Use Organizational Change to End Job Creep and Help Employees Recover from Burnout
1737 words8.8 min readPublished On: November 13th, 2023Categories: Uncategorized
Job creep, or workload inflation, has become a serious problem in many US organizations. It has a devastating impact on employee morale and productivity. When workers constantly take on new responsibilities outside their job description, they become overwhelmed and burnt out. This extra load leads to decreased performance, increased errors, and absenteeism. Moreover, workload inflation can significantly affect job retention, making it difficult for companies to hold onto their best people. It doesn’t have to be like this. 
This article explores the relationship between job creep and burnout. It explains how effective organizational change management can address these growing issues. There are also tips on how to recover from burnout and prevent it from recurring. But first, an overview of the typical employee burnout symptoms companies and leaders need to look out for.
Burnout and Job Creep: A Toxic Combination
Employee burnout in the US is a pervasive occupational phenomenon stemming from chronic workplace stress. Its symptoms include emotional exhaustion, disrupted sleep, and various physical ailments. Typical contributing factors include impossible deadlines, lack of control, and inadequate leadership support. As burnout escalates in US companies, the growing prevalence of workload inflation exacerbates it further.
EWF Leadership Development Workshops to Combat Burnout
Burnout often leads to poor decision-making, increased turnover, and decreased productivity. EWF’s transformative leadership development workshops offer effective solutions for burnt-out teams and leaders. You will learn valuable strategies to manage and recover from fatigue and enhance organizational change management to support employee well-being.
Job creep demands attention from organizations, leaders, and employees. Many companies have taken this gradual expansion of worker responsibilities for granted. However, understanding how unfair demands affect people is crucial for workplace survival. It’s also important to note that job creep’s effect is not just felt by employees; it hurts organizations, too. The next sections discuss the extended impact of unreasonable workloads and how companies can use change management strategies to mitigate these negative influences.
Job Creep’s Extended Impact
An unfair workload affects employees, employers, and organizations navigating the ever-changing workplace. It harms well-being, job satisfaction, and organizational effectiveness, benefiting no one. Unfortunately, responsibility increase is worsening as workplaces evolve and job dynamics change.
The job creep phenomenon applies across most industries and sectors. It happens for various reasons, most of which stem from changes and challenges within the workplace. For example, when roles evolve, workloads increase, or organizations change.
This table highlights common factors contributing to workload inflation and the reasons why.
Restructuring, downsizing, or team dynamics change, leading to job gaps. The remaining workers take up the additional tasks left by departing colleagues.
Organizations strive to increase productivity while utilizing fewer resources. Employees perform tasks outside their roles to meet demands, leading to diminished personal accomplishment.
Lack of Clear Roles
Unclear job descriptions or role boundaries lead to extra duties.
Technology and Automation
New technologies require adaptation and potentially new tasks.
Limited budgets or staff lead to task redistribution.
Ad Hoc Requests
Urgent requests or “favor” tasks become regular duties.
Employees are asked to utilize valuable skills in other areas.
Flexible Work Arrangements
Remote work can muddy boundaries between work and personal life, as employees complete tasks when it’s most convenient and during non-traditional times.
Pressure to Perform
Overly ambitious goals set by management drive workers to take on additional tasks, affecting mental health in the workplace.
Employees willingly take on extra tasks to further career growth, acquire new skills, or demonstrate dedication.
Understanding why job creep has such adverse effects across the board is crucial to counter the misconception that it’s an acceptable part of day-to-day work.
This table underlines seven practical preventative measures for addressing task overload.
Clear Role Definitions
Ensure employees clearly understand their roles.
Consistently review workloads to prevent overload.
Set clear priorities to prevent non-essential tasks.
Distribute tasks more evenly to prevent overburdening.
Encourage open discussions on tasks outside of roles.
Establish feedback loops for timely course correction.
Promote work-life balance to prevent task encroachment.
The relevance of each measure will depend on your organization’s unique situation and needs. But a tailored combination of these can significantly contribute to preventing job creep, thus helping to maintain a healthy work environment for all.
However, the list above is not exhaustive. Other preventative measures you may want to explore could be resource allocation, role flexibility, transparency, and task automation. Remember, prioritizing employee well-being and engagement leads to a better work environment, which is the opposite of responsibility overreach.
What Leaders Can Do to Minimize Job Creep
Leader Thinking About What Proactive Steps to Take to Minimize Job Creep
If workload inflation is an issue within your organization, minimizing it should be a priority. From there, you can work on strategies for organizational change management to eliminate it as much as possible. But first, look at how best to lessen the problem. Your objective is to ensure that “temporary tasks” do not become permanent burdens on workers.
Here are some effective ways to address that.
Review current roles: It is important to clearly define job responsibilities and communicate them effectively to your team. This simple step helps prevent tasks from being added to workloads beyond their role’s scope.
Task Evaluation: Regularly assess tasks you originally intended to be temporary. Determine which are ongoing necessities and those you can stop and allocate elsewhere.
Task Prioritization: Prioritize tasks according to their strategic significance and relevance to the core responsibilities of employees. Ensure that temporary assignments do not take precedence over crucial functions.
Temporary-to-Permanent Review: Regularly evaluate tasks that transitioned from temporary to permanent status. Determine whether these jobs should continue in their current role or if they can be simplified and made more efficient.
Backfilling Positions: When an employee’s temporary tasks become ongoing, consider backfilling the position to distribute the workload effectively.
Position Restructuring: If tasks initially assigned as temporary have become a permanent requirement, it may be better to restructure job positions to make room for them.
Skill Match: Ensure that backfilled positions or role restructuring align with employees’ skill sets. This will prevent skill mismatch. Competency gaps only lead to lost time and productivity, frustration, and job dissatisfaction. 
Task Redistribution: As tasks return to their initial roles, allocate them appropriately to avoid further burdening other individuals.
Monitoring and Feedback: Regularly monitor role changes and gather employee feedback. This simple strategy helps identify festering job creep early on and rectify it promptly.
Training and Upskilling: Equip employees with the skills to manage tasks that transitioned into their roles. This empowers them to handle evolving responsibilities much better.
By taking proactive steps, leaders can prevent temporary tasks from turning into permanent ones, thus maintaining a balanced workload for their teams.
Organizational Change to Recover from Burnout
Illustration Highlighting Mission to Vision Goal for Organizational Change
Employee buy-in is pivotal when utilizing successful organizational change to manage job creep. You can identify jobs outside an employee’s job description by carefully reviewing current tasks versus job descriptions. It’s then a case of making the necessary adjustments. Effective change strategies ensure employees have manageable workloads with realistic expectations. Conversely, poorly executed change initiatives may result in change resistance and increased burnout among workers, thus derailing the intended outcome. 
In addition to reviewing current tasks, spend time determining what is considered a “full plate” of responsibilities for each worker. Also, think about reorganizing the roles and duties of employees to match team members with the tasks they’re best at. The result of this will be a more efficient and productive workforce overall.
Mastering Change: Leadership Workshop for Uncertainty
Are you ready to strengthen your leadership prowess amid organizational change and uncertainty? EWF equips you with modern strategies to lead teams through transitions successfully. Our dynamic workshop helps elevate your coping skills to exciting new levels.
New Company Strategies for Streamlined Workload and Effective Task Management
Consider creating new positions, reforming certain procedures, and integrating tech/AI solutions. Changes like these will help workers perform duties faster and tie them closer to their roles. The upshot of this is a reduced workload and more manageable jobs.
Provide an open forum for constructive feedback and listen to your workers. A Sideways 6 study found that over 80% of employees have ideas to share, yet a third of workers feel ignored. The study included employees at every level and businesses of all sizes. 
Fix a recurring time for reassessing task distribution to ensure job creep doesn’t return. Having contingency plans helps you manage overflow tasks more fairly and sustainably. The idea is to ensure that no employee takes on more work than they can handle.
By making these changes, your company can help employees recover from burnout and create a healthier, more productive environment for everyone.
Managing job creep is essential for employee well-being and productivity. Implementing organizational change management strategies can help. Your role definitions, workload assessments, open communication, and backfilling positions may need reviewing. Integrate tasks with care to prevent temporary jobs from becoming permanent burdens. These steps and others promote a healthier and more sustainable work environment for all.