The drive to succeed can drive some right over the edge

Employees are working harder than ever, motivated by any number of factors — ambition, anxiety, necessity, passion. They’re increasingly pushing themselves to the brink of burnout as they strive to excel, or in some cases, just keep up.

Americans work an average of 8.8 hours every day, including the weekends, according to 2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s 1.1 more hours than they sleep and 1.3 hours more than all the other common daily activities the Bureau says they engage in (leisure and sports, eating and drinking, caring for others, etc.).

Someone familiar with job-related stress is Leanne Graham, executive director of Victim Assistance Program. The organization helps those who have been through a traumatic event. It’s a high-stress job, requiring staffers to be at the scene where domestic violence, homicide or suicide occurred to counsel those who survived the ordeal.

Often, employees experience vicarious trauma, or the adoption of another’s emotional distress, and bring it back to the office where, if not properly dealt with, it can mix with other workplace issues, build up and cause burnout. Graham has taken steps to allay that stress on her workforce, which are outlined in this month’s Building Stronger Communities feature.

There’s no doubt a company’s employees are its greatest asset. Michael Jarrett, founder and president of Jarrett Logistics Systems, in his column calls his employees, “the beating heart of our business.” His emphasis this month is on the value of employees over technology — though optimally, the two work best together. Specifically, he says, “Technology doesn’t replace good people. You must first have great people and then provide them with good tools. And with those tools, employees will provide even better service to your customers.”

A solid workforce is critical to business growth, says Anthony Margida, CEO of the Akron Global Business Accelerator, in his column this month. He says as companies grow, having the right people in place to support that growth is critical, so much so that, “Stalling out in the middle of the effort because of inadequate funding or personnel can be more detrimental than not taking the step at all.” He calls for business leaders to engage their employees in the growth process, getting them on-board so they help achieve the mission.

When properly engaged, employees can be the impetus for a resurgence of a business. Seaman Corp. has invested $5 million in an innovation and business development department “to create a new atmosphere so that we can attract young talent into our organization, that we’re building great bench strength for today but also for the future,” says newly appointed President and COO John Crum, who I interviewed to for this month’s cover story about launching an innovation and business development department.

Employees are the backbone of an organization, their personal sacrifices are the reason businesses grow and prosper. But they don’t always get the recognition they deserve. Let employees share in your company’s success, and they’ll do wonders for you.