Avoiding the Pitfalls of Employee Burnout: Strategies for Success
Written by: Rinaily Bonifacio
Last updated: 9 May 2023
Table of contents
- What is employee burnout?
- Types of employee burnout
- What types of jobs usually result in employee burnout?
- What causes employee burnout?
- What are the signs & symptoms of employee burnout?
- Impact employee burnout can have on your business.
- Strategies to prevent employee burnout?
- What are the benefits to the business of these strategies?
- How can employees recover from employee burnout?
- How can emotional intelligence help?
- Link between leadership style and employee burnout
- What are employee assistance programs?
- Is hygiene a reason for employee burnout?
- Laws regarding employee burnout at workplace
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is employee burnout?
Employee burnout is a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that arises from long-term workplace stressors.
Employee burnout occurs when an individual's work-related stressors and demands exceed their capacity to cope. It is a gradual process that can lead to feelings of helplessness, disillusionment, and disconnection from work.
How prevalent is employee burnout?
Employee burnout is an increasingly common issue. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), job burnout affects millions worldwide and is a growing public health issue.
In addition to being detrimental to individual employees, burnout can negatively impact organizations, leading to increased absenteeism and decreased productivity.
Types of employee burnout
Here are some types:
- Mental burnout - Feelings of exhaustion, frustration, and apathy characterize mental burnout. It can often lead to decreased motivation, productivity, and a general feeling of disconnect from work.
- Physical burnout - Physical burnout is when an individual's physical health is affected due to prolonged stress or fatigue. Symptoms can include headaches, sleeplessness, body aches, and exhaustion.
- Emotional burnout - Emotional burnout is when an individual's emotional reserves are depleted due to prolonged stress. Symptoms can include irritability, cynicism, and a lack of enthusiasm for work.
What types of jobs usually result in employee burnout?
Employee burnout can occur in any role, but it is especially common among jobs that involve high-stress levels, long hours, and a lack of control over outcomes.
- Professional jobs: professionals such as doctors and lawyers often experience burnout due to the nature of their work, which can be both physically and emotionally demanding.
- Public safety jobs: due to the often unpredictable and dangerous situations they face, police officers, firefighters, and other public safety professionals are at an especially high risk of burnout.
- Service industry jobs: employees in service industries such as hospitality, retail, and food service may be particularly vulnerable to burnout due to their long hours and intense customer service demands.
What causes employee burnout?
Several factors can contribute to burned-out employees. These include unsupportive leadership, lack of recognition for achievements, autonomy, and control, poor working conditions, and unrealistic expectations.
Employee burnout can arise when employees don't feel supported by their managers or supervisors. Leadership is important in providing direction, guidance, and resources to help employees achieve their goals.
When an employee's manager is aggressive, they are more likely to hold their problems within themselves and not have somewhere to discuss them. This can lead to depression and result in higher rates of burnout for employees.
Lack of recognition
Employees need to feel appreciated for their hard work and efforts. Unrecognized efforts can lead to feelings of frustration, low employee morale, and, inevitably, burnout.
Lack of autonomy & control
When employees don't have enough autonomy and control over their tasks and schedules, they can feel overwhelmed and burnt out.
Poor work environment
Employees who work in loud, chaotic environments or are exposed to toxic workplace culture for prolonged periods can suffer from burnout.
Battling against a constant influx of work and limited time can be incredibly draining for employees, potentially leading to burnout.
When tasks accumulate, and there's no reprieve, it can be incredibly overwhelming - so much that people often just shut down.
Unjust practices are far-reaching: bias, partiality, unfairness, and oppressive policies, to name but a few.
The psychological ramifications of unfair treatment are immense; it can damage relationships in an organization, leading to a decrease in job satisfaction and potential burnout.
Unclear job expectations
When goals and expectations are not clearly communicated or constantly changing, it can create frustration and confusion. This lack of clarity can lead to burnout as employees feel overwhelmed and uncertain.
Conflicts at work
Conflict among colleagues, supervisors, and teams can create a negative working environment which can be draining for employees. It is easy to become overwhelmed when embroiled in constant conflict, leading to burnout.
No career progression
When employees lack career progression opportunities, they may become frustrated and unmotivated. This feeling of stagnation can lead to burnout as their efforts are not being recognized or rewarded.
Lack of professional development
Employees who do not have access to professional development resources such as workshops, seminars, and training courses are likely to feel undervalued and unmotivated. This can lead to burnout, as employees feel they cannot grow and develop.
What are the signs & symptoms of employee burnout?
The signs and symptoms of employee burnout can vary from person to person.
Some of the most common signs and symptoms include:
- Decreased energy and motivation: Employee burnout can lead to a lack of energy and motivation at work. Employee morale may also suffer, leading to feelings of apathy and hopelessness.
- Physical and mental health issues: Employee burnout can seriously affect physical and mental health. It has been linked to an increased risk for certain diseases such as depression, heart disease, and digestive problems.
- Decreased job satisfaction: Employee burnout can lead to decreased job satisfaction and engagement, leading to lower productivity and higher rates of absenteeism.
- Increased mistakes: When employees suffer from burnout, they may be more careless and less devoted to their daily tasks, thus resulting in a higher rate of errors.
- Increased absenteeism: Employee burnout can lead to an increased number of sick days and absenteeism and a decreased willingness to come to work.
- Poor decision-making: Employee burnout can impair an individual's ability to think objectively and lead to poor decision-making. This impairment can lead to costly mistakes and disruption in productivity.
Impact employee burnout can have on your business.
Employee burnout can have a significant impact on your business.
- Lower productivity: Employee burnout can lead to decreased motivation, energy, and job satisfaction resulting in lower productivity levels.
- Higher employee turnover: Employee burnout can lead to increased employee turnover as people become increasingly dissatisfied with the work environment.
- More customer complaints: Employee burnout can lead to lower customer satisfaction as employees are less likely to be attentive and engaged with customers.
- Higher healthcare costs: Employee burnout can increase the risk of physical and mental health issues, leading to higher rates of absenteeism and healthcare costs.
- Decreased employee engagement: Employee burnout can lead to decreased engagement, resulting in lower levels of creativity and innovation.
Strategies to prevent employee burnout?
There are several strategies that companies can take to ensure their employees stay motivated and engaged.
Appreciate and recognize often
Companies should often strive to appreciate and recognize employees to boost morale and motivation.
How can you appreciate and recognize employee's work?
- Verbal compliments: Acknowledging great work and effort with verbal compliments can help to boost employee morale.
- Non-monetary rewards: Non-monetary rewards such as gift certificates, extra vacation time, or other small tokens of appreciation can help to show employees that they are valued.
- Recognition programs: Employee recognition programs can be implemented to recognize and reward employees for their hard work.
Valued appreciation has been demonstrated to be a significant source of motivation, bolstering performance and discouraging burnout.
Acknowledging your employees' hard work and efforts encourages them to keep going and displays how valuable they are in achieving goals. When people recognize their worthiness, productivity tends to skyrocket, as does their willingness to give it all!
Encourage employee feedback
Companies should strive to create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feedback. Providing an opportunity for open dialogue encourages collaboration, trust, and a sense of ownership in the organization.
How can you encourage employee feedback?
- Ask for employee input: Asking employees for their input on workplace policies or project direction can help create a sense of ownership.
- Create an employee survey: Creating an employee survey can provide an opportunity for anonymous feedback and also allow management to get a better understanding of employee sentiment regarding certain issues.
- Hold regular employee meetings: Holding regular employee meetings can provide an opportunity for open dialogue and discussion.
Reduce the workload
Reducing the workload of employees can help to reduce stress and reduce burnout. This can include delegating tasks more efficiently or providing additional resources to lighten the load.
How can you reduce the workload?
- Provide flexible working hours: Offering flexible working opportunities allows employees to work when they are most productive, resulting in higher engagement and job satisfaction.
- Set realistic expectations: Setting realistic expectations can help to reduce stress and ensure that employees are not overwhelmed by their workload.
- Provide resources: Providing resources such as additional staff or technology can help to reduce the workload of employees.
Provide employee development opportunities
Providing employees with professional development opportunities can give them the tools they need to succeed in their roles and increase their sense of accomplishment.
How can you provide development opportunities?
Training sessions: Employee training sessions can provide employees with the skills they need to perform their job effectively.
Mentorship programs: Mentorship programs can help to foster collaboration and team building while providing employees with career guidance.
Encourage employee well-being
Encouraging employee well-being is essential in preventing burnout. Companies should strive to create a workplace environment that encourages physical and mental health.
How to encourage employee well-being?
- Provide employee assistance programs: An employee assistance program can provide employees with access to mental health counseling, financial advice, and more.
- Organize workplace wellness programs: A workplace wellness program such as yoga classes or group hikes can help encourage physical activity and team building.
- Offer employee health benefits: Offering employee health benefits such as subsidized gym memberships or healthcare plans can help to promote physical and mental well-being.
- Encourage employee breaks: Encouraging employees to take regular breaks can help to reduce stress levels and reduce employee burnout.
Respect employee off-job obligations
As an employer, you know how to appreciate the importance of your employee's personal and professional lives. But have you considered valuing the other responsibilities they need to take care of that aren't for you? It's time to recognize their efforts beyond just their job duties within your business!
How can you respect employees off-job obligations?
- Be considerate: It's essential to remember that not only should an employee's primary job never contradict or interrupt their other duties, but working multiple jobs to make ends meet can also cause feelings of despondency, powerlessness, and fatigue.
- Talk to your employee. Figure out a mutual solution that can work for everyone. Be clear of your expectations, but always remember to remain understanding and flexible with what you are asking from them.
Create a fun work environment
When employees are engaged and having fun while they work, it creates an environment of collaboration and enthusiasm. Productivity inevitably rises as a result - your staff is more content with their job roles, happier to be in the workplace, and therefore much less likely to consider other opportunities.
Promoting a positive environment makes employees more likely to feel better about themselves and their work, leading to higher productivity. Additionally, this encourages them to foster relationships with co-workers, which can improve communication and teamwork within the company.
How can you create a fun work environment?
- Organize team building activities: Organizing fun activities like group lunches, happy hours, or team outings can help to foster relationships between employees and create a more positive work environment.
- Encourage creativity: Encouraging creative thinking within the workplace helps employees break away from mundane tasks and use their imagination instead of productively.
- Host competitions: Hosting friendly competitions such as 'best dressed' awards or scavenger hunts can help to engage employees and create a more enjoyable work environment.
- Reward employees: Rewarding employees with rewards such as gift cards or extra days off encourages them to strive towards ambitious goals while providing an incentive for productivity.
- Involve employees in decision-making: Involving employees in decision-making gives them a sense of ownership and encourages collaboration.
Companies can create a workplace environment that encourages hard work, collaboration, and well-being by implementing these strategies. This will lead to increased productivity and higher job satisfaction for their employees.
Employee scheduling and Time-tracking software!
- Easy Employee scheduling
- Clear time-tracking
- Simple absence management
What are the benefits to the business of these strategies?
- Employee retention: By implementing these strategies, companies are more likely to retain their employees for longer periods. This will result in savings on the cost of recruitment and training and improved employee morale.
- Increased productivity: Creating a positive work environment will encourage employees to be more productive. This can lead to higher profits for the company and provide an overall better return on investment (ROI).
- Improved quality of work: Employees who are happier produce higher quality work. This can lead to improved customer satisfaction and increased loyalty from existing customers.
- Improved brand image: Creating a positive work environment will help improve the company's brand image. Customers are more likely to do business with companies that treat their employees well and provide a good work environment.
- Highly skilled employees have attracted: Companies with a positive work environment are more attractive to highly skilled employees. This helps companies to attract the best talent available and improve their competitive edge in the market.
These strategies can help companies to create an engaging and productive workplace for their employees. This, in turn, will lead to increased productivity and improved quality of work.
How can employees recover from employee burnout?
Employee burnout can be a difficult issue to manage. There are several steps that employees can take to recover from burnout, including:
- Take time off: Time off work is essential for managing stress and recovering from burnout. Employees should make use of vacation days or take unpaid leave if necessary.
- Practice self-care: Practicing self-care is a great way to combat stress and fatigue. This can include activities such as yoga, meditation, or simply taking time off to do something that reenergizes them.
- Reach out for support: Employees should not hesitate to seek support from their family, friends, or colleagues when dealing with burnout. Receiving emotional support can be invaluable in helping them recover.
- Talk with their manager: Talking with their manager about their concerns is also important so they can understand the source of the issue and work towards solutions together.
By following these steps, employees can successfully navigate employee burnout and return to a productive state.
How can emotional intelligence help?
What is emotional intelligence?
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, use and manage emotions positively. It involves understanding one's own emotions and those of others and making decisions based on emotional information rather than facts and logic.
How can emotional intelligence help?
To prevent employee burnout, managers need to develop emotional intelligence skills, such as:
- Self-awareness: Understanding one's emotions and how they affect oneself and others.
- Self-regulation: Being able to regulate emotions to maintain a positive attitude and remain productive.
- Empathy: Being able to understand and respond appropriately to the emotions of others.
- Motivation: Maintaining motivation in the face of obstacles and setbacks.
By developing these skills, employers can create a work environment conducive to well-being and helps employees manage stress levels. This will lead to higher job satisfaction and improved productivity for their business.
Link between leadership style and employee burnout
Leadership plays a key role in managing employee burnout. Leaders aware of their impact on employees and practice "servant leadership" are more likely to create a positive work environment and prevent burnout.
What is servant leadership style?
Servant leadership is a style of leadership that involves being service-oriented and putting the needs of others first. Instead of using power to control, leaders focus on building relationships and fostering collaboration. They often focus on developing a sense of trust with their team and engaging in open communication.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to the Open Door Policy in the Workplace
How does servant leadership help?
The primary benefit of servant leadership is that it helps create an environment where employees feel valued and empowered. This can result in increased job satisfaction, improved engagement, and lower levels of burnout. Additionally, leaders who practice servant leadership are often better equipped to recognize signs of employee burnout and provide timely and effective support.
What are employee assistance programs?
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are an important resource for managing employee burnout. EAPs offer confidential counseling and support services to employees who may be struggling with stress, anxiety, or other personal issues. These services can include guidance on the following:
- Financial management: Providing advice on budgeting, debt management, and financial planning.
- Mental health: Offering counseling services to help employees manage stress and other mental health issues.
- Work-life balance: Providing resources on how to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
By offering these resources, employers can show their commitment to supporting their employees and helping them to manage burnout.
Is hygiene a reason for employee burnout?
Hygiene is another factor that can contribute to employee burnout. Poor hygiene in the workplace can lead to an unprofessional environment and make employees feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.
Ensuring that the workspace is clean, organized, and well-ventilated can help create a positive atmosphere and reduce employees' stress levels.
The motivation-hygiene theory states that motivators and hygiene factors determine an employee's job satisfaction.
Motivators are the factors that make a job enjoyable, such as recognition for good work, opportunities for growth, and meaningful rewards.
Hygiene factors, on the other hand, refer to the conditions of the job or workplace, such as salary, working hours, and hygiene.
The theory suggests that job satisfaction is likely to be higher if both motivators and hygiene factors are met. However, if either one of these is not met, it can lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and burnout.
Therefore, employers should strive to create an environment that meets employees' motivation and hygiene needs.
Laws regarding employee burnout at workplace
Employers are obligated to create a safe and healthy workplace for their employees, which includes taking measures to prevent burnout. Employers need to be aware of the laws that apply in their jurisdiction regarding employee burnout.
In some US states, such as New York and California, specific laws require employers to provide paid sick leave for employees suffering from burnout.
Occupational safety and health act
It is also important for employers to be aware of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) which requires employers to provide a safe workplace free from recognized hazards, including those related to employee burnout.
OSHA provides guidelines on how employers can create a workplace that encourages mental health and well-being, including providing access to resources such as EAPs and flexible workplace policies.
Overall, employee burnout can have serious repercussions on both the individual employee as well as the organization as a whole. However, with the right support and resources, employers can successfully mitigate this issue and foster a workplace conducive to well-being and productivity.
By developing positive motivators, providing access to resources such as EAPs, and ensuring compliance with relevant laws, employers can ensure that their employees receive the support they need and prevent burnout from taking its toll on team morale.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, employee burnout is becoming increasingly common. According to the World Health Organisation, over 300 million people around the world suffer from depression, which is a common symptom of burnout.
The root cause of employee burnout can vary from individual to individual. However, common causes include a lack of job satisfaction, excessive workloads, unrealistic expectations, and poor management.
The final stage of burnout is known as cynicism. This is when an employee feels completely disengaged from work and has a negative outlook on their job and workplace.
Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.
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