Employees with burnout are more than stressed every now and then. They are often overwhelmed to the point of being less effective in their personal and work lives. However, employee burnout is not an unavoidable fact of life, and there are things employers can do to help employees who are approaching or struggling with burnout.

To support your employees through these stressful times, you’ll need to understand the symptoms and causes of burnout, and take specific actions to let employees know they are not alone.

How Employee Burnout Impacts the Workplace

Besides being highly worrisome for employees, burnout has a far-reaching impact on the workplace. Multiple studies have found persistent workplace stress accounts for an estimated $125 - $190 billion in healthcare spending and a loss of 550 million work days each year.

COVID-19 and its dramatic impact on how people work and live has only made matters worse. A recent Flexjobs/Mental Health America study found the pandemic to be the number one cause of burnout for over 1,500 surveyed employees, with other stressors—personal finances, job responsibilities, and family health concerns—following close behind.

Employee burnout is more prevalent than some might think. In a Deloitte survey, 77 percent of employee respondents said they have experienced burnout at their current job, with more than half saying they have experienced burnout more than once. Those employees who are burned out may not always express their reality. Some may fear letting others know they are having trouble coping with their stress levels, while others may not know how to articulate their feelings of burnout. 

While burnout doesn’t affect all employees the same way, there are some common behaviors to look out for when you suspect an employee may be burned out. The tell-tale signs of burnout include the following:

  • Loss of interest in new and existing work
  • A drop in performance 
  • Increased employee complaints about workload and feeling unappreciated
  • Less interaction and communication within and between teams
  • Negative outlook and pessimism among employees
  • Increased absenteeism and turnover

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Causes of Employee Burnout

A variety of factors can result in employee burnout, and they vary from person to person. While burnout can be caused by personal factors such as financial difficulties, childcare or eldercare challenges, or ill health, many are related to challenges at work. 

Some of the most common causes of employee burnout include:

  • Long hours or shifts: Employees who work longer shifts or too many hours in a day can feel overwhelmed by a lack of work-life balance. Longer hours can also occur in organizations where furloughs and layoffs have left more work to be completed by fewer existing employees.
  • High levels of change: Constant changes in work routines (for example, a sudden shift to remote work) can lead to stress and uncertainty about the future. Other big changes impacting burnout include a new manager and the introduction of new technology and related processes.
  • A poor manager relationship: Individuals without the support of their manager can feel isolated and unappreciated, which can increase stress levels and feelings of isolation.
  • Accelerated deadlines: When there is less time to turn around work or project deliverables come in rapid succession, employees can feel overwhelmed by the lack of time to catch their breath or be more thoughtful about their work.
  • An unsupportive work culture: A company culture that seems to de-emphasize employee well-being in favor or financial or other results can leave employees feeling there is no support to help them address feelings of burnout.

6 Tips to Help You Avoid Burnout Among Employees

Despite the many causes of employee burnout, you can proactively support employees and reduce the rate of persistently high stress levels in the workforce. Chances are, your employees need and want support more than you think. The Deloitte Workplace Burnout Study found that more than 70 percent of surveyed professionals felt their employers were not doing enough to prevent or alleviate burnout within their organization.

Here are six actions your organization can take to support employees and prevent burnout.

1. Provide COVID-19-related and work-from-home support.

Many employees have never worked from home before COVID, and they may still be struggling to strike a productive balance in their new work environment. While employees have been working remotely for some months now, they can still benefit from support to help them avoid burnout at home. 

Consider taking the following actions to help your remote employees manage and reduce stress:

  • Offer programs and resources to help employees manage remote work, such as an employee assistance program (EAP) or reimbursement for fitness programs.
  • Introduce technology designed to allow employees to be productive from anywhere.
  • Publicize alternative work schedule opportunities to help employees to achieve greater work-life balance.

2. Provide opportunities for information sharing.

Employees experiencing burnout and other challenges need an opportunity to share feedback, ask questions, and learn from others’ experiences. By providing employees with an outlet for information-sharing, employees can become more aware of available support and see they are not alone. You can provide opportunities for information sharing by establishing online forums for employees to share their stories and provide suggestions to others. Virtual happy hours and team lunches also create an environment where employees may feel more comfortable sharing their experiences.

3. Encourage leaders to reach out and check in.

When leaders demonstrate a willingness to help employees prevent or remedy their burnout, employees feel supported and see their manager as part of a solution and not a cause of burnout. Managers can provide support through one-on-one meetings, reaching out to employees who seem to be struggling, and creating opportunities for open dialogue in team meetings.

4. Build trust.

Another effective way to support employees experiencing high levels of stress is to demonstrate trust in the workplace. By creating an environment where employees know they can acknowledge being overwhelmed without fear of retaliation, you create a path for them to ask for help and access available resources. For example, messages from senior leaders acknowledging burnout will help remove any existing taboos and create more opportunities for healthy dialogue.

5. Monitor staffing levels and org structure.

As a result of COVID-19 and a fluctuating economy, many organizations have had to revisit staffing plans. Others are still recovering after layoffs or furloughs, which can be stressful for remaining employees. By identifying your current talent gaps and filling those gaps with new or returning staff, you can help tackle employee burnout caused by being overworked or lacking sufficient supervision.

6. Create a smooth onboarding process.

Starting a new role can be stressful in the best of times, even more so with a bumpy onboarding or a lack of resources to support remote hires. To help new employees overcome learning and orientation challenges in a new position, it’s essential to provide them with the tools and resources they need to find early success in their new role. 

A great way to support smooth employee onboarding is to create a seamless transition from the hiring and screening process. Integrating your background screening and ATS systems with your onboarding platform can make for a better candidate and employee experience. A more seamless onboarding also benefits employees returning to the workplace after an extended absence, such as a COVID-related layoff or furlough.

Reduce Burnout and Improve the Employee Experience

In today’s climate, there is no shortage of causes leading to employee burnout. However, by creating a supportive environment and connecting employees to resources for prevention, you can keep employees productive and improve their overall experience at work.

An exceptional employee experience starts at the candidate stage, before a person is hired, which is why a well-run screening and hiring process is so critical to your success. Take our interactive assessment to see the additional ways you can improve the candidate and employee experience and build a more productive workforce.

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