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Burnout is not your staff’s fault, it’s your company’s fault

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Employee dissatisfaction is on the rise, resulting in burn-out from a variety of factors. These could be amenities, company focus, or management.

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burn-out employee

Have you ever worked at a company only to eventually get completely burned-out? Well, you’re not alone. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has seen so much “burn-out” that they decided the term is actually one that is health-related; more specifically, a disease.

The WHO released this information in conjunction with the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), but a day after the ICD came out, WHO corrected itself, saying it’s actually not a disease, but an occupational phenomenon.

This topic does bring up a good point though – who’s to blame when burn-out occurs – the company or the employee?

There are plenty of people out there who have started a job, one that was exciting and oriented with their goals, only to be completely fed up with the job 6 months later. For some, it may take longer, and for others, it may take less time, but regardless, if you’re truly burned-out, the problem may not be your fault. Actually, it’s quite the opposite.

When Stanford researchers looked into how stress in the workplace can raise health costs and even mortality in the US, they found it led to more spending (almost $190 Billion) and nearly 120,000 deaths each year. Worldwide, over 600 million people suffer from depression and anxiety, which can be a direct result of an inhospitable work environment or a job that’s simply dissatisfying or mundane. Of course there are other reasons for anxiety and depression, but feeling undervalued or unsupported on a job can have a huge impact.

Now here’s where it gets interesting. When the WHO made the mistake of calling the term “Burned-Out” a medical disease (which we now know is not the fact) it got a lot of the community thinking, including myself and Jennifer Moss of the Harvard Business Review. I asked myself who is really to blame for the high burn-out rates we’re seeing? Is anyone to blame?

Having been a victim of this “disease” (Just kidding! Remember, it’s not a disease guys), I know first-hand how hard it can be when the feelings of wanting to give up come a’knockin’. I’ve worked at multiple startups, each of them with their own initial allure and charm. Sometimes, that’s all there is and you don’t realize it until you aren’t happy in your role, which is exactly what happened to me.

You see, my first startup right out of college was super fun. Not only did they care for my needs as a person, but they also nurtured my abilities and eagerness to grow. They were your typical startup with Ping-Pong tables, holiday parties, monthly contests, and so much more. Sounds like a standard startup, right? Maybe, maybe not.

When it finally came time to leave the company for another role, (something they absolutely supported as it pertained to my growth), I quickly realized that not all companies are created equal. The next job I took turned out to actually be a 10-month series of ups and downs. Not only was the job totally different from my last one, but the company itself was highly disheveled and aimless.

Not only was it out of sorts, but the company had zero warm and fuzzy extras I had been so accustomed to. To start, there was absolutely no company culture – something I thrive on. There were no amenities like a fancy pool table or swings, which was totally fine, but alongside this and many other factors, I quickly learned how ill prepared the owner was to make the office a nice place their employees were excited to work.

The management was awful, and the owner was even worse, turning down ideas only to, weeks later, proclaim them as his own. The environment was hostile and there was no time to get to know my co-workers. But in the end, the nail in the coffin was that there was no direction at all – from the owner, management, or co-workers.

When I finally realized that I was burned-out and that my needs weren’t being met, I took an introspective look at myself and asked, “what’s wrong with me?” and after thinking long and hard, I had a moment of clarity. This wasn’t 100% my fault. In fact, it was the fault of the company I worked for.

Now, it may sound like I’m complaining (and to a degree, I am), but my point really is that if you’ve burned-out on a job, and your needs aren’t being met, you’re definitely not alone.

To further illustrate my point, I’d like to bring up Fredrick Herzberg’s dual-factor, motivation-hygiene theory. This theory primarily focuses on motivation and hygiene-related needs in the workplace and how they relate to job satisfaction. Herzberg found that satisfaction and dissatisfaction are in no way tied together and, in fact, are completely independent of one another. This means that it’s entirely possible to be satisfied and dissatisfied in the same job, at the same time – something leadership and management are not always prepared to understand or address.

Moss explains the difference between hygiene and motivational needs. She describes hygiene-related needs as things like “salary; work conditions; company policy and administration; supervision; working relationships; status and security.” On the other hand, she defines motivational factors as pertaining to “challenging work; recognition for one’s achievements; responsibility; the opportunity to do something meaningful; involvement in decision making; and a sense of importance to the organization.”

She explains that much of the time, employees don’t even recognize when the organization they work for has good hygiene, like Apple who has an excellent company culture and freebies for days (I know this from my own personal experience working there). However, when a company has bad hygiene, like what I described earlier, employees typically notice pretty immediately. Frivolous as it may seem, as humans, we’re creatures of comfort. If we’ve been comfortable for a certain period of time, and something related to that comfort is suddenly taken away, that can have a major affect on the employees’ happiness and willingness to push forward. Likewise, feeling unappreciated and underutilized can have the same effect.

As a matter of fact, burn-out can be directly correlated to situations when pre-supposed features in our daily work lives are removed or are missing. For instance, my first startup supplied coffee to all of its employees. If that was suddenly taken away or it didn’t exist at all, there would have been a lot of noise – especially form our coffee-guzzling sales team. The company knew how important this was and took every effort to make sure they gave us coffee.

From there, they raised the bar even further, asking the team what kind of coffee they wanted. This is exactly what it takes to keep employees happy and to prevent them from reaching “burn-out”. Again, it may all seem totally innocuous and low-priority, but from a leadership perspective, they knew perks like this were exactly why their employees liked their job.

Now, you’re probably wondering what it is business owners can do to learn more about burn-out and how they can combat it. The answer: employers should prepare and align themselves with employee needs. There are a variety of ways to figure out what it is your employees want, including surveying them.

Christina Maslach, social psychologist and professor emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, has been studying burn-out for 25 years and is now seen as the foremost authority on the topic. She offers surveys for employees and employers-alike, such as the Maslach Burnout Inventory and Professional Quality of Life Scale.

Aside from that, look at your employees as actual people. Ask yourself what reasonable steps you should take to make your employees happy in their job as well as whether or not you’d be happy in their shoes. If the answer to the second question is “no”, you probably have some serious research and thinking to do.

If you’re an employee, you’re not off the hook yet. You have some homework, too.

What do you need to be happy in the workplace? I challenge you to make a list of your must-haves and to seriously consider whether you’re settling for less.

Rachael Olan is a Texas-based Staff Writer at The American Genius and jack-of-many-trades. She's well known for her abilities in Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service, with a focus on SaaS and eCommerce businesses. Outside of writing, Rachael spends much of her time with her swarm of pets, including a 70 lb tortoise named Frankie.

Business Marketing

Coworkers are not your ‘family’ [unpopular opinion]

(MARKETING) “I just want you to think of us as family,” they say. If this were true, I could fire my uncle for always bringing up “that” topic on Thanksgiving…

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family coworkers

The well-known season 10 opener of “Undercover Boss” featured Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar. Brandon Landry, owner, went to the Lafayette location where he worked undercover with Jessica Comeaux, an assistant manager. Comeaux came across as a dedicated employee of the company, and she was given a well-deserved reward for her work. But I rolled my eyes as the show described the team as a “family.” I take offense at combining business and family, unless you’re really family. Why shouldn’t this work dynamic be used?

Employers don’t have loyalty to employees.

One of the biggest reasons work isn’t family is that loyalty doesn’t go both ways. Employers who act as though employees are family wouldn’t hesitate to fire someone if it came down to it. In most families, you support each other during tough times, but that wouldn’t be the case in a business. If you’ve ever thought that you can’t ask for a raise or vacation, you’ve probably bought into the theory that “work is a family.” No, work is a contract.

Would the roles be okay if the genders were reversed?

At Walks-Ons, Comeaux is referred to as “Mama Jess,” by “some of the girls.” I have to wonder how that would come across if Comeaux were a man being called “Daddy Jess” by younger team members? See any problem with that? What happens when the boss is a 30-year-old and the employee is senior? Using family terminology to describe work relationships is just wrong.

Families’ roles are complex.

You’ll spend over 2,000 hours with your co-workers every year. It’s human nature to want to belong. But when you think of your job like a family, you may bring dysfunction into the workplace.

What if you never had a mom, or if your dad was abusive? Professional relationships don’t need the added complexity of “family” norms. Seeing your boss as “mom” or “dad” completely skews the roles of boss/employee. When your mom asks you to do more, it’s hard to say no. If your “work mom or dad” wants you to stay late, it’s going to be hard to set boundaries when you buy into the bogus theory that work is family. Stop thinking of work this way.

Check your business culture to make sure that your team has healthy boundaries and teamwork. Having a great work culture doesn’t have to mean you think of your team as family. It means that you appreciate your team, let them have good work-life balance and understand professionalism.

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Business Marketing

These tools customize your Zoom calls with your company’s branding

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Zoom appears to be here to stay. Here are the tools you need to add or update your Zoom background to a more professional – or even branded – background.

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Zoom call on computer, but there's more options to customize.

If you haven’t had to deal with Zoom in 2021, you may be an essential worker or retired altogether. For the rest of us, Zoom became the go-to online chat platform around mid-March. For several reasons, and despite several security concerns, Zoom quickly pushed past all online video chat competitors in the early COVID-19 lockdown days.

Whether for boozy virtual happy hours, online classes for school or enrichment, business meetings, trivia nights, book clubs, or professional conferences, odds are if you are working or in school, you have been on a Zoom call recently. Many of us have been on weekly, if not daily, Zoom calls.

If you are the techy type, you’ve likely set up a cool Zoom background of a local landmark or a popular spot, a library, or a tropical beach. Comic-con types and movie buffs created appropriate backgrounds to flex their awesome nerdiness and technical smarts.

Many people have held off creating such an individualized background for our virtual meetings for one of any number of reasons. Perhaps it never occurred to them, or maybe they aren’t super comfortable with all things techy. Many people have been holding out hope of returning to their offices, thus seeing no need to rock the boat. I’m here to tell you, though, it’s time. While I, too, hope that we get the pandemic under control, I am realistic enough to see that working or studying from home will continue to be a reality for many people for some time.

Two cool, free tools we’ve found that can help you make your personal Zoom screen look super professional and even branded for business or personal affairs are Canva and HiHello. While each platform has a paid component, creating a Zoom background screen for either application is fairly simple and free.

Here’s how:

Canva is the online design website that made would-be graphic designers out of so many people, especially social media types. It’s fairly user-friendly with lots of tutorials and templates, and the extremely useful capabilities of uploading your own logo and saving your brand colors.

Using Canva, first create your free account with your email. It functions better if you create an account, although you can play around with some of the tools without signing up. The fastest way from Point A to Point B here is to use the search box and search for “Zoom backgrounds.” You now can choose any one of their Zoom background templates, from galaxy to rainbows and unicorn to library books or conference rooms. Choose an inspirational quote if you’d like (but really, please don’t). Download the .jpg or .png, save it, and you can upload it to Zoom.

To create a branded Zoom background in Canva, it will take slightly more work. It was a pain in the butt for me, because I had this vision of a backdrop with my logo repeated, like you see as a backdrop at, you know, SXSW or the Grammys or something. Reach for the stars, right?

OK, the issue with this was that I had to individually add, resize, and place each of the 9 logos I ended up with. I figured out the best way to size them uniformly (I resized one and copied/pasted, instead of adding the original size each time (maybe you’re thinking “Duh,” but it took me a few failed experiments to figure out that was the fastest way to do it).

Once you have your 9 loaded in the middle of the page, start moving them around to place them. I chose 9, because the guiding lines in Canva allow me to ensure I have placed them correctly, in the top left corner, middle left against the margin that pops up, and bottom left. Same scenario for the center row.

Magical guide lines pop up when you have the logo centered perfectly, so I did top, middle, and bottom like that, and repeated for the right hand margin. Then I flipped them, because they were showing up in my view on Zoom as backward. That may mean they are now backward to people on my call; I will need to test that out! Basically, Canva is easy to use, but perhaps my design aspirations made it tricky to figure out.

Good luck and God bless if you choose more than 9 logos to organize. Oh, and if you are REALLY smart, you will add one logo to a solid color or an austere, professionally appropriate photo background and call it a day, for the love of Mary. That would look cool and be easy.

HiHello is an app you can download to scan and keep business cards and create your own, free, handy dandy digital business card. It comes in the form of a scannable QR code you can share with anyone. Plus, you can make a Zoom background with it, which is super cool! It takes about five minutes to set up, truly! It works great!

The Zoom background has your name, the company name, and your position on one side and the QR code on the other. The QR code pulls up a photo, your name, title, phone number, and email address. It’s so nifty! And the process was super easy and intuitive. Now, If I took my logo page from Canva and made that the background for my HiHello virtual Zoom screen, I would be branded out the wazoo.

Remember there are technical requirements if you want to use HiHello on a Mac. For example, if you have a mac with a dual core processor, it requires a QUAD. However, on a PC, it was really simple.

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Business Marketing

Finally: A smart card that manages employee spending with ease

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Clever credit cards make it easier for companies to set spending policies and help alleviate expense problems for both them and their employees.

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Spendesk showing off its company credit cards.

Company credit cards are a wonderful solution to managing business expenses. They work almost exactly like debit cards, which we all know how to use, am I right? It is the twenty-first century after all. Simply swipe, dip, or tap, and a transaction is complete.

However, keeping up with invoices and receipts is a nightmare. I know I’ve had my fair share of hunting down wrinkled pieces of paper after organizing work events. Filling out endless expense reports is tedious. Plus, the back and forth communication with the finance team to justify purchases can cause a headache on both ends.

Company credit cards make it easier for companies to keep track of who’s spending money and how much. However, they aren’t able to see final numbers until expense reports are submitted. This makes monitoring spending a challenge. Also, reviewing all the paperwork to reimburse employees is time-consuming.

But Spendesk is here to combat those downsides! This all-in-one corporate expense and spend management service provides a promising alternative to internal management. The French startup “combines spend approvals, company cards, and automated accounting into one refreshingly easy spend management solution.”

Their clever company cards are what companies and employees have all been waiting for! With increasing remote workforces, this new form of payment comes at just the right moment to help companies simplify their expenditures.

These smart cards remove limitations regular company cards have today. Spendesk’s employee debit cards offer companies options to monitor budgets, customize settings, and set specific authorizations. For instance, companies can set predefined budgets and spending category limitations on flights, hotels, restaurants, etc. Then they don’t have to worry about an employee taking advantage of their card by booking a first-class flight or eating at a high-end steakhouse.

All transactions are tracked in real time so finance and accounting can see purchases right as they happen. Increasing visibility is important, especially when your employee is working remotely.

And for employees, this new form of payment is more convenient and easier on the pocket. “These are smart employee company cards with built-in spending policies. Employees can pay for business expenses when they need to without ever having to spend their own money,” the company demonstrated in a company video.

Not having to dip into your checking account is a plus in my book! And for remote employees who just need to make a single purchase, Spendesk has single-use virtual debit cards, too.

Now, that’s a smart card!

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