How to detect and prevent employee burnout

An employee sits at their desk rubbing their eyes. They look like they're suffering from employee burnout.
  • Date posted

    May 30, 2023

  • Estimated reading time

    5 minutes

Identifying signs of employee burnout is vital in the modern workplace. According to a 2022 report from Aflac, 59% of American workers experience at least moderate levels of burnout on the job.

Safeguarding employee wellbeing benefits the entire organization, making understanding the ins and outs of employee burnout vital. This article will provide strategies HR leaders and managers can use to understand, identify, and address burnout for improved employee wellbeing.

Understanding employee burnout

Preventing employee burnout is crucial to keep your business sustainable and employees satisfied. But what is employee burnout? Burnout is a current threat to employees’ mental and physical health, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), employee burnout results from chronic workplace stress and unmanaged anxieties. Burnout is characterized by the following:

  • Feeling depleted or exhausted
  • Feeling mentally distanced from one’s job
  • Feeling negativity and cynicism toward one’s job
  • Worsening professional efficacy

The causes of employee burnout

Identifying employee burnout signs requires understanding the root causes of worsening mental health among employees. Unfortunately, no single cause contributes to the rise in employee burnout. Most employees feel exhausted for multiple reasons. A study from Zippia discovered the following regarding employee burnout:

  • An excessive amount of work is the leading cause of employee burnout. Workloads have massively increased during COVID-19 because of poor management or understaffing.
  • A lack of control causes employees to lose their sense of agency and is often demoralizing. This can lead to poor self-esteem among employees.
  • A lack of support from leaders contributes to worsening employee burnout. 91% of employees state that their bosses don’t communicate well or provide adequate support.
  • A lack of resources to alleviate employee burnout worsens the issue. Companies fail to provide employees with employee mental health programs to ensure their overall wellbeing.

By recognizing the factors that contribute to burnout, HR leaders can implement strategies to address these issues. This includes creating policies and initiatives that promote a healthy work environment, fostering work-life balance, and providing necessary support systems.

Why employee burnout is a problem

Employee burnout can cause an organization to perform poorly and decreases staff productivity, leading to low efficiency and miscommunication. Employee burnout can plant the seeds for several issues with your organization and lowers employee engagement.

Employee burnout is worsening. As a result, employees are becoming less engaged with their work. This makes it difficult for HR leaders to motivate and retain their best staff. This issue is especially notable considering that, while 71% of executives believe that engagement is critical to their organization’s success, 85% of employees worldwide are “not engaged or actively disengaged.”

Employee burnout goes beyond this and can evolve into many employee wellbeing issues. Aflac’s report also found that 86% of employees with high levels of burnout suffered mental health challenges in the previous year, with anxiety, depression, and trouble sleeping most commonly cited.

Given the negative mental impact of workplace burnout, organizations are spending more and more on healthcare costs related to workplace stress. A Harvard study discovered that workplace burnout and stress cost companies between $125 and $190 billion per year. A significant factor in these costs relate to high demand at work.

Employee burnout is also a severe threat regarding turnover rates. Employee burnout can cause your best employees to become weary and exhausted. This leads to poor performance and increases the chance of employee resignation. High turnover rates caused by burnout can lead to a significant financial blow to your company.

Employee burnout signs

HR plays a crucial role in addressing and mitigating burnout in the workplace. However, before devising a wellbeing strategy to address burnout, you must be able to identify the signs. While this varies depending on the individual, here are a few signs of employee burnout to consider.

Different attitudes

Employee burnout leads to low morale and fosters cynicism in the workplace. When you notice employees’ attitudes toward the company beginning to change, this is a sign that burnout is occurring. Cynicism is a significant indicator of burnout. It can cause employees to be visibly unhappy and irritable toward the team and clients.

Lower quality work

Burnout damages organizational morale, causing employees to produce lower-quality work than usual. When employees disengage from the workplace, their work often takes a downturn. While projects still get done, the final quality of work is much lower than previously. This can lead to financial issues for your business.

Higher absenteeism

Overworking your employees will lead to higher absenteeism rates that can significantly damage the quality of their work. By not providing sufficient mental health resources, your employees might decide to take sick days to regain morale and manage stress. The higher the absenteeism rate, the more challenging it becomes for your organization to communicate and succeed. It can also lower the quality of work produced by an organization.

Decreased productivity

Burnout causes low productivity because employees feel overworked or lose the passion they once had for their company. If employees aren’t producing work at the same rate, your business might be suffering from high burnout levels.

Managing employee burnout

Employee burnout is a solvable issue; a comprehensive wellbeing strategy can do wonders for your company. Investing in employee mental health programs shows your workers that you care about their overall wellbeing and satisfaction with your company. Some programs and strategies you can use to safeguard employee wellbeing include:

  • Give your employees sufficient resources to manage burnout in a way that suits their style. Provide flexible and mobile wellbeing tools your employees can use throughout their journey.
  • Train leadership on how they support themselves and their direct reports. More than 9 in 10 professionals feel more motivated if their leaders support their overall wellbeing efforts.
  • Set aside time employees can use to relax and practice mindfulness. 76% of employees feel their employers don’t do enough to protect their mental health and wellbeing. At Navigate, we practice what we preach by offering employees three mental health hours per week.
  • Empower your employees take time off when they need a break. This could mean extending their lunch break or allowing them to take half or full mental health days off. This can help keep them motivated.
  • Appreciate employees and show gratitude for their contributions whenever possible. Appreciation will show employees that their contributions matter to the company, boosting morale.
  • Implement a holistic wellbeing strategy to address employee wellbeing from all angles.

Employee burnout is a pressing issue with detrimental effects on both individuals and the organization. HR leaders and managers play a crucial role in addressing and mitigating the impact of burnout in the workplace.

By recognizing the signs of burnout and providing adequate support, companies can create an environment that uplifts employee wellbeing. HR leaders can implement a holistic employee wellbeing strategy like a Navigate solution to prevent and identify burnout when it occurs.

Learn more about the nuances of employee burnout, and the gender burnout gap, in our next blog.

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