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What Is Employee Burnout? How Can You Help Employees Struggling With It?

May 24, 2023
What Is Employee Burnout? How Can You Help Employees Struggling With It?
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Have you noticed an uptick in requests for sick days? Reduced productivity in employees that used to be top performers? Or even a lack of motivation to start and complete a task?

Well, these could all be symptoms of burnout. 

Employee burnout is an upshot of work-related stress that creates a state of physical and mental exhaustion, manifesting as absenteeism, emotional drain, lack of enthusiasm, detachment from work, or depression.

The World Health Organization also describes it as a syndrome from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. 

When an organization is evasive towards burnout, it saps out liveliness from their employees and affects the ability to retain talents.   

In this article, we highlight burnout warning signs and suggest actionable tips to help employees experiencing burnout.


How to Recognize Burnout Warning Signs

Burnout warning signs are physical, behavioral, and psychological indicators that an employee suffers from burnout. To help employees experiencing burnout, first, you need to learn how to spot these indicators.

Burnout experience can be a little different from one employee to another, but here’s a breakdown of typical indicators: 

Physical burnout warning signs 

  • Headaches

  • Illness

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Heart disease

  • Loss of appetite

  • Substance abuse

  • Muscle tension

Psychological burnout warning signs 

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Sleep deprivation

  • Irritability

  • Emotional fragility 

Behavioral burnout warning signs

  • Lack of motivation
  • Cynicism
  • Absenteeism
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Helping Employees Struggling With Employee Burnout

Now that you can spot burnout warning signs, the next step is to be supportive. Here’s a rundown of how to help burnout employees.   

Identify burnout as a workplace phenomenon

We often see workplace burnout as an individual problem, solvable with “self-help hacks” such as journaling, deep breathing techniques, yoga, and meditation. However, these solutions are only band-aids to an ever-growing workplace phenomenon.

Jennifer Moss in her book  describes burnout as a:

“Complex constellation of poor workplace practices and policies, antiquated institutional legacies, roles and personalities at higher risk, and system, societal issues that have been unchanged, plaguing us for too long.” 

Most burnouts are from work stress. Employees endure poor workplace practices/policies like tight deadlines, massive workloads, micromanagement, and disorganized team structures till they hit the breaking point (burnout). 

So, employers should start seeing workplace burnout as a phenomenon that stems from working in a place, instead of an individual problem. 

Prioritize mental wellness

Poor working environments pose a serious threat to mental health. Employees dealing with toxic work environments, unfair treatment, inequalities, and discrimination can experience mental illness.

While it’s understandable that your priorities are growth and the smooth running of your organization, if your employees’ mental health is in shambles, you may start struggling with absenteeism, decreased productivity, and employee turnover.

Dr Sarah Watson, a psychologist and Chief Operating Officer at BPTLAB suggests some ways to prioritize mental wellness without being intrusive:

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  • Open Communication: You can encourage your teams to open up about their mental health concerns and well-being without fear of judgment or consequences. This makes employees feel comfortable and find the support they need. 

You can also promote a culture of open communication anonymously. Employees might  choose to voice their concerns without the risk of exposing their identity. This is where Worksmates comes in.  

Workmates is an intranet solution that gives you insight into your employees’ feelings and concerns using anonymous custom survey forms. The custom survey forms have multiple questions formats such as:

  • Different question fields 

  • Single choice 

  • Multiple choice 

  • Yes/no answers 

  • Short answers 

  • Star ratings   

  • Flexibility: Offering flexible work hours and remote/hybrid work options can create a more balanced and controlled environment for employees. This may also help prevent burnout by allowing workers to maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

  • Training for Managers: Chances are your managers are not mental health professionals. But equipping managers with the knowledge and tools to spot the burnout warning signs early on can position them to help employees struggling with depression and anxiety. 

  • Mental Health Days: You can also set aside mental health days for recharging and refreshment. The mental health days should be separate from vacation or sick days.

  • Employee Assistance Programs: Providing access to professional counseling service or therapy as part of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can give employees the support they need to prevent or deal with burnout.

  • Wellness Programs: Implement workplace wellness initiatives like workshops and seminars on stress management. Also, providing access to fitness facilities can help employees maintain their mental and physical well-being.

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Implementing a 4-day workweek 

A trial by the University of Cambridge & Boston shows that a 4-day workweek can improve employees’ feelings of burnout and stress. The workweek pilot follows a 100-80-100 model: 100% of the pay. 80% of the time. 100% productivity.

Literal Humans, a Content marketing agency is an example of an organization operational as a 4-day workweek pilot. According to the Co-founder, Paul David, since they’ve swung to the model, the result has been rewarding:

“Our team now knows they have less time to get roughly the same amount of work done at a high level of quality.

Well-being has improved because our team has more time for themselves and their families/friends, it's fairly simple.

We also see how our team carries themselves in the workplace (their demeanor). Now they take fewer sick days because they have more time for self-care.”

To sum it up: Implementing a 4-day workweek model is a great way to help employees experiencing burnout. When it’s done right, it can improve your productivity while ensuring that your employees have a healthy work-life balance. 

You can also provide a flexible working schedule that allows employees to maintain productivity while working from home. 

Invest in employee management software

When an organization recognizes its employees’ hard work, it instills a sense of communality and makes the team feel valued and appreciated.

Investing in employee management software can increase employee engagement and boost workforce productivity.  Employee management software like Workmates streamlines employee recognition and rewards.

With customized kudos badges, you can reward and recognize your employees’ efforts.  Here are other notable features of Workmates:

  • Simplifies team communication and collaboration 

  • Lets you gather feedback with polls and anonymous survey forms  

  • Responsive customer support

  • One-on-one interaction features

  • Streamlines communication with announcement tools 

Provide Support for Burnout Employees

Burnout is never an “employee’s” problem, it also affects you, the employer.

While burnout takes a toll on your employee's well-being and happiness, it slowly erodes your organization’s potential to actualize its objectives.  

The bottom line: Employers and the human resource department should provide support to employees experiencing burnout instead of leaving them to handle it on their own.

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Author Bio:

Philip Oyelola is a marketing enthusiast & content marketer. He helps tech companies with content that builds trust and educates their audience. He enjoys writing on topics like HR, client management, and content marketing. When Philip is not writing, he’s watching sci-fi, or listening to Afrobeats. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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