Examine potential mismatches

In her book published last year, Maslach identified six core areas where she’s written there can be a “bad fit between the job and basic human needs:” workload, control, reward, community, fairness and values.

When the problem is workload, employees often don’t have enough resources to adequately do their jobs, while control relates to an employee’s autonomy at work. A mismatch with reward can stem from compensation while community issues are often defined by the classic elements of a toxic workplace. Challenges with fairness arise when there are perceived inequalities, and values can be eroded by unethical behavior or legal challenges at work.

When burnout crops up, Maslach recommends that company leaders look at these potential root causes as the place to make changes.

Get and give feedback

Soliciting employees for feedback on the company’s performance happens frequently enough — but where companies often fall short is in following up on that effort.

“Companies might do annual surveys, but it’s rare that an organization tells people afterward what they learned from it and how it’s influencing anything they’re doing,” Maslach said. “After a while employees refuse to participate or they put in garbage answers because they feel no one is listening.”

Instead, Maslach said companies should focus on having collaborative communication back and forth with employees. This process is also crucial whenever the company is working on addressing burnout to make sure it’s targeting root causes to have the most impact.

Make change routine

It’s not uncommon for people to slip into routines that are easy and familiar at work. But shaking up the status quo can be a good opportunity to discover new ways of making work feel more like a breeze than a burden.

And although it’s probably not an intuitive idea for many leaders, reducing workloads can help employees work smarter.

“It’s not easy for companies to remove work from people’s plates once it’s on there, but that can be a way to redesign workloads so that it’s not causing as much stress,” Maslach said. “It’s like when you’re flying and you listen to the safety message and they say the emergency exit might be behind you. That’s what you need to think about sometimes to do work differently.”

Another good approach to “breaking set,” as Maslach calls it, is tweaking and improving the small tasks everyone does on a daily basis.

“When you tackle a little, doable problem and come up with something better, and people are on the same page about it, it builds a sense of optimism and hope,” she said. “Because, if we can fix this, what else can we fix?”