People Management

Understanding Employee Burnout: Symptoms, Causes and Solutions

Published 29th January 2023Updated 6th June 2023

a manager discussing employee burnout with their team member

It’s been a slow journey, but the topic of employee burnout is finally getting the attention it deserves. Stories of workplace struggles across every industry have been adding to our understanding of this common phenomenon and its serious impacts.

Today, we're delving into the symptoms and causes of employee burnout, as well as some practical ways to deal with it in the workplace.

What is employee burnout?

Employee burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. 

According to the World Health Organization, burnout is characterised by feelings of energy depletion, increased mental distance from your job, and reduced professional efficacy. 

Experiencing burnout can feel like being stuck in a never-ending marathon without any rest stops, and no options but to keep running - it’s exhausting and can have serious impacts on your mental and physical wellbeing.

Research shows that employees who take frequent calls or meetings, face mounting workloads, and feel a lack of social support, are at greater risk of burnout. 

Sound familiar? Here are a few ways to tell if you or a co-worker might be experiencing burnout.

Employee burnout signs

  • Constant fatigue and exhaustion - One of the most obvious signs of burnout is feeling physically and mentally exhausted, even after getting a good night's sleep. This can be caused by prolonged stress and a lack of rest, leading to low levels of energy and motivation to perform daily tasks.

  • Lack of motivation and interest in work - A loss of interest in work and difficulty getting motivated in tasks can indicate burnout. It’s also common to feel a sense of apathy and disengagement towards your job, which can lead to low productivity and performance.

  • Decreased productivity - Burnout can make it difficult for people to complete tasks, and they can find themselves taking longer to finish work. They may also make more mistakes, which can lead to further stress.

  • Negative attitude towards work - Someone experiencing burnout may have a negative attitude towards their job, colleagues, and clients. They may also have a negative perception of their work and its impact on their life.

  • Difficulty concentrating - Burnout can also lead to cognitive struggles, such as difficulty concentrating, remembering information, and making decisions. This can also lead to further stress and a decrease in productivity.

  • Increased absenteeism - Long or frequent periods of time off work, either through planned leave or by calling in sick, may be an indication of burnout. This can be even more stressful for the employee when work mounts, as well as for their colleagues who need to cover their tasks.

  • Physical symptoms such as headaches and insomnia - Burnout can also lead to physical symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, and muscle tension. These symptoms can further contribute to the cycle of stress and burnout.

It is essential to note that these signs are not exclusive to employee burnout, and they can be caused by other factors as well. However, if a coworker is experiencing multiple signs of burnout, it may be a good idea to check in with them and offer helpful solutions to manage their stress.

Dealing with employee burnout

When you recognise the signs of burnout in an employee, it’s crucial to address the issue quickly to limit its impact, and maintain a healthy and productive work environment for the person in distress and the larger teams. 

If employee burnout is left unmanaged, an individual will continue to burnout until it’s just not viable anymore for them to stay in their job.

High turnover rates have cascading effects on a company, with team members needing to pick up additional responsibilities until suitable candidates are found and trained. 

If left even further unchecked, the cycle of employee burnout will continue to roll down to other teams, affecting productivity and breeding a toxic work environment. 

Here are some steps you can take to deal with employee burnout within teams:

Employee burnout solutions

1. Identify the causes of burnout

It’s important to understand the reasons why someone is experiencing burnout in order to address the issue. This can be done by conducting regular check-ins to discuss their workload, stress levels, and any other factors that may be contributing to their burnout.

2. Encourage open communication

Encouraging open communication and creating a supportive work environment can help employees feel heard and valued. This will also create a safe space for individuals to seek solutions to problems they might not feel comfortable addressing otherwise.

3. Implement mentoring programs

Mentoring programs can provide guidance and support, helping employees navigate the demands of the job. Encourage mentorships that don't involve a direct manager, so employees can have more than one trusted source they can count on for support.

4. Encourage a healthy work-life balance

Burnout can often be caused by a lack of work-life balance. Team leaders can encourage their employees to take regular breaks, disconnect from work outside of office hours, and prioritise self-care activities. To do this, team leaders should help prioritise and proactively manage team tasks and workloads.

5. Provide support

Providing support such as an Employee Assistance Program, counselling services, or other mental health resources can help employees manage stress and prevent burnout.

6. Address the issue as a team

Burnout is not just an individual issue, it can also affect the entire team. Team leaders should involve the whole team in addressing burnout in the workplace and creating a positive and supportive environment.

Want to know how to deal with employee burnout in property management agencies? We’re discussing the 7 reasons for property manager burnout, and what agencies can do about it. Judy Tran (Head of Customer Experience here at :Different) weighs in on the problem with industry insights. Don't miss it!

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Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is for general informational purposes only. All information is provided in good faith; however, we do not account for specific situations, facts or circumstances. As such, we make no representation or warranty of any kind whatsoever, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability or completeness of any information presented.

This blog may also contain links to other sites or content belonging to or originating from third parties. We do not investigate or monitor such external links for accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability or completeness, and therefore, we shall not be liable and/or held responsible for any information contained therein.

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