Employee burnout is a prolonged state of mental and physical exhaustion that can have far-reaching consequences for everyone involved. Over time, burnout can not only seriously affect a person’s mental and physical health, but it can also kill the joy they once felt in their job.
The World Health Organization’s ICD-11 defines burnout as, “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” But whose responsibility is it to manage employee burnout? Is it solely on the person experiencing burnout or does some of the responsibility also lie within the leadership of the company?
Answer? Both. All parties that are affected by the consequences of burnout have a responsibility to address it and try to fix it.
Employee burnout may fall anywhere on the spectrum between “I can’t wait for Friday” to “I think I need to quit this job and reevaluate my career path.” It’s important to recognize the signs of burnout in the workplace before it gets to the latter.
In this article, we will show you four of the biggest warning signs that your employee may be burned out and what actions you can take to help address the problem for the well-being of the employee and the team as a whole.
1. Decreased Productivity
Have you noticed that an employee is missing deadlines more frequently or leaving work without finishing their assigned tasks for the day? It’s easy to assume that it’s just the employee being lazy and all they need is a good talking to to get them back on track.
Chances are, these missed deadlines are a sign of deeper issues than laziness. If a normally reliable employee suddenly turns lax, burnout could be to blame for the decrease in productivity.
To combat this, examine the employee’s workload carefully. Have a conversation with them to try to find things they aren’t able to accomplish and ask them how you can reduce some of the burden.
Remember that your employees are human, and a manager can’t expect them to work hard under stressful circumstances without repercussions. If you let them know you care and try to reduce their load, they will be encouraged to give you better results.
2. Low Levels of Engagement
When a team is excited about the work they are doing, you will see them collaborating to work through challenges or offer feedback or suggestions to make the work better. But when an employee is feeling burned out, you will see a noticeable disconnection from this type of collaborative work. This could take the form of becoming more isolated, staying quiet in team meetings or not talking to colleagues.
To increase their engagement, get them more involved in decision making to make them feel like they are an integral part of the larger team, and their involvement matters. Try assigning them a project that you know they will enjoy or give them an opportunity to learn a new skill that they can add to their credentials. Seeking out things that interest them and asking their opinion more will naturally lead to deeper engagement.
3. Frequent Absences
A classic example of burnout is when an employee suddenly starts taking too many PTO days or sick days. This could be for a couple different reasons: they are avoiding the stress that they experience in the workplace or the stress is starting to take a toll on their physical health.
When employees frequently call in sick, the company’s productivity is at stake. Creating an office wellness program can help in a lot of ways. This could include regular lectures from experts on how to manage stress and how to stay physically healthy. You could provide more healthy snacks and food choices in the office. You could create a comprehensive employee assistance program that gives employees access to mental health counselors, addiction specialists, financial advisers and other experts who can help with the stressors your employees could be experiencing.
4. Increased Cynicism and Complaining
Negativity about duties, operations or the company as a whole can be damaging to a work environment. There are some people who just have negative views and will complain no matter what happens. However, when a normally upbeat and encouraging person on your team begins to complain and be more negative, the reason could be due to burnout.
The occasional complaint is absolutely normal, and many times people complaining are doing so as a way to vent their frustrations. But when you notice this leads to a lack of trust in colleagues or leadership, that’s when you should take it more seriously.
You can help combat negativity by being as transparent in your processes as possible to help build trust and improve loyalty to the organization. Also, try switching things up. Give the employee a different kind of project or assignment than they normally would do to help reinvigorate enthusiasm in work again and hopefully cut down on the complaining.
Watching for these common signs of employee burnout is important to ensure that the damage burnout can have on mental health and productivity doesn’t spiral out of control. Above all, communicate clearly with all employees and listen to their stresses before jumping to conclusions about what is affecting their work performance.