What employee burnout looks like and how to deal with it

Employee burnout is on the rise, here are the warning signs and how to deal with it

Employee burnout is a serious workplace issue, affecting staff mental health and productivity, meaning it impacts a firm’s bottom line and possibly even retention rates if it’s not dealt with.

In 2019, the World Health Organisation classified burnout as a diagnosable syndrome due to stress in the workplace, where nearly a quarter of the workforce suffers from it regularly.

The signs of employee burnout

Luckily for employers, burnout has many recognisable symptoms that they can spot; these include:

  • Feeling stressed
  • Feeling cynical about working conditions and colleagues
  • Emotionally distanced
  • Physiological issues like headaches, stomach aches, and intestinal issues
  • Emotionally exhausted
  • Low energy
  • Depression
  • Loss of interest in things once enjoyed

The causes of employee burnout

While employee burnout is a long-term workplace issue, COVID-19 has only made it worse. For example, we saw junior bankers at investment bank Goldman Sachs ask for an 80-hour workweek cap as many were forced to work 18-hour shifts which left them feeling emotionally and physically exhausted.

Furthermore, research shows that employees are working longer hours during the COVID-19 period, with working from home and remote technology blurring the lines between work and free time.

However, work-based presenteeism was an issue before COVID-19, where many workers felt compelled to work beyond their contractual hours and remain in the office to appear productive.

Ultimately, we all live our lives in a fast-paced way in the modern age, which means employee burnout is something we’re going to have to live and deal with.

How to deal with employee burnout

While those who suffer from employee burnout for extended periods of time may need to consider a long-term career or lifestyle change, other sufferers may just require a short-term solution to feel better, such as taking a holiday and leaving any connection to the workplace firmly at home.

As COVID-19 recedes, holiday destinations both UK-based and abroad are opening up, where the more days you take off for a holiday, the more likely you are to really unwind, relax and recover.

Burnout can cause chronic stress, which can have detrimental effects on your physical and mental health. If your symptoms of burnout continue, contacting your GP and discussing options is a good idea.

What managers can do to help

As a manager, offering an employee with suspected burnout symptoms a mental health day could be beneficial, as employees could be reluctant to take sick leave for this reason.

Engaging with an employee who could be suffering from burnout or creating an environment where staff can come forward and talk will make a business feel like a psychologically safe space for employees and could make staff feel cared about, which is a motivating factor for remaining in a business.

Educating staff about the warning signs of burnout and methods to deal with it is essential, as many employees may not realise this is what they are experiencing. Offering learning sessions and sharing relevant information through emails or via lines of leadership could reduce burnout, employee turnover rates and boost staff wellbeing and productivity.

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