burnout. Burning out. burnt out.
The term 'burnout' has been around for a while now, but we're starting to see and hear more about employees 'burning out' in recent years.
The World Health Organisation are now officially recognising employee burnout as a major health risk, but in the past, burnout symptoms have often been misinterpreted as tiredness, disengagement or even laziness. Fast forward and a Gallup survey has found that the top five reasons for employee burnout are actually:
- Unfair treatment at work
- Unmanageable workload
- Lack of role clarity
- Lack of communication and support from their manager
- Unreasonable time pressure.
Out of those who took part in the survey, 23% of employees reported feeling burnt out 'very often' or 'always', while another 44% reported feeling burnt out 'sometimes'. If left unchecked the financial repercussions of employee burnout can be substantial for businesses all of shapes and sizes.
Employees suffering from burnout are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6x more likely to be actively looking for a new job. On average, those that decide to stick it out have 13% lower confidence in their performance.
Just take a moment to reflect on some of those statistics... they are very concerning to say the least.
spotting the symptoms of employee burnout
Employee burnout can typically present itself as a change in employee engagement. If you start to notice your usually dependable and motivated employee becoming withdrawn and negative in the workplace, they could be burnt out.
Some of the symptoms to look out for can include:
- Being easily angered or upset
- Lack of concentration
- Being overly critical or cynical
Productivity is also likely to be affected in an employee who is feeling the strain, as well as their confidence in the work they do manage to deliver. In contrast to stress, which usually boils down to having too much for you to physically and mentally manage, burnout leads employees to feel that they aren’t good enough, feeling mentally exhausted, and unmotivated to the point of not even caring anymore.
Once an employee hits this point, they can find it very difficult to see how implementing changes can improve their situation.
tackling employee burnout
Once burnout has been identified, the first action you should take is to try and understand the reasons why your employee has started to feel this way. This is crucial.
Taking the time to have a conversation with the member of staff can help uncover whether the pressure they are under is due to work or if there are problems in their personal life that are affecting their ability to concentrate at work.
This isn’t always the easiest conversation to have with someone, so if they are slightly guarded, try asking questions such as:
- “What do you have on your plate right now? And if you had the choice, what would you change?"
- "I’ve noticed you’re not quite performing at your usual level, is there something blocking you getting there?"
Once this communication starts, you can then work on an action plan to help provide the support your employee needs.
For example, if your employee is having to work extra hours and through their lunch to get their work completed, encourage them to re-balance their work and personal lives. Although it can be difficult to step away from their desk when they feel snowed under, taking a lunch break can do wonders to reset their batteries and be more productive when they return.
Creating a culture in your workplace that allows staff to feel encouraged to get out of the office and ask for help when they need it can prevent burnout returning.
When you sit down with a burnt out employee, you may find that the pressure they are under isn’t down to their work or the business - it could be personal. However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t anything you can do.
By having an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) in place, employees are able to reach out for professional support for a number of issues; from physical or mental health concerns, through to financial and relationship issues. An EAP can offer external support and advice where HR wouldn’t be able to assist.
preventing employee burnout
The good news is, employee burnout is preventable.
Creating a positive workplace culture that encourages healthy habits and provides access to resources that can support your people when work or life becomes difficult to manage, can have a huge impact on how employees feel towards your organisation.
By proactively preventing burnout you’ll be able to help support your employees’ mental and physical health, as well as improve job satisfaction and reduce the risk of accidents or mistakes as employees stay engaged with their work.
Steps you can take include evaluating how your organisation communicates employee expectations and how their role is measured. When employees have clarity around their role, they will no longer feel pressured to answer late night emails, or be unclear on why their manager is expecting “more” from them. Also make it clear how employees can flag if they feel they have too much on or need extra support, and remove any anxieties they may have on any potentially negative reflections they may think this will cause.
Ensuring your team has the resources they need can also help reduce the likelihood of burnout, as they are able to deliver their work without becoming frustrated with processes, lack of training or technology. Speak to the senior management within your organisation and make sure they lead by example. Taking time away from their work to socialise with the team, not sending communications late into the evening, and pursuing a healthy work/life balance will all help employees feel they are supported within a positive workplace culture.
If you’re ready to tackle burnout in your workplace, download your free Employee Burnout Cheat Sheet today.