Employee burnout is one of the chief manifestations of the stress employees experience because of an adverse work environment. To address burnout issues among your workforce, you must work towards systemic, long-term changes that mitigate the organizational factors responsible for it.
Employee burnout has aggravated during the pandemic and continues to take a heavy toll on employee well-being. Read to know more about what it means, its causes, signs, and remedies .
What is Employee Burnout?
The World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledges it as one of the factors influencing individual health. It is characterized by
- Feelings of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion and energy depletion
- Increased distance or negativity toward one’s job
- Reduced productivity at the workplace
Why Employee Burnout Prevention Matters?
Employee burnout has a direct negative impact on the organizational bottom line in the following ways,
1. Increased Attrition
Per Gallup research, employees who often experience burnout are 2.6 times as likely to leave their current employer. High attrition results in high recruitment and training costs.
2. Decreased Productivity
Burnout results in frequent absenteeism, sick leaves, and a drop in work efficiency among employees.
3. Low Engagement
Burned-out employees are less likely to interact with their teams and managers regularly or add value beyond their basic job descriptions.
Most Common Causes of Employee Burnout
1. Toxic Workplace
A toxic workplace is characterized by interpersonal conflicts within teams, abusive managerial relationships, and unfair treatment that leave the employees feeling unvalued, unsafe, or belittled. Per a 2022 Mckinsey Survey, employees who report experiencing high levels of toxic behavior at work are eight times more likely to experience burnout symptoms.
2. Lack of Autonomy
Sustained micromanagement is a big reason for job burnout. Employees feel less confident if organizations do not trust their skill sets or don’t provide leeway for learning. Employees are less likely to offer dissenting opinions in a micromanaged environment resulting in low self-worth.
3. Lack of Leadership Support
Employees look for clear goals and unambiguous instructions from their managers. Employees also hope to obtain relevant resources and adequate tools for navigating work challenges. Organizational leaders are the psychological safety net for their employees. A lack of empathy from the leadership towards personal and professional issues causes a sense of insecurity among employees.
4. Digital Fatigue
Remote working environments are giving rise to virtual overload leading to burnout. Employees often find it difficult to switch off from work on time. Managers also find it challenging to measure employee productivity leading to productivity paranoia.
Per the2022 Microsoft Work Trends report, the number of weekly online meetings had increased by 153%. Also, 42% of participants multitask actively during these meetings.
5. Unmanageable Workload
Overwork because of unduly strict deadlines and impractical work expectations causes physical and emotional burnout. Employees may fear that not stepping up may be punished formally or informally. Working beyond office hours or on weekends continuously results in sleep loss, body pain, and even weight loss in extreme cases.
Typical Signs of Employee Burnout
Besides the obvious physical signs of exhaustion, like headaches and fatigue, the behavioral and emotional symptoms of burnout include,
1. High Absenteeism
Repeated midweek leaves signal that your employees feel exhausted and need breaks from work. They may not participate actively in team meetings and frequently push responsibilities on teammates.
2. Lack of Initiative
Burnout causes employees to limit their efforts to the minimum required for their job, also known as quiet quitting. They decline to take up new projects, training programs, or volunteering opportunities.
3. Withdrawal or Isolation
One of the most visible signs of burnout is the voluntary isolation of otherwise extroverted employees. Burnt-out employees lack interest in informal gatherings or discussions about coworkers’ lives.
4. Increased Irritability
Employees suffering from burnout can be unduly combative and argumentative during feedback sessions. They may complain about their clients or teammates to shift blame for their own underperformance. They may even speak negatively about the company openly.
5. Increased On-the-job Complaints or Accidents
Burnout affects the quality of employees’ work. Based on the nature of their work, this may translate into increasing customer complaints or workplace accidents due to a lack of concentration.
How To Prevent Employee Burnout Effortlessly?
Per a Deloitte Workplace Burnout survey, 87% of professionals say they are passionate about their job, yet 64% say they frequently feel stressed at work. Ironically, the same HR systems promoting employee engagement may inadvertently cause burnout if you do not accompany them with enough rejuvenation opportunities.
1. Embrace Flexible Working Arrangements
Offering flexible timings and locations of work provides a sense of autonomy to employees. It empowers employees to be productive on their own terms and manage their off-work commitments better. It helps them optimize travel time and take breaks to avoid virtual overload.
2. Encourage Time Off
Ensure your employees utilize their leave quotas. Encourage employees to take time off for personal commitments and important life events. Managers must make sure employees feel comfortable asking for leaves and ensure automated hassle-free leave approvals.
3. Equip Managers to Tackle Burnout
Managers must conduct regular one-on-one interactions with their teams to ensure their psychological safety and assess their workloads. They must also tailor goal-setting to individual aspirations and strengths by involving their team members in the performance management process.
4. Focus on Recognition and Reward Programs
One of the chief outcomes of burnout is extreme cynicism. Employees do not feel a sense of purpose resulting in an overwhelming sense of detachment from their job. Recognizing and appreciating their contribution with appropriate rewards and career opportunities signals to employees that they are valued and motivates them towards resilience.
5. Encourage Shared Accountability
Often, the most capable employees get the highest workloads. It leads to a skewed work distribution among teams and a perception of unfairness among your top performers. Managers must reprioritize and redistribute workloads to ensure equitable contributions from all team members.
How Can Companies Help Employees Recover From Employee Burnout?
1. Identify Burnout Quickly
Burnout does not happen overnight. Employees transition from being highly engaged to be chronically burnt out over time. Managers must train to identify the signs of the onset of stress to take early corrective action. Regular employee stress surveys can also help.
2. Eliminate the Stigma
Ensure that your company culture supports open discussions about employees’ mental health issues. Normalize these discussions in manager interactions and acknowledge that burnout is a common phenomenon. It ensures employees can reach out to you comfortably as a first step to recovering from burnout.
#3. Recalibrate Work-Life Balance
Managers must create and respect clear boundaries between work and home. They must also set clear company-wide availability expectations and signal that not being available beyond office hours wouldn’t affect performance appraisals.
4. Offer Employee Wellness Programs
Make sure your employees know about the wellness benefits offered by your company. Take employee feedback about what they need to recover and tweak your wellness offerings accordingly. Conduct employee assistance programs to understand how burnout is affecting their work and work out solutions.
5. Foster a Culture of Fairness and Gratitude
To heal burnt-out employees, begin by appreciating them for their contribution and rewarding them with additional time off or paid leisure trips. Eliminate bias in reward programs and ensure employees get their due.
How Can Technology Help Curb Employee Burnout?
Technology can help organizations measure and combat workplace burnout,
1. Track Employee Sentiment
Internal social media platforms, surveys, and wearable devices help organizations gauge employee engagement and how they are coping with their workloads.
2. Facilitate Flexibility
Remote collaboration tools, video conferencing systems, hotdesking apps, and automated timekeeping systems enable time and location flexibility for employees.
3. Ease the Workload
4. Enhance Recognition and Rewards
Automated performance management tools can enable collaborative goal setting, frequent feedback, and bias-free, fair evaluations. Online peer-driven rewards and redemption systems help boost employee confidence.
Employee well-being is a non-negotiable aspect for HR leaders across the world. HR these days are trying new ways, like meditation programs, counseling sessions, and fitness app subscriptions, to benefit employees’ emotional health.
Organizations must help employees move from a sense of fear to a feeling of collective resilience. Employees must learn to identify and acknowledge symptoms of burnout, seek help and return to a more productive state by leveraging the tools available for tackling burnout. Sustained long-term strategies to combat employee burnout can pay rich dividends for your organization.