Employee burnout is a serious issue that can negatively impact your business and other employees. We describe why employee burnout occurs and how you can cure it and prevent it from happening in the future!

Table of contents
  1. What Is Employee Burnout?
  2. The Symptoms of Employee Burnout
  3. Employee Burnout: Risk Factors
  4. The Main Causes of Employee Burnout
  5. The Effects of Employee Burnout
  6. How to Support Employees Suffering from Burnout
  7. How to Prevent Employee Burnout
  8. How Digital Employee Solutions Can Help You Prevent Employee Burnout
  9. The Bottom Line on Employee Burnout

Employee burnout forces countless numbers of employees to leave their job every year. Use this guide to spot signs of employee burnout, support your employees suffering from it, and prevent it from happening in the future.

Whatever field you’re in, there’s a good chance you had an employee who struggled to stay afloat. No matter how well-oiled your machine is, employee burnout can occur at any time. The key is spotting the signs before it’s too late.

Maybe an employee didn’t take time off work for six months, or they were struggling to meet deadlines. Or perhaps they weren’t as friendly around the water cooler as they used to be. The truth is that you can find burnout symptoms in every corner of the workplace.

If an employee suffers, so will your business, plain and simple. But with the right tips and tools, you can help an employee through the storm. Then, you can also prevent burnout from rearing its ugly head in the future. Let’s break it down for you, step by step.

What Is Employee Burnout?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), employee burnout results from a prolonged period of cynicism, exhaustion, and ineffectiveness in the workplace. This culmination of stress can bring emotional, psychological, and even physical effects.

The WHO also describes employee burnout as “a syndrome [conceptualized] as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” A survey revealed that 67% of Americans feel burned out at work often or almost always.  

A general misconception in the workplace is that burnout is only an employee problem. Businesses once regarded it as part of the job that employees needed to overcome.

Today though, most agree that the workplace creates employee burnout, not the employees. The company is responsible for addressing burnout, helping employees recover from it, and preventing it.

The Symptoms of Employee Burnout

If you see any of the following behavior in your workplace, it could mean your employees are demonstrating apparent symptoms of employee burnout:

  • Cynical or over-critical behavior
  • Arriving late to work or taking too long to get up and running
  • Leaving work early for no particular reason
  • Growing irritable or impatient with co-workers and/or clients
  • Having long spells of low productivity
  • Struggling to concentrate
  • Lacking enthusiasm after achieving something 
  • Being caught in possession of drugs or alcohol
  • Showing signs of drowsiness, sleepiness, or falling asleep on the job.
Employee burnout infographic

Employees experiencing burnout can also have physical health problems. These include headaches, stomach aches, and bowel issues. In these cases, it’s worth consulting a doctor to get to the root of the problem. Other health conditions, such as depression, could cause such issues.

Employee Burnout: Risk Factors

Many factors could play a part in employee burnout. Such as:

  • Your employees work in a helping profession (healthcare, for example)
  • Employees work long hours
  • Employees have heavy workloads
  • Employees feel like they don’t have full control over their work
  • Employees find it difficult to balance their personal and professional lives.

But what actually makes employees burn out in the first place?

The Main Causes of Employee Burnout

Sure, there are symptoms of burnout that you can spot. But there are also some obvious reasons why people become so stressed in the workplace to the point of quitting. We’ve highlighted the five main causes of employee burnout.

Heavy Workload

Giving employees too much work is a prime cause of burnout. A heavy workload can be overwhelming for any employee. While you want your employees to be productive, having too many tasks at once piles pressure on even the best employees. 

Just because an employee has proven they can get a lot of work done quickly doesn’t mean you should continue to raise the workload.

Unfair Treatment

Make no mistake about it – it’s OK to differentiate employees based on seniority and ability. But this can quickly transform into favoritism and bias if not handled properly. 

Employees who feel they are being treated unfairly can start to dip in performance. You may also see these employees become more absent and look elsewhere for new job opportunities. 

Treating employees fairly maintains a level of trust. If that trust is broken, the employee is more likely to burn out. 

Give employees a platform where they can raise concerns about fair treatment through anonymous surveys, polls, or a suggestion box.

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Unclear Roles

Your employees will struggle to stay afloat if their role is unclear. If your employee finds their job description confusing, then how are they supposed to perform at their best? Other qualities, such as productivity and employee morale, will also suffer as a result. 

It’s OK to “move the goalposts” from time to time. But if you’re constantly changing targets, employees will get exhausted

If you’re communicating your goals to your employees and reviewing their performance, you’ll stay on the same page. And the employee will stay on track.

Lack of Support and Communication

You can’t underestimate the importance of communication in the workplace. Employees will feel like you’re looking out for them if they have easy ways to reach you. 

Otherwise, employees may feel intimidated by their manager and feel like they’re unapproachable. As a result, they won’t be able to share any of their problems. They’ll feel isolated and alone, piling up the pressure on themselves. 

At the very least, you need to check in frequently with your employees. Let them know you are there for them and will try to help them.

An employee communication app that includes internal chats, team updates, and an employee directory is an ideal tool for implementing this step.

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Time Pressure

In most jobs, time is of the essence. Employees are often judged on how much work they can get done in a specific timeframe. 

Workers like nurses and firefighters have some of the most extreme time constraints. In other fields, where managers measure other performance indicators (like customer service), they might simply be setting unreasonable deadlines.

Whatever the case, time management issues can make it difficult for employees to maintain high-quality work. These will lead to dissatisfaction, frustration, and, ultimately, burnout

The Effects of Employee Burnout

Employee burnout doesn’t just affect employees. It’s a destructive condition that negatively impacts both the people in your business and the business itself.

Effects on the Employee

Burnout makes employees: 

  • Discouraged
  • Disheartened
  • Disengaged
  • Disillusioned in their job

…And performance drops significantly. 

nurse suffering from employee burnout

As previously mentioned, burnout can negatively impact employees’ mental, emotional and physical health.

Effects on Your Business

Many effects of employee burnout could also negatively impact your business at large. These include:

  • Poor performance
  • Absenteeism
  • Reduced productivity
  • Health issues
  • Accidents
  • Turnover
  • A rise in healthcare costs
  • Damaged company reputation
  • Legal issues.

But when it comes to burnout, it’s the employees that matter most. Let’s put them front and center.

How to Support Employees Suffering from Burnout

If you see signs of burnout, you need to provide help and support so the employee can recover and get back on their feet.

Taking care of the employee’s well-being in this situation is crucial. But that’s not all. You need to know if the employee is engaged in their job

You can increase employee engagement if you help managers focus on:

  1. Installing the company values into their day-to-day
  2. Giving employees a clear career path they can follow.

Some key factors that increase employee engagement include:

  • Playing employees’ to their key strengths
  • Ensuring employees feel respected and valued
  • Giving employees clear roles and responsibilities
  • Setting a healthy number of work hours for employees
  • Giving employees both 1:1 and organizational support

Focusing on these values will help engage employees, improve their well-being and reduce the risks of employee burnout.

Managers can also take practical steps to support burned out employees. 

Healthy Communication

If you sense that certain employees aren’t performing at their best or their attitude has changed, this could signify burnout. In this case, you should reach out to them to talk it over.

Without pushing, ask them what’s on their mind and if they face any issues. If they’re happy to open up, then start to suggest ideas of how to solve their problems. That’ll help them feel cared for, knowing that you’re looking to help them.

Treat Employees With Compassion

If you want employees to be productive, you must show them that you have faith in their abilities. 

Even when they make mistakes, use encouraging language when giving feedback. During burnout, you must be extra sensitive and focus on building employees’ confidence. This can only build trust between managers and employees too.

Give Employees More Independence

If employees feel like they’re being micromanaged, their confidence and performance will drop.

If this happens, consider making employees’ schedules more flexible, setting more manageable deadlines, and allowing employees to choose which tasks they take on.

Giving employees the right amount of autonomy creates more trust and empowers them to do their job more confidently.

Recognize Employees for Their Efforts

Employees suffering from burnout may feel underappreciated for their work. But if you give them a pat on the back every once in a while or a reward, this can only help.

Recognition makes employees feel like all the hard work and effort they put into a job was worth it. A gift voucher, financial bonus, or paid time off are a few ways you can reward employees for their hard work.

As one project ends, the employee can blow off some steam and move on to the next one, feeling refreshed.

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Reduce Stress

Simply finding ways to reduce stress levels in your employees’ day-to-day can help tackle burnout. These include:

  • Setting clear goals for each job
  • Letting them play music during work hours
  • Taking the team out for monthly lunches
  • Giving the employee an extra break
  • Stopping the employee from doing overtime or working long hours
  • Providing the employee with extra training modules.

These are just some of the ways to reduce stress in the workplace.

How to Prevent Employee Burnout

Many benefits come from preventing employee burnout. According to a study, businesses with engaged employees are 78% more profitable and 40% more productive.

But even the most engaged employees can suffer from burnout. Employees who care about their work and go above and beyond all the time are also at high risk.

Employee burnout is a slippery slope to poor employee morale and high turnover. With the following steps, you can prevent burnout from rearing its ugly head.

Recovery Time

Any employee can go into overdrive and push themselves way beyond their limits. Keep an eye on which employees might have worked too hard and need a break. 

To do this, sit down with each employee once a week, check how they’re doing, and address any issues. 

Even if everything’s OK, ask the employee when was the last time they took some time off or went on vacation. If they haven’t taken any time off in the last few months, managers should tell them to do so.

Focus On Each Employee’s Well-Being

Every employee approaches their work in their own way. What could be stressful for one employee could be rewarding and exciting for another. 

Gauge how each employee manages their tasks and jobs, and adjust workloads, goals, and expectations as time goes on. Understand each employee’s feelings and how they will receive feedback. Use your best judgment when determining what each employee can handle.

Build a Social Environment at Work

In the workplace, co-workers should feel comfortable with each other and be able to have camaraderie together. If employees aren’t socializing with each other, they can quickly feel isolated and lonely.

Build a sense of community within the business. Form relationships and connections between employees. Only then can real teamwork and collaboration begin. 

Do this by scheduling team-building activities, day trips, and lunches. Letting employees bond outside of work boundaries can create more familiarity and trust.

Create a Strong Sense of Purpose

The more employees understand why they’re doing their job, the more engaged they’ll be. Giving employees a true sense of purpose connects them more to the company they’re working for. It makes them feel part of the bigger picture.

Make Employee Mental Health Top Priority

Huge workloads, micromanagement, and unfair treatment can all impact employees’ mental health. HR managers should build a strategy that:

  • Promotes open two-way communication 
  • Provides employees with a safe space to be honest and express their concerns
  • Offers therapy sessions
  • Gives employees more control of their work and schedule
  • Helps free up stressful workloads
  • Makes employees take all their vacation days
  • Recommends small breaks and walks for fresh air
  • Offers well-being activities, such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness.

But what’s the most effective way to implement these steps into your business?

How Digital Employee Solutions Can Help You Prevent Employee Burnout

Today, all-in-one employee management apps can help you prevent job burnout more efficiently. For example, you can:

  • Share updates with the entire team. See who saw each update and reacted to it. Follow up and notify employees of updates they didn’t see.
  • Send recognition and rewards to employees for their achievements or hard work. Put employees in the spotlight to boost morale and motivate others.
  • Make employees feel special by celebrating every milestone, including start-day anniversaries and birthdays.
  • Set up an HR Forum in a 1:1 or employee team chat, where employees can anonymously raise issues or concerns. 
  • Create and customize courses to provide employees with extra training they might need.
  • Keep track of employees’ progress in a digital timeline. Always see when they completed tasks and courses.
  • Provide employees with clear and concise goals in daily tasks and checklists. Ensure they don’t get overwhelmed with tasks they can’t complete. 
  • Collect employee feedback through surveys, live polls, or a digital suggestion box. 

If used properly, employee management software can instantly take the headache out of burnout prevention. You don’t have to handle all these processes manually with pen and paper anymore!

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The Bottom Line on Employee Burnout

At this point, you should now have a much clearer idea of the following:

  • What employee burnout is
  • How to spot the symptoms of burnout in the workplace
  • How to support employees dealing with it
  • How to prevent it from happening in the future
  • And how digital tools can help you prevent it.

Click here to learn more about employee burnout and how HR managers can ensure employees’ anxiety levels stay manageable. 

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