Employee burnout: How to spot and prevent it

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The working environment is no longer confined to the office. Having constant access to emails and work can make it especially difficult to switch off and refresh.

Over half of UK workers feel that tiredness has become a bigger workplace problem over the past five years. Whilst longer working hours, jam-packed diaries and tighter deadlines may boost business performance in the short-term; over time they’re likely to lead to stress, exhaustion and employee burnout.

The cost of employee burnout

95% of HR leaders believe employee burnout is sabotaging their workforce, and two thirds of UK workers state that exhaustion impacts their productivity. Exhaustion at work can increase the likelihood of mistakes and conflicts, lead to a rise in absences, and research suggests it causes between 20-50% of employee turnover.

We’ve come up with tips to help employers spot the signs of employee exhaustion and take action before it escalates.

Common signs of employee burnout

Disengagement from work 25% of employees recently reported that work stress led to them feeling disengaged. Signs of employee disengagement include withdrawing from any non-necessary conversations or activities, fulfilling the bare minimum required at work, and a lack of communication during meetings and teamwork

Drop in work performance – many employees who are over-tired, stressed and anxious at work will have trouble concentrating, making them more likely to make mistakes, forget things, and struggle making basic decisions they might have made easily before

Absenteeism – if employees are taking regular days or prolonged periods of time off work due to illness, it could indicate that they’re disengaged or stressed

Physical signs – employees may regularly appear tired, worn out, experience weight change or have a lower immunity to colds, flu and other illnesses

However, it’s not always easy to spot the signs early on. In fact, employee burnout (resulting from exhaustion and severe or prolonged stress) is also referred to as ‘overachiever syndrome’. The high-performing individuals who are susceptible to exhaustion and burnout often won’t display signs until the problem has escalated.

So, to avoid the costs of exhausted employees, here are some preventative measures you can take to help maintain a well and productive workforce.

Simple steps to help prevent employee burnout

Look after their health

Healthy employees are likely to be more resilient at work, better able to cope under pressure and manage a busy workload. Our Healthcare for Business can be a convenient, affordable and adaptable solution to help you take care of your employees’ specific wellbeing needs.

Encourage conversation                                                                                  

Give your employees the opportunity to discuss their workload and any concerns they have. This can be done on an ad-hoc basis, but regularly scheduled one-to-one chats with managers can be more effective, especially if the employee isn’t likely to reach out for help themselves.

Some employees may not feel comfortable talking to their manager when they feel stressed and overwhelmed, especially if issues in their personal life are affecting them. Providing a confidential helpline like our Healthcare for Business 24/7 Mental Health helpline can be a cost effective and convenient way of offering them support.

Make roles and responsibilities as clear as possible

Job specs and responsibilities are commonly adaptable as demands and resources change – particularly in smaller companies. However, the more clarity employees have regarding their specific roles, the better they’ll be able to manage their workload

Without clarity on roles, companies risk a culture of blame arising when things go wrong, making it difficult to keep up morale and engagement. Employees are then more likely to become overwhelmed and stressed – eventually leading to burnout.

Recognise hard work

Having clear responsibilities also makes it easier to recognise and reward employees for their work. Providing feedback will help you spot if they’re struggling to manage their workload, and need support. It also shows employees that they’re valued and appreciated, which can be a motivator to maintain a high performance.

Keep them involved in decision-making

Nobody likes to be dictated to. If you create a culture of one-way interaction with employees, they’re more likely to feel resentful and overwhelmed by the constant demands.

Giving employees more ownership of their work by getting them involved in decision-making, where appropriate, will make them feel trusted and valued. Plus, engaging them in work management can help them strengthen their skill-set – which is a win-win for both of you!

Encourage a good work-life balance

Allowing employees to work from home or work flexible hours can help them get more rest, reduce stress and improve their work-life balance. Flexible benefits can show your employees that you care about their wellbeing and trust them to manage their own time.

Read our free employer’s guide to supporting employees with family and care commitments to discover ways to create a more compassionate working environment, and how this pays off for your business.

Educate your workforce on the benefits of healthy sleep habits

Despite tiredness and exhaustion being considered a bigger workplace problem over the past five years, only 17% of employers proactively educate their employees on the wellbeing benefits of sleep. Read our blog to discover how poor sleep can affect your employees, and how you can help to keep them productive at work.

These simple steps can help minimise and prevent employee burnout and avoid some of the associated costs. However, the most effective strategy will ultimately depend on your organisation and the individual employees’ needs.

If you’re implementing ways to prevent employee burnout at your organisation, we’d love to hear how our tips have helped. Share your experience with us through Linked In or Twitter using #employeeburnout.

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