Recognizing and addressing employee burnout in the workplace

What is employee burnout?

If you’ve ever felt exhausted or depleted, and less engaged and unproductive at work, it’s possible you might have been experiencing burnout. Employee burnout is a phenomenon that can affect individuals in the workforce.1 It is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that can come from prolonged stress and pressure at work.1

Burnout can have a detrimental impact on an employee's mental health, which could lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and even long-term health problems.2 It is essential for employers to recognize the signs of burnout and take proactive measures to address it in the workplace.2

In this article, we will explore employee burnout, ways it can impact mental health, and the importance of addressing burnout in the workplace.

Signs and symptoms of employee burnout

In the Beyond Age podcast, Dr. Susan Biali Haas, a medical doctor, and wellness expert, addressed burnout and emphasized that symptoms and signs of employee burnout can manifest in a variety of ways. 

“It's very important to understand that it's not your fault if it's happening to you,” said Dr. Biali Haas. “It's well established that the main things that create burnout in us are work related.” 

Physical symptoms of burnout may include headaches, chronic fatigue, insomnia, or sleep disturbances.3 When employees are experiencing burnout, they may also have emotional symptoms such as increased irritability or anger, decreased motivation and enthusiasm, and feelings of detachment.4 These symptoms can have an impact an individual’s overall mood and mental health, as well as their ability to function effectively in the workplace.4

In addition to physical and emotional symptoms, behavioral symptoms can also be indicative of employee burnout.2 These may include decreased productivity and performance.2 Employees who are burned out may also seem disengaged or uninterested in their work. 2

“If you have that thought, maybe I could use some help or some support, or somebody suggests it to you, I would really encourage you to act on it and to get the help,” said Dr. Biali Haas. “We know that counseling support … [is] certainly helpful with burnout.”

Industries most at risk for employee burnout

Employee burnout can occur in any industry but there are some more at risk than others. Industries that are high stress and that require long hours or tight deadlines can increase the risk of burnout.5 A 2019 survey found people working in these industries are more likely to experience burnout:

  • Construction,
  • Education,
  • Healthcare and medical,
  • Hospitality, food services, and hotels,
  • Manufacturing,
  • Retail and wholesale, and,
  • Transportation and warehousing.5

Recognizing employee burnout

Recognizing employee burnout is an important responsibility for employers, as it can have an impact on the overall productivity and well-being of their workforce.6 According to CIO, there are 3 ways that employers can recognize burnout in their employees:

  1. Get to know your employees. If you take the time to understand who your employees are, it can help managers pick up on subtle cues that may have gone unnoticed.
  2. Increase transparency and communication. Understand your employees’ working styles and have discussions around ways of working more effectively together.
  3. Elevate awareness of burnout potential. Educate leaders about the early signs of burnout in the workplace to help get ahead of potential issues.6

“I encourage employers to have a conversation with their people,” said Dr. Biali Haas. “Overall, understanding what the drivers of burnout are as an organization, and then working together with [employees] to identify what are the things that we can change that will just help everyone.”

Ways to prevent employee burnout

It is important for employers to understand the signs of burnout and take timely measures to help prevent it from progressing.7 This may include:

  • Supporting work-life balance and encouraging employees to take vacation time,
  • Leading by example and taking regular breaks,
  • Having ongoing discussions with team members, and,
  • Offering mental health benefits to support employee well-being.7

By prioritizing the mental health and well-being of employees, organizations may help improve productivity, reduce absenteeism, and create a positive and engaged workforce.7

In conclusion, employee burnout is a prevalent issue that can have consequences for both employees and employers.2 Taking steps to address and prevent employee burnout is not only beneficial for individual employees, but it can also lead to a more successful organization.7

To learn more, you can check out the full Beyond Age podcast episode titled: The Burnout Crisis

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