For our second example of burnout prevention we selected a well-known multinational company, Microsoft Corporation, as we wanted to highlight some of the innovative approaches that can be adopted to prevent burnout, by agencies with considerable financial resources, which could provide some models for non-profits as well.
Microsoft Corporation has been accused of causing employee burnout since the 1980s. A 1989 article, entitled Inside Microsoft-A ‘Velvet Sweatshop or a High-Tech Heaven?, discusses the rise of burnout due to the need to assimilate an epidemic of data and information. This led employees at Microsoft to work evenings and weekends, which became an implicit requirement, with very few people taking compensatory time off, because there was always too much to do.
Microsoft has strived to address these concerns, by developing strategies to reduce stress on the employees. One of them has been employee development, especially at the senior level, by ensuring senior leadership commitment to developing people and managers continuing engagement in the process.
At the same time, Microsoft offers a Sabbatical Policy, stating that if you are a dedicated employee at the company, having put in work equivalent to 10 years, you are allowed to a paid eight weeks sabbatical from work. It also provides a two week off to new fathers to spend time with their children, adoption and surrogacy assistance, maternity and childcare subsidy, which makes them a family-friendly company. There is a lot of flexibility in the work hours, allowing people to come in the office when they feel most productive.
Microsoft provides a great network of support systems, which can be crucial in preventing burnout. One example are mentoring programs, which can allowing their staff to learn other professional’s experiences without and outside one’s own area of expertise and create a network to promote personal and career development. Another would be employee resource groups, networks and social groups, enabling people that have similar interests or backgrounds to connect with each other, making the Microsoft experience rich and fulfilling.
In order to increase networking and open collaboration, which is part of the social support effort, Microsoft has created the concept of Hotdesking, through which it has created more casual seating work spaces, informal work meeting areas with semi-closed conference rooms and work booths.
There are many other perks that make employees feel valued by the company they are working for. For instance, volunteer and gift matching ensures that Microsoft will match up to $15,000 each year to the employees’ non-profit of choice or give $25 per hour to any agency that the staff volunteer their time for. Another great benefit is accessing substantial product discounts at the company’s stores as well as at national and nationwide, such as restaurants, car repairs, as well as artistic and sporting events.
Finally, the company focuses on the physical well-being of its employees, as a way to prevent burnout. It offers paid membership to full-service gives or borrowing sports equipment, including footballs, volleyballs and even bicycles to be enjoyed both on campus and outside of it. It also provides its employees 3-star green corporate dining options.
Despite its multifaceted efforts to set in place a system and initiatives that could prevent burnout, many employees are still struggling to cope with the intense work hours and demands of the company.