Burnout in the workplace is currently on the rise. A recent study by Indeed states that over half (52 percent) of survey respondents are experiencing burnout in 2021. And this doesn't just apply to people in senior positions or high-stress jobs, it impacts employees across all industries and roles.
To mitigate the impact of burnout within your organization you should aim to support all your employees and help them handle work-related stress.
How to identify burnout
It is critical to identify signs of burnout in your team members as soon as possible. However, it’s important to understand that they aren’t always easy to identify.
Don't just assume that your employees are being lazy if they miss deadlines or come in to work late. And don't ignore a team member who is being unusually negative or lacking enthusiasm. These can all be signs of burnout and should not be dismissed.
In a previous article, we described the five stages of burnout and the symptoms of burnout in the workplace. Familiarize yourself with the common signs and make sure to educate your employees on work-related stress so they can recognize any red flags.
It’s also essential to keep in mind that employees can experience burnout in their personal lives, and this can carry over into their work. Employees are not immune from burnout just because their workload isn't overflowing.
How to help employees deal with burnout at work
Dealing with burnout at work isn't easy. It is not unusual for people to experience burnout without even realizing it. The effects of work-related stress can be extremely detrimental, so it is important to be educated on stress management and to train your employees to understand the signs and how to prevent workplace stress.
Below you will find six ways to help your employees handle burnout at work:
1. Understand the root cause
If you suspect an employee is suffering from burnout at work take the time to identify the root cause of the problem. There could be several contributing factors: unclear job expectations, dysfunctional team dynamics, lack of control, a heavy workload, work-life imbalance, and unfair treatment are common work-related causes of burnout.
Other factors outside of work could also contribute to an employee's burnout – such as financial trouble or stress related to family members or loved ones.
Speak directly with your employees to understand the potential root cause of their burnout. This should be approached respectfully and sympathetically, demonstrating that you have noticed they are displaying symptoms of burnout in the workplace and you want to help.
2. Talk to your employees one-on-one
Have conversations with your team members on an individual basis. Addressing burnout in a group setting can make it more difficult for people to speak up. Schedule time with employees to talk about their well-being and work-life balance.
During this time, don't make assumptions, create an open space for your employees to confirm that they are experiencing burnout, without fear of repercussion.
It can be difficult for employees to open up when they are struggling. They might be embarrassed to admit that they are feeling overwhelmed or worry that they will come across as less capable than other team members. Ask empathetic questions that show you are sensitive to the issues at hand and willing to work with them to overcome job stress.
3. Provide access to resources on employee burnout
Provide your employees with relevant resources on preventing burnout, such as information on wellness programs and well-being guides. Developing a work environment that encourages self-care will help to reduce work-related stress.
Make sure these resources are easily accessible for team members to reassure them that as a company, you take workplace stressors and their effects seriously.
Educating your team members on the symptoms of burnout in the workplace will enable them to recognize the warning signs for both themselves and their co-workers.
If necessary, point your employees to resources that explain the various types of external mental and physical health support, whether that’s in the form of a healthcare professional or counselor.
4. Offer flexible work schedules
It can be difficult to discern the cause of burnout in your employees, especially if they are having issues in their home life. If a team member is burned out because of things happening in their personal lives, allowing them the opportunity of a more flexible schedule can be a huge help.
Everyone has different circumstances to deal with at home and sometimes, working to a strict timetable can increase stress levels. Your employees might be care givers or parents of children who need frequent doctors appointments. Giving them the time and space to address their personal needs acknowledges that you understand the importance of wellness in all areas of their lives.
Not every organization has the ability to offer a flexible schedule but you can be more accommodating of your employees’ schedules to show support.
5. Connect employees with professional help
As an employer, you are not expected to be a mental health professional. If you believe your employee is experiencing chronic stress and job burnout you should connect them with a third-party expert to reduce the risk of severe consequences to their mental and physical health.
Let your employees know that the connection will be confidential and that you want them to feel comfortable working with a professional to reverse the symptoms of burnout.
Research local coaches and therapists to find appropriate specialist help. It would also be helpful to ask your employee if they have a preferred method of dealing with their situation. Some might be hesitant to see a therapist and may prefer a religious counselor, acupuncture, a life coach, or just a friend to talk with, depending on their personal beliefs. Don't be so quick to recommend one way, when there are several workable ways to tackle the problem.
6. Take care of your own well-being
Set a positive example for the rest of your team by taking care of your personal mental and physical health. This will empower your employees to prioritize their health at work. Demonstrate behaviors that you want your employees to develop. This can include setting boundaries regarding working long hours, taking time off, eating well, exercising regularly, and managing heavy workloads.
Remember that you, like everyone else, are human and you get tired and stressed. Normalize conversations about negative emotions and the risk of burnout. Showing that you also experience work-related stress will help you relate more to your team and vice versa.
Dealing with burnout in the workplace is always going to be challenging. But it is possible to identify the signs and symptoms early on and be proactive about addressing them with your employees. If you take action on the above tips you should be able to reduce the risk of emotional exhaustion and job burnout within your organization. Hopefully, this will have a positive impact on your workforce and improve the well-being of your team members and organization as a whole.