What Causes Burnout and What Employers Should be Doing to Address it

employee burnout can be  a big problem in the workplace

Here's what causes it and what you can do to support employees...

When we’re all happy, healthy, and motivated we are more likely to be productive and make the most of our days both in and outside of work. But we spend a lot of time at work, so it’s no surprise that it can have an effect on our lives even outside of workhours.

Having too much pressure and stress at work can cause employees to burnout. According to Gallup, more than three quarters (76%) of employees experience burnout at work, and over a quarter (28%) said that they are burned out very often or always at work.

This is obviously a big problem in the workplace. Here’s what you need to know about burnout, what you need to do for your employees, and advice you can give to them:


What is burnout and what are the symptoms?

Burnout is a physical or mental collapse which is usually caused by large amounts of stress and over working.

But it’s not just to do with the number of hours worked. Engaged employees, who have job flexibility tend to work more hours per week while reporting higher wellbeing. When people feel inspired, motivated and supported, then work is significantly less stressful on their overall health.

Physical signs of burnout include chronic fatigue, trouble falling asleep, loss of appetite, lack of focus and weak immune system. Some psychological signs to watch out for are: outbursts of anger, feeling pessimistic about the future, anxiety, lethargy and apathy.


What causes burnout?

Burnout isn’t just caused by overworking, there are a number of factors that can cause an employee to experience burnout including:

Unmanageable workload:

It’s a common misunderstanding that burnout is just caused by overworking, and therefore can be solved by encouraging employees to work less. But having an unmanageable workload can contribute.

Make sure your employees have what they need in order to do their job quickly and effectively, whether that’s processes, training or technology and software.

Unclear communication from managers:

Good communication can solve a lot of problems in the workplace, including stress and anxiety in your workplace.

Clear and consistent communication from management and senior leaders is important. Keeping employees up to date on the direction of the business, what the business is doing to support employees and any changes that might be on the horizon, can all help reduce stress and anxiety as not knowing is always worse.

As we’re all still working from home, it’s also important to arrange frequent video calls, so that your employees have the chance to raise any issues, and you can check in with them.

Lack of manager support:

Managers are key in ensuring good staff wellbeing, as well as making sure their team have regular opportunities to voice any concerns, work-related or not, they should be able trained to identify signs that an employee maybe on their way to being burned out.

They should also help employees before they reach the point of burn out, by addressing any issues and also guiding the employee in the direction of support programmes and any benefits or company initiatives that can help, like an employee assistance programme which gives employees access to BACP-accredited counsellors to help with any mental health issues they might be experiencing.

Unreasonable time pressure:

If we are working around the clock to get work finished, it can feel like we’re drowning and don’t know how to ask for help. It’s not always an easy conversation to have.

If this goes unnoticed for a long time, then it can lead to an employee burning out. Employers need to make it clear that employees should be flagging if they have too much on, or if they need extra support, and that they won’t be penalised for raising this as an issue. You could help by spreading out their workload, delegating more evenly, and helping them prioritise what is important and what can wait.


What employers should be doing to prevent burnout:

According to Clockify, 41% of employees say that their companies don’t address burnout and a third don’t know whether their company has any programmes to help. So, there’s more employers could be doing to help prevent employee burnout:

  • A cultural shift to focus on wellbeing: For employers who really want to support the mental health and wellbeing of their staff, they need to look at whether their workplace culture supports it and make changes if it doesn’t. From bringing in support for employees, as well as a shift in perceptions of talking about mental health and the best work practices.
  • Make work-life balance a priority: We all need time away from work to recharge so we need to move away from the always on culture as that can lead to burnout.
  • Limit working hours: Spending more hours at work, doesn’t mean we’re being more productive. And, employees are more prone to burnout in cultures which promote long hours.
  • Equip management: Make sure managers in your company are trained and educated about the signs, support available and the best ways to prevent burnout.
  • Be clear about individual job roles: In a company where each person has a specific role, which they stick to, it can help anyone taking on too much responsibility and stress.

Support employee wellbeing:

As well as educating your management, make sure all your employees know the signs of burnout so they can look out for it in themselves and their colleagues. Also make sure your culture supports employee wellbeing by:

  • Encourage them to say no: Make sure that it’s actively encouraged for an employee to say no to additional tasks when they already have enough on their plate. Managers should be helping employees address priorities, limit the number of requests and empower them to discuss reasonable deadlines
  • Not to push themselves too far: When we have a lot on, it can feel like the best thing to do is push through exhaustion just to get things done. But that won’t help, make sure they’re taking time out of their day to relax and using their breaks. Relaxing is important for us to be productive and avoid burnout.
  • Take time to look after themselves: Getting enough exercise, sleep and eating healthy are all important for our health, but also our productivity levels. After a long-day, it can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise but exercise can help our mental health and stress levels.
  • Address stress: Tackling stress is important before it becomes overwhelming, offering an employee assistance programme can help support employees when they need it most.


How we can help:

We know it isn’t always easy to support your staff with an extensive employee wellbeing programme that benefits all employees. If you want to learn more about the ways you can support your employees health and wellbeing, why not get in touch with our experts? They can help guide you through solutions and plans you can put in place to help your staff.

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Gallup - Employee Burnout: The Biggest 
Clockify - Career Burnout and It's Effect on Health