How to Prevent Employee Burnout

5 min read
Lynsey May Sutherland
Lynsey Sutherland

There’s no doubt that burnout is having a huge impact on employees right now.  From increased workloads due to changes in regulations to staffing pressures caused by employee absences, there have been many challenges to overcome in the last few years – and when not properly managed, those challenges can easily take a toll on your team. 

In fact, according to a McKinsey report from 2021, more than half of employees surveyed said they’re feeling some symptoms of being burned out at work – so what can you do to help your team stay resilient? 

What is employee burnout?

Burnout is a relatively common condition caused by workplace stress that hasn’t been properly managed. It was classified as a syndrome by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2019, and is widely recognised as a productively killer and mood suppressor.

What causes employee burnout?

There are a lot of different factors that can come into play to leave an employee feeling tired, frustrated and burnt out. Here are just a few of the biggest culprits:

  • High levels of responsibility at work, which might be exacerbated by an employee’s situation at home 
  • A lack of reward or recognition for achievements at work 
  • Feeling unsupported by managers or the organisation
  • Consistently being presented with unrealistic goals or time restraints
  • Feeling as though employers expect 24/7 accessibility and availability

Not all stress is burnout. A small amount of stress can be useful and even motivational. The key is in being able to recognise a healthy balance between the kind of stress that leaves employees feeling energised and invigorated and the high levels that can zap them of their energy.

What are the costs of burnout?

There’s no doubt that burnout can affect morale and productivity, but do you have any idea what it could be doing to your bottom line? Deloitte found that poor mental health cost employers up to £56bn in 2020-21. 

It also discovered that 28% of the employees questioned had either left their job in 2021 or had plans to leave in 2022, and that 61% of them cited poor mental health as the reason for their departure. Burnout, especially unrecognised burnout, can be a huge retention issue as well as a productivity one. 

What are the signs and symptoms of burnout?

Burnout can be tricky to spot, especially among reliable employees, but there are some tell-tale signs to look out for. 

The World Health Organisation characterises burnout as:

  • Feelings of exhaustion or energy depletion 
  • Increased mental distance from work, or feelings of negativity or cynicism related to one’s job
  • Reduced professional efficacy

It is also worth being vigilant for shortened tempers, anxiety about task completion or hyperfocus on a particular issue – especially when that issue is relatively small in the grand scheme of their workload.  

Sometimes, it’s easier for employers to recognise the symptoms of burnout than it is for the employees themselves. Lots of people try to power through low feelings at work, especially when they don’t want to let their team down. 

Keeping an eye on the mood, energy levels and everyday efficiency of your employees can help you spot the warning signs – and offer them some support. 

How to help employees fight burnout

You may not be able to completely eliminate burnout for your employees, but there are some powerful things you can do to help them stay grounded. 

Put the focus on employee recognition 

Recognition is one of the best ways to give your employees a boost and encourage feelings of wellbeing at work. It increases engagement, by showing that their efforts are being appreciated, and can also be a powerful tool in helping employees recognise their own value. Not quite sure how it works or what it means? Have a peek at our guide to employee recognition – and why it’s so important. 

Offer flexibility where possible 

A flexible or employee-managed workflow can have some big benefits when it comes to avoiding burnout. Offering the option to work from home or to move working hours around a little gives employees the chance to make sure they’re working at their most productive times. According to LinkedIn’s 2022 Global Talent Trends report, employees who are satisfied with their company’s flexibility are 2.6 times more likely to report being happy. 

Schedule workload check-in sessions

When an employee is suffering from burnout or is starting to feel overwhelmed, they might start struggling to take control of their workload – and this includes knowing which items can be deprioritized. A quick session with a team leader or manager who can run through tasks and use a management system like a task priority matrix can go a long way. We tend to value employees with strong self-management skills, as we should, but an unobtrusive check in can be useful for even our top performers. 

Promote and prioritise a healthy work-life balance

In a 2021 workplace survey, Indeed found that 70% of all respondents have access to work communications on their phones – and that access makes them 84% more likely to work out of hours. A good work-life balance is essential when it comes to protecting against burnout – everybody needs the chance to relax and recharge – so be vocal about your support for maintaining those boundaries.  

Don’t be afraid to address stress

Sometimes, employees may feel nervous about discussing their feelings of stress with their manager or team leader. That’s why frank discussions about stress, health and wellbeing should come from the top. Be open about the fact that stress can affect everyone and that while you may not always be able to completely remove the source, you will be supportive in helping to manage stress at work

Essentially, creating space for honest and positive conversation is a tool that cannot be overrated. At Mo, we advocate for creating a culture of employee recognition because we know just how important it is in building confidence, resilience and satisfaction in the workplace. 

Want to reduce the risk of burnout? Give employees a space to explore their concerns while also prioritising ways to show them that their contributions are valued. 

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Mo is an employee recognition and engagement platform that can help leaders improve collaboration and morale, reduce employee churn and drive change. 

Our platform creates a vibrant culture by developing team habits, encouraging people to celebrate success, recognise results and appreciate colleagues.

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