technician.
"Test different campaigns and programs across your users. Find out which users respond to which things," advised Fraser. "To succeed at customer loyalty you need to think about the entire customer lifecycle... from first acquisition all the way to customer reactivation."
Have you ever found yourself browsing a website’s content only to find that the buttons are barely clickable, the text is awfully small, and the page loading time takes eons? If so, that website had a poor user experience (UX) and frustrated visitors.
Your website’s UX is responsible for how visitors interact with your site. The better the experience, the more visitors you’ll retain and the likelier they’ll convert.
According to a Salesforce report, 83 percent of customers say a seamless UX across all devices is an important factor when browsing online. The last thing you want for your website is a poor UX. If it’s frustrating to navigate through, your bounce rate will skyrocket, Google will punish you in the SERPs, and you won’t be able to convert any visitors into paying customers. That’s the goal, after all.
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There are several benefits to hiring a UX designer:
You have more time to focus on other aspects of your business
They’re professionals who know what they’re doing so you don’t have to stress over it
A lower bounce rate
Everyone who visits your website will have a pleasant experience with no time lags and easy navigation
You have the imaginative ideas; they bring them to life
Happy visitors who enjoy being on your site are more likely to convert to paying customers
Here are three tips to find the best UX designer for your site.
1. Know what makes a great designer
Before you even consider sending out emails or making calls to find a potential designer to work with, consider that you’re looking for the right qualifications.
According to research cited by the British Computer Society, 75 percent of judgments on a website’s credibility are due to its overall aesthetics. While the look of your site is important, what’s also essential is that your designer acts as a customer service representative eager to solve their UX problems.
Make sure you’re asking the right questions. Does your designer know exactly what your site needs to improve customer satisfaction? Do they have an eye for what aspects need to be changed in order to boost ROI and drive traffic? Are they listening to the feedback from customers and actively using it to improve results?
A good designer will focus not only on the physical look of your website, but also its overall experience. They’ll take analytics, feedback and criticism and use that to create a UX that pleases visitors. They want people to visit your site and not only think it’s aesthetically pleasing, but easy to explore.
2. Ask for referrals
If you’ve never hired a UX designer before and don’t know any off the top of your head, asking around for suggestions is never a bad idea. A report by Jobvite found that 45 percent of businesses plan to increase their investment in employee referrals in future budgeting because of its ability to find quality, efficient workers.
Think about the sites you want your own to emulate and what makes them different from the rest. Is there a website in your niche whose design and functionality appeal to your tastes? What drew you to them? How can you take their best elements and mold them to fit your own brand?
Make a list of these websites and reach out to them inquiring about their UX. If they hired a designer, you now have access to their information and can create a consultation about the details such as price point, look and feel and goals.
Do your research beforehand and know specifically what it is you’re looking for. Different designers have different tastes and visions, and it’s important you work with someone who is on the same page as you.
3. Browse freelancing platforms
Though they’ve garnered a somewhat tarnished reputation, freelancing platforms aren’t the worse place to find a UX designer so long as you don’t lower your standards.
You’ll come across designers on these platforms willing to work for pennies and it’s for a reason. If you hire for cheap, a cheap UX is exactly what you’re going to get. Don’t think that just because you’re getting a good deal with a two-hour turnaround that you’ll end up with spectacular results. You get what you pay for, and designers deserve proper compensation for their work just like everyone else.
Search platforms like Dribbble or Behance to get you started. There are thousands of designers looking for new projects and you don’t have to break the bank by hiring them. Carve out your budget and use every penny to go towards the best designer you can afford.
The bottom line
Hiring a UX designer is all about knowing what you want for your website and making that vision a reality. Putting the work into the hands of someone who’s passionate about what they do ensures that the result will bring an increased ROI and happy visitors. It’s essential to know what you expect, what you’re looking to improve and to put faith in the designer’s ability to bring positive results.