Why do people burn out in their jobs?

Stress. But what makes people stressed?

I don’t know any articles describing why we get stressed. I only find articles about how stressed we are. Up to 80% of the workforce in the US is stressed [1]


Why are we stressed?

For me, one of the greatest sources of stress has always been the unknown. If there is a thing I am unsure or uncertain about and I cannot get immediate information about, I will stress about it.

Another source of stress is when I don’t get the stuff done today I believe I should have done, no matter how much or little work it is.


Transparency is a stress killer

When I started my business I wanted to make the best working environment in Denmark, and since I know that many other companies want to do this too, I had to work extra hard on this part of the business.

A key belief I have is that to make a great work environment you need to be very transparent with your employees. They need to know everything about the business, the sales pipeline, and why you, as a leader, are making the decisions that you are making.

A positive side effect of this transparency is that the employees is less stressed, since they know where the company is going and at what speed, and they get information about icebergs as quickly as possible.


Still stressed out

Even with an extreme level of transparency my employees were stressed out about work. Not always, but from time to time they got stressed, without me or them understanding exactly why.

This kept on happening until we started having a weekly meeting where we set up the 5-10 goals for the week, and talked about the 5-10 goals from last week.

When my employees started knowing that reaching these 5-10 goals would mean they had done enough that week, they stopped being stressed about their work and starting getting even more done.

After a while I understood why this was happening!


Piles of work

Imagine that you were leaving work on a Monday and everything was done. All tasks done, every email answered, no open support tickets, and no bugs to fix in the code.

Sounds nice, but then you realize that if this is true you have no job tomorrow because there is nothing to do!

Most people get stressed from the piles of work ahead of them, all the items on the to-do list they did not get done, and all the work ahead they need to do.

By talking about what I expect every week and aligning the makers’ goals with my goals for the company, my makers stop being stressed about the piles of work and concentrate on getting the stuff we have agreed upon done.

You can also try talking with your team leader every Monday morning, tell him or her what you will get done this week and ask if that is good enough. If it is, then ask him for feedback about what you got done last week.

Those two small talks will help a lot with the stress you feel from the piles of work.