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Workplace "Burnout" - How do we prevent it?

Burnout is driving The Great Resignation, and has become the number one reason that employees are leaving their current jobs. People are now quitting at the highest rate in two decades, which has caused a talent crisis in nearly every sector. In this blog, we discuss what burnout is, how it affects business and how to manage/prevent it.

Employee burnout is a problem during stable times, let alone during a global pandemic. Lower productivity, emotional, and physical exhaustion, less concentration, less recognition, negativity, and a decline in health are all clear signs of burnout in the workplace - employees are at risk now more than ever before.

Since 2015, global online searches for the term 'occupational burnout' have increased by more than 2,500%, with the pandemic adding to the drastic increase. According to a recent report, more than 70% of people have experienced burnout in the last 12 months, with a quarter of employees feeling that they have reached a psychological breaking point. Whilst it may be easy to blame the pandemic, it has only accelerated a problem that has been sitting there for years - as only one in six people feel that their mental health needs are being supported at work.

What is employee burnout?

To put it simply, employee burnout is a situation where workers feel extremely exhausted, this can be temporarily, or for a prolonged period - whether it's through physical exhaustion, mental exhaustion, emotional exhaustion, or even all three. In any case, the end result is usually the same: unhappy employees, a drop in productivity, and even a rise in employee turnover.

How Burnout Affects Business.

Since Covid-19 has left people with higher anxiety levels due to the uncertainty of the future, along with the shortages of talent vs job vacancies, employers that continue to overlook employee burnout will only do this at their own risk of the following:

Lower Productivity & Efficiency - it's common for workers that are dealing with underlying issues to fail to deliver high-quality performance at work and meet productivity goals. Simply because they feel high forms of exhaustion, making them work slower or even less effectively than normal.

If efficiency is down within the business, it has the potential to make the business suffer. Your clients/consumers could start to notice lower standards of service, or even late or missing orders entirely. Resulting in smaller profit margins for your business, or a less satisfying experience for your customers.

Resources - Anytime an employee leaves an organisation, it requires a lot more time and money to replace them. 50% of employees resignations is usually due to burnout, which means that an employer could end up spending thousands in order to replace former employees.

Adding to this, burnout is more likely to take its toll on an employee, affecting them negatively as well as their work - resulting in more mistakes being made, more time, energy and resources being used to fix these mistakes.

Higher Turnover - Most burnt out employees consider leaving their jobs, and will begin to look for work that's less stressful, and for more supportive management.

As your employee turnover rates increase, you're then at risk of losing more of your talent, creating a domino effect. Employees run the risk of feeling saddened or frustrated by the growing number of colleagues leaving. This can end up inspiring them to make a fresh start for themselves.

Additionally, your company's reputation can be indirectly affected as a result of high employee turnover. People tend to view companies with high employee turnover quite negatively, as they automatically assume that something must be wrong with the organisation.

How to Manage Employee Burnout

More Empowerment Over Micromanagement - Micromanagement is one of the main factors that contributes towards employee burnout. Nobody likes to feel like a strict manager is obsessively overseeing every single aspect of their life at work, as this can lead to resentment.

People often dislike micromanagement as it makes people feel as though there is a lack of trust within the company. A great way to show your employees that you do trust them, is to introduce HR tech, as this can empower your employees to take control of common tasks. In turn, this can lead to a host of additional benefits in the longer term.

Benefits & Compensation - Employee benefits are great for employee morale, and they're crucial if you want to attract and retain talent within your business. If your benefits package is below the industry standards, this could make your employees feel as though you don't value their contributions and efforts towards the company.

However, that being said, it's not enough to just offer your employees the benefits that you think they may like. If you really want to address and improve employee burnout, you need to offer compensation and benefits that will really stand out from the rest.

Promote Work/Life Balance - In order to promote a healthy work/life balance, managers must also live out this lifestyle too. This means that managers must ensure that they allow time for exercise, family and self-care. Work/life balance is extremely important as it allows you to recharge, which avoids employee burnout - and it can also be supported at an organisational level.

For example, offering flexible scheduling to accommodate individual schedules. It's also crucial to be clear during the entire hiring process about the demands of a role, just so employees that are hired, fully understand the requirements.

Remote Burnout

When the pandemic hit, many people were forced to start working from home. While remote working presented, and still does present some opportunities for a better work/life balance, other workers started to experience the opposite. People started to work longer hours, and lacked the separation of the commute and talks in between meetings, the lack of downtime that's critical to the innovative thinking which pushes organisations forward.

The key to overcoming remote work burnout is spotting the early signs and putting systems in place to avoid falling into a state of burnout in the future. Burnout is a combination of both internal and external symptoms, and to overcome this is requires both internal and external changes.

Employees who are burnt out entirely, have usually lost sight of meaning in their work. Managers and organisations must recognise burnout to help re-establish meaningfulness in employees' lives and work. Employee burnout is real and it's affecting workers all over the world, so it's crucial that companies understand the impact of employee burnout, and the affect it has on employee engagement and business results.

Companies should do everything to prevent workplace burnout to begin with, simply by focusing on employee well-being and manager support. Burnout is not a personal issue, it has become an organisational issue - addressing burnout at all levels of the company can effectively prevent it as a whole.

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