Employee burnout has become an epidemic in recent years, to the point where a Buzzfeed article about millennial burnout went viral in January of 2019, iterating the predicament. As today’s workforce struggles to find enough balance in their lives to take care of their health, and their relationships with family and friends, and their workplace duties, many employees are reaching a point where they are exhibiting signs of burnout. And, many employers are looking for solutions to support their workers, while still encouraging productivity for the company.
When employers take the time to support and help their employees through burnout, they’re more likely to avoid the negative effects that can occur as a result of burnout—like high turnover rates, lower productivity, and the loss of the company’s most capable talent. To avoid having to find new talent due to employee burnout, it’s important to make yourself aware of the condition, and work towards shifting your practices to avoid it.
Employee Burnout Statistics
In a Gallup study of 7500 employees, it was reported that 23 percent felt burnt out at work very often or constantly, while 44 percent reported feeling burnt out only sometimes. While those statistics may not seem mind blowing, the ramifications of feeling burnout provide some more alarming statistics. For example, those experiencing burnout are half as likely to discuss performance goals with their managers, and they’re 63 percent more likely to take a sick day.
Burnout is a major problem affecting most companies—and it’s becoming more of a problem over time. More and more employees are suffering from burnout, and rather than investing in the retention of existing employees, many companies are reserving their budgets for recruiting new talent instead.
So, What Exactly Is Employee Burnout?
Burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion characterized by tiredness, cynicism, and decreased belief in one’s ability at work—or in one’s ability to function, in general. Work is usually a big part of one’s burnout, but lifestyle factors and thought patterns like perfectionism can also contribute.
What Causes Employee Burnout?
There are many factors that can contribute to an individual’s burnout, but often, employee burnout is the result of mismanaged job stress. Three major contributors are excessive collaboration (lots of meetings and calls), poor time management, and an overload of work. Burnout is a common problem that arises amongst the most capable talent in your company, because those with the most capable hands are given more responsibility and a larger workload. The problem with this is that this employee, over time, can start to lose their grasp on the workload, and they may struggle to manage their time. They may find that they just can’t continue committing their mind and body to their work with such a high output for a long period of time, without making sacrifices that harm their relationships or their health in various ways. It’s important to identify those most capable in your company, and give them collaborative teams to be apart of. Some of those most affected by burnout also cite isolation as a factor in their experience of the exhaustion, because they were given so many responsibilities that they worked with many teams, rather than having their own group of team members with whom to work on their projects. Plus, organizing collaborative teams can be highly beneficial towards promoting positive company culture, which would likely help in reducing employee burnout.
Other causes include unfair treatment at work, lack of role clarity, lack of support from managers, unreasonable time pressure, lack of feedback, lack of participation in decision-making, lack of appropriate rewards, and generally poor work environments.
Today’s always-on digital workplace is wreaking havoc on many employees’ mental and physical health, because they never really step away from the office, so they never reap the benefits of rest—which could be directly impacting their efficacy and output.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Employee Burnout?
Since burnout is a very individual experience, the signs and symptoms can vary from person to person. However, some to look for include these listed below:
- Decreased creativity
- Stomach aches or headaches
- Feeling drained/unable to cope
- Reduced performance at work
- Chest Pain
- Increased illness
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Loss of focus or motivation
To Identify If You’re Experiencing Burnout, Look for These Signs:
- You can’t get excited about work like you used to
- You’ve stopped putting in effort
- Your performance is suffering
- You experience dread on Sunday nights
To Identify If Your Employee Is Experiencing Burnout, Look for These Signs:
- Sick days and absenteeism
- They seem isolated or distant
- They show signs of extreme thinking
Burnout Recovery Strategies
Left unaddressed, burnout will not go away on its own—and in fact, it will get worse over time, because, as mentioned, it is basically mismanaged stress.
While you may think that your employee just needs to take a vacation in order to address burnout, it’s a much more complex problem than that. Recovery is said to take anywhere from six weeks to two years, depending on the person and what strategies work best to help them recover. While a vacation may alleviate the negative symptoms of burnout for a bit of time, once the employee returns from their vacation and steps back into their normal work routine, those symptoms will most likely come back. What’s really needed are new stress-management strategies to help them cope with various amounts of stress, along with better boundary settings, so that they can advocate for themselves and ask for help when the workload becomes too large.
It is normal to experience some stress at your workplace. But once the stress-inducing situation or deadline has passed, your stress should pass, too. If you are chronically stressed, with no rest or moments without physically feeling stressed, you should take some time to assess your current lifestyle—both in your personal life and in your work life—and look at how you’re managing that stress. Chronic stress is often the first step towards burnout.
If you find that your employees are experiencing burnout, it’s worth encouraging them to reach out to the HR department, to figure out what their options are. In some cases, depending on the demands of the job the employee is in, it may be necessary for them to find a new position in order to alleviate their burnout—whether that’s within your company or not.
Avoiding Employee Burnout
It’s incredibly important to address burnout, because individuals who experience burnout are at a higher risk of their burnout quickly leading to depression. The condition is something that can be avoided with proper stress management techniques, and by taking the time to care for your body and mind. You can make sure to exercise each day, meditate, work on shifting to a growth mindset, and ultimately find a way to feel passion for the work that you do each day—even if that means switching industries, furthering your education, or just getting a new job.
To encourage your employees to avoid burnout, you can develop employee development plans, so they always know that what they’re doing each day is contributing to their growth towards their larger career goals. By knowing where they are, and where they’re going—and knowing that they have the support of their employer to get there—they’re more likely to find purpose during their rough days.
You can also make sure to pull together a comprehensive employee benefits plan, which will allow for your employees to take some much needed rest throughout the year. You hear many people talk about work-life balance, and balance can help those feeling exhausted by burnout. However, by implementing stress management strategies before stressful moments and situations arise, your employees will be better equipped to take on those large stressors in their lives.
If You’re Experiencing Burnout
If you think you may be experiencing burnout, there are a few things you can try today to start to alleviate some of your stress. First of all, it’s important to identify possible resentments towards your work, as cynicism is very typical in those experiencing burnout. Additionally, you can focus on the basic health-focused behaviors; get enough sleep, drink enough water, eat healthy food, and get some exercise.
As an employer, it’s incredibly important that you learn about burnout, and pay attention to those employees that may be exhibiting any of these signs or symptoms. Supporting your employees while they’re suffering from burnout will not only help them recover, but it will also help you avoid things like employee turnover and lower productivity in the long run. Once those employees have made it through their burnout, they may feel more loyal to your company, and will want to ensure that they find new coping mechanisms and stress management strategies to avoid reaching a point of burnout again. Through awareness and proactive action, employers can identify employee burnout signs, and figure out the best steps to take to help each employee excel in their company’s culture.