To Ward Off Worker Burnout, Facebook Allows Workers to Try New Gigs

Though there are fewer technology start-ups these days compared to the heyday of the dot-com bubble of the 1990s, there's no shortage of ambitious workers eager to get ahead and perhaps strike it rich.

Logging seemingly endless hours, however, can take a toll on motivation and employees' attitudes. That's led to a rising number of employees feeling burned out, and left companies to find novel ways to reduce the number of workers heading for the exits.

Among them is Facebook, the Internet juggernaut that has grown by leaps and bounds during the last few years as hundreds of millions of people have jumped on the social-media bandwagon.

Faced with an exodus of workers, the seven-year-old company recently began a program that allows the company's engineers to sign up for a new project on a different team for a month-long stint.

At month's end, employees can either stay on the new team or go back to their old gigs. The initiative, known internally as Hackamonth, is akin to Google Inc.'s "20-percent time" program that allows engineers to spend up to one-fifth of their time working a company-related project of their choosing.

"I think it's a great retention tool, and I think more companies should consider doing it," says Brian Kurth, career strategist and founder of Vocation Vacations, which gives workers a chance to try out one of 125 new careers through its offerings.

Worker burnout is an important issue that got lost during the recent recession as many people focused simply on staying employed -- if they were fortunate enough to have a job,

Many workers have been too afraid to say something about for fear of being laid off. Kurth says. "So many companies know and realize that many employees are hanging on tight" -- even if they aren't happy in their jobs.

As the labor market has slowly gained steam, and talented workers become more prized, a greater number companies have looked for new ways to retain the best employees.

Some, such as computing-giant Intel, have turned to Kurth to develop in-house programs that allow employees to try out other jobs within the company for a week or two at a time -- about the length of time most Vocation Vacation programs last.

In doing so, employers essentially are saying to their employees, "'Hey, look, if you're not in your dream job today within the company, we might have something for you somewhere else,'" Kurth says, adding that companies would prefer that workers explore opportunities in-house, rather than externally.

Next:My Unemployed Life: Choosing Happiness Despite Being Laid Off Twice

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