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How to manage employee burnout

9 Feb 2022

With only 11% of people not feeling burnt out at work, it’s vital you look out for signs of burnout among your workforce to ensure they remain healthy and productive. We look at how you can recognise the signs and ensure your team remain on top form.

A recent Reed LinkedIn poll of over 1,300 people asked: “How often are you feeling burned out at work?”. Overall, 23% said that they felt burnt out every day, 33% indicated most days, 34% said occasionally and only 11% revealed they don’t feel burnt out at all. In total, 89% of people are feeling some sort of burnout – a very high figure.

Covid-19, a change in working patterns, too much work – all of these are factors that could be causing employees to feel this way.

Rebecca Harris, Health and Wellbeing Advisor, Reed Wellbeing, said: “Burnout at work is very real, and must be addressed by the employer to ensure staff remain happy and healthy at work.

“The World Health Organization (WHO) describe it as ‘a syndrome’ resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. I urge employers to tackle the issue head on, as an unhappy workforce can often be an unproductive one.”

How to recognise your staff are feeling the burn

According to the NHS, burnout is “a feeling of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion.” A lot of the signs and signals of being pre-burned out are like those associated with depression. It is important at this stage that an employee seeks advice from a medical professional to ensure what they feel is burnout, which can be treated with lifestyle changes, and not depression, which is often treated with antidepressants and therapy, or a combination of both.

The symptoms of employee burnout include:

  • Fatigue/lack of energy
  • Feelings of negativity towards work
  • Increased mental distance from work
  • Reduced productivity

Rebecca adds:

“Managers need to make sure they know what to look out for when it comes to employee burnout. It should be a part of your management style to try and spot signs of distress within your team. You need to look at changes in behaviour, perhaps a member of your team is suddenly withdrawn in team meetings – not turning their camera on when they are remote, or perhaps they just look physically exhausted. It’s your duty as a manager to spot the signs and nip them in the bud, fast.”

As a manager there are several signs you can look out for that may suggest a team member is struggling:

  • Employees saying they are overwhelmed
  • Not retaining information
  • Looking tired
  • Not volunteering for tasks
  • Becoming withdrawn
  • Irritable
  • Emotional

The approach

In the past, you may have not experienced team members who are burnt out, so what exactly should you do if an employee comes to you and says they are feeling burned out?

The answer here isn’t simple, yet you must thank them for being open and honest and ensure you demonstrate empathy.

Rebecca suggests: “When approached by an employee, don’t act on a whim, talk to them and explore the causes of the stress they are under. It’s important you get to the root cause to make sure the issue is tackled appropriately and effectively.”

Once you have investigated how your employee is feeling and what is causing the stress, you need to look at how their workload can be adjusted to help alleviate the cause. Here you will need to explore practical solutions – can any deadlines be adjusted? Do you need to allocate work to another member of your team? Would you need to recruit someone in an interim role to help manage the workload? There are multiple options for you here.

We all know that at times, work can be hard and challenge us to our full potential but, where possible, a manager should lead by example and demonstrate behaviours that can help to prevent burnout e.g. encouraging the team to take regular breaks every day and only work extra hours as and when needed.

If you feel your employee needs more help than you can offer, it may be wise to signpost specialist support, such as a GP or occupational health – if your company has it.

And remember, as a manager it is not just your employees that need support in this area, it is vital that you also ensure you are looking after your own health and wellbeing.

Addressing the issue of burnout among your team members

When it comes to burnout, prevention is better than a cure. As previously mentioned, you should always take steps to understand the primary cause of your employees’ feelings.

Here are eight top tips for preventing the situation from arising in the first place:

  1. Allow for regular breaks
  2. Encourage your team members to have their cameras off during video calls to reduce eye fatigue
  3. Promote a good work-life balance within your team
  4. Create an environment of psychological safety where employees feel it is safe to talk about how they feel
  5. Only contact employees during work hours
  6. Promote wellbeing initiatives and allow for these to be accessed e.g. lunchtime running club, online exercise classes
  7. Support employees to prioritise their workload so they feel less overwhelmed
  8. Promote self-compassion and encourage employees to be kind to themselves and practice self-care

The importance of addressing the issue

If you fail to address employee burnout there can be detrimental effects which will not only have an impact on your team, but your company too.

Rebecca summarises:

“Overall, looking out for your employees’ wellbeing and enabling a culture of psychological safety will counterbalance burnout. If you support your team and help employees feel that their health and wellbeing is valued, and that they are valued, you are already some of the way there."

“When you facilitate authentic working relationships with your team members and support them with their workloads you will automatically see fewer people off sick, improved productivity and ultimately lower staff turnover. Support is key here – offer a helping hand before your team are even faced with too much unnecessary stress.”

Find out more about how Reed Wellbeing could support your business with wellbeing initiatives.

Get in touch.