Burnout is a serious problem that can affect all employees across a wide variety of sectors. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially added burnout to its international classification of diseases.
The WHO defines this issue as ‘a syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed’. To put it simply, burnout may often occur when workers are overly stressed for an extended period of time. According to a study by Asana, approximately 75 per cent of UK employees reported suffering from burnout in 2020. This was higher than the global average of 71 per cent.
Signs of Employee Burnout
Employees often have a wide variety of responsibilities that must be properly balanced. This can lead to long working hours and extended periods of work-related stress. Organisations should be on the lookout for signs of potential burnout, such as:
- Lack of energy or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from duties or colleagues
- Negative attitude or cynicism
- Reduced efficiency or quality of work
- Irritability or sensitivity
Experienced employees may be adept at hiding these symptoms and remaining productive. As such, leadership must be fully committed to paying close attention to all behaviour in order to notice signs of potential burnout.
Tips for Preventing Burnout
When an employee is experiencing burnout, they can become less productive in their own duties and may even have a negative effect on team morale. If burnout becomes a major issue for an organisation, it can have both financial and reputational consequences. As such, employers should consider the following steps to avoid it:
- Check in—Communicating openly and honestly can be a key method for detecting burnout. Discuss recent workloads, deadlines and expectations, and encourage employees to be forthcoming about any issues.
- Encourage breaks—Taking short breaks throughout the workday can provide relief from both physical and mental fatigue.
- Cross-train—Some smaller organisations may have a small teams or even individuals managing core business areas. But it’s important that there is more than one employee capable of handling certain responsibilities. If a colleague is aware that they are the only person who can perform certain duties, they may be hesitant to take time off. Even if this employee does decide to take time off, they may feel guilty or become even more stressed while they are away.
- Show appreciation—It goes without saying that as well as paying a fair wage to your employees, as a business owner or senior manager you have a responsibility to share your appreciation of the hard work your team are putting in. Especially when it comes to seasonal busy periods, high pressure business events or unpredictable changes in your sector – a personal note of thanks or recognition goes a long way.
- Be flexible—At times your colleagues may have to put in particularly long hours, but employers would do well to remember that these employees also have personal lives and families. In order to help professionals maintain a healthy work-life balance, consider allowing flexible hours and allowing time in lieu for overtime worked.
- Use technology—Organisations can develop more efficient methods of completing many different tasks by utilising new technology. Various software may be able to assist with many different tasks, such as training and payroll.
Employers should understand that burnout is a serious workplace issue. If a worker is experiencing burnout, it should not be seen as a reflection of their work ethic or merit as an employee. Burnout among HR professionals may have particularly widespread consequences, as the range and scope of these employees’ duties make them key contributors to the overall culture and morale of an organisation.
For more information on preventing burnout in the workplace, contact us today.