Employee Burnout: Early Signals & How To Tackle It

Employee burnout refers to the extreme cases of stress and exhaustion that affect an employee’s ability to contribute to their workplace. It is almost as if an employee is running on a low or no battery charge level. 75% of employees have agreed to experience employee burnout at some point in their lives. It has impacted all age categories and all careers. Millenials have been reported with the highest rates of 59% employee burnout compared to other age groups. GenZ closely follows it with 58% employee burnout. 

There is no singular specific reason that causes employee burnout, and it is not a matter of salary. Doctors, nurses, social workers, emergency response workers, lawyers, teachers, and accountants, some of the noblest and highest-paying jobs, also have the highest employee burnout rates. The pandemic has raised concerns as employee burnout rates have been significantly higher since the work from home scenario. 53% of workers are forced to spend long hours in front of a screen, and 27% of employees cannot unplug at periods. This results in a blurry differentiation from the workspace and home space, work time, and personal time leading to a stressful and monotonous routine. 

What are the indicators of employee burnout?

The causes of employee burnout can be diverse and sometimes result from the poor mental health of the employees. Workplace conditions are major contributors. Identifying employee burnout is the initial step to work against it. Employee burnout can manifest itself in various levels depending on the personality of the worker and the severity of the burnout situation. 

There are passive and subtle low-level symptoms and noticeable active symptoms, which could result from employee burnout. The employee can internally or externally express it, the former making it harder to detect while the latter showing clear signs. The most common sign of employee burnout is lower levels of productivity and participation. 

Passive internal indicators

Passive employee burnouts are not deliberately expressed. Most of the time, the employee is not even aware that they are experiencing burnout. 

  • Sense of indifference
  • Coping behavior of accepting situations even when it is uncomfortable
  • Distancing from all co-workers and work activities
  • Inability to work efficiently anymore or contribute whole-heartedly
  • Misunderstand employee burnout as inefficiency on their part

Passive external indicators

Employee burnout is bound to affect their performance at work. Passive external indicators are signs of a drop in performance and mental health causing changes in work behavior. An employee who was once very punctual can repetitively be late, which is unlike them. They will be trying to just get through the day, every day. 

  • Repeatedly missing deadlines
  • Uninvolved in their tasks and projects
  • Dismiss interactions with colleague
  • Express signs of disinterest and indifference
  • Little to no enthusiasm for anything

Active internal indicators

Active internalized signs of employee burnout can be easily witnessed in their personal lives and their work ethics. Employees undergoing employee burnout tend to engage in unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the stress and inefficiency. 

  • Engaging in alcoholism, other addictions, and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
  • Negative attitudes at work and home
  • More absenteeism 
  • Refraining from usual routines and hobbies
  • Inability to properly deal with their personal lives.
  • Being distracted
  • Insomnia 
  • Low participation 

Active external indicators

Active external indicators are unruly attitudes, which include being more irritated, acting out of frustration, or treating co-workers with disregard. Continuously neglecting employee burnout influences them to behave irrationally out of frustration. It affects their personal lives and takes a major toll on their mental and physical health. 83% of people experiencing employee burnout have affected their relationships.

How can managers improve employee burnout situations?

The manager can make working conditions much easier and comfortable for his/her employees. A considerate manager who takes necessary steps for the employees’ well-being is indirectly taking measures to improve the company’s overall performance. 60% of employees said they changed jobs or felt unsatisfied with their previous job because of inconsiderate managers. 70% of employees mentioned that their managers are either oblivious or inconsiderate to employee burnout, worsening the situation. The manager has the potential to make a working space better or worse. This, in turn, influences the percentage of employee burnout being much lesser as workspace-related issues are sorted out. Some of the steps that managers can take to tackle employee burnout are:

  • Engage in observation – Try to stay more in touch with what the employees are up to, their tasks, performances, and involvement in the office activities, both work and recreation-related. Observation is key to finding indicators. Spotting earlier signs can help take specified steps in the direction of preventing employee burnout from getting worse. 
  • Two-way communication – Allow your employees to know that you can help them and stay open to genuine concerns that employees may bring. Actively listen to the employees and try to act upon them. This way, employees feel heard and valued and are less likely to feel burnt out.
  • Mutually benefitting changes – Remember that the company is a team. Each individual’s well-being is important for the sustaining of the company. Make decisions that can help the company and the employees. One-sided decisions can lead to employees feeling overlooked and insignificant. 
  • Permit work time flexibility – Whenever circumstances can accommodate it, managers can offer PTOs and day-offs for employees who seem to need it or for employees who have outdone themselves or after an overall stressful period. One day or half-day off will not affect the workplace, and employees tend to be more relaxed after a short pause. 
  • Recreational activities – Encourage networking and socializing within the office community. People feel more at ease when they know they are not in a struggle alone and have colleagues with whom they share the experience. Having a sense of work-family or workspace-group makes working more casual and less like a chore. Host game nights, occasional company dinners, retreats, team-building events, marathons, office parties, etc., to give employees a break. 
  • Take an interest in employee wellness – Additional to everyday gestures, appoint motivational speakers, dance classes, stress-buster Zumba sessions, yoga sessions, and free massages at work periodically. It can have a huge impact on work performance. It can help de-stress, give them clearer perspectives, and put the employees back on a track to productivity. 
  • Setting goals – Feeling clueless about the bigger picture of their job and neglecting a long-term career plan can lead to monotony. Employees are more prone to feeling tired of or bored with their jobs when they do not have a definitive path or idea of where that job is leading them in the long run. Encourage employees to work in the direction of a career goal.
  • Educate on work and life balance – Many employees get lost in workloads and end up completely ignoring their personal lives. Conduct workshops to create awareness on work-life balance.
  • Assigning considerate tasks – Many employees feel overburdened and exploited because of unrealistic deadlines and larger workloads. Remember to see yourself in their place when assigning tasks. Reward them with encouragement and motivation. 
  • Trivialize taboos – Mental health issues are a common taboo. Most employees are reluctant to seek help as there is a lack of education on mental health issues like depression, anxiety, insomnia, and burnout. Conduct programs, put up posters that encourage people to seek help when needed or hire a professional counselor. 

Protip

Use HuddleUp’s AI-based chatbot which holds personalized conversations with the employees about what they feel and gives you deep insights to act on before it leads to any potential employee burnout. 

TRY FOR FREE

In a nutshell...

Employee burnout is a major ‘occupational phenomenon’ that is taking over the upcoming generations. Additional stress, higher cost of living, higher exposure, and expectations are all stress-inducing factors that can burden individuals to perform well professionally and earn more. The employer/manager can be a constructive part of their employees’ development and a role model figure. We cannot control the various external factors that can lead to employee burnout. Still, we can create a supportive work environment and practice healthy office culture for a better future.