Understanding and Preventing Employee Burnout: 6 Ways to Address Endangered Employee Wellbeing

Employee burnout is on the rise. Read on to understand signs of burnout and prevent it from happening in your organization.

August 13, 2021 By Sara Ana Cemazar Share on Twitter! Share on Facebook! Share on LinkedIn!

employee burnout

Employee burnout is nothing new. However, it is becoming more and more prevalent in organizations, so employers are trying to find new ways to address it.

In many cases, organizations do not need innovative techniques to prevent employee burnout. Most of the time, burnout is caused by the reasons that have been troubling workplaces for ages. However, Millennials and Gen Z, who are becoming prevalent in the total world workforce, are more prone to anxiety and stress than any generation before.

Since dealing with burnout is costly, it is better to try to prevent it from happening. In this article, you will learn how to recognize burnout, what it can cost your organization, and most importantly – how you can prevent it.

🔥 Before you continue, get our Employee Recognition Playbook and find out how to build effective employee recognition programs targeting employee wellbeing.

employee recognition playbook

What Is Employee Burnout and How to Spot It

In 2019, the World Health Organization labeled employee burnout as an “occupational phenomenon”. They describe burnout as a syndrome that is a consequence of unsuccessfully managed and chronic workplace stress.

The three dimensions of employee burnout are listed as these:

  • Feeling exhausted
  • Feeling negative about your job
  • Reduced productivity.

How can you recognize if your employees are experiencing burnout?

There are a number of ways that employee burnout can be spotted. Here are just some examples:

  • Negative attitude towards others or work
  • Loss of enthusiasm
  • Cynicism and irritability
  • Low energy
  • Inability to focus
  • Decreased employee productivity and performance

If you recognize these signs in your workers, jump ahead to the last section and find out how to prevent employee burnout.

Employee burnout is on the rise

Sadly, employee burnout is really on the rise. More and more employees are reporting feeling exhausted at work. More specifically, 52% of employees are experiencing burnout in 2021 – which is more than 43% that felt that way before the pandemic.

Unsurprisingly, 67% of people believe pandemic has contributed to their burnout – and remote workers feel this way more than their on-site colleagues.

We also see differences across generations – Millennials report highest percentages of burnout (59%) with Gen Z following closely (58%). However, all generations feel more burned out than before the pandemic.

employee burnout

The Cost of Employee Burnout

Employee burnout is undoubtedly costly. It is financially challenging to organizations from several aspects. First of all, burned out workers exhibit decreased performance, ultimately causing slowdown in delivering work or less quality outputs.

🔥 Find out the five effective ways to increase employee performance.

Secondly, employers do not always recognize employee burnout on time. This leads to employee disengagement, which costs organizations up to 34% of their annual salary.

Third, employee burnout leads to increased employee turnover – which can cost up to 200% of employees’ annual salary. 

All in all, dealing with burnout is costing organizations a lot of time and financial resources. Moreover, research suggests that healthcare costs stemming from employee burnout amount up to $190 billion every year.

employee burnout

What Causes Employee Burnout

When we imagine a burned out employee, the first thing that comes to mind is having too much work to handle, leading to working overtime, leading to inability to shut down after work, resulting in total burnout.

However, employee burnout is not always so dramatic – although it should be always taken very seriously. Moreover, there are multiple reasons why employees get burned out.

Increased workload

When employees are unable to successfully meet their deadlines without working longer hours, they are usually dealing with excessive workload.

Employee burnout caused by increased workload can happen when employees cannot effectively prioritize their work tasks, when they are perfectionists, and when they take on others’ work. This is common in managers that have trouble delegating tasks and want to prove themselves, thus taking on too much work.

Dysfunctional workplace dynamics

Dysfunctional workplace dynamics manifests itself in multiple ways. It could be that the boss micromanages employees, or calls them after working hours. Moreover, employees could be stressed out by a bullying colleague, or have to deal with a team member that is a constant bottleneck.

In any way, relationships with others can seriously impact employees’ work motivation, happiness, and satisfaction. Moreover, dysfunctional workplace dynamics between managers and their subordinates often cause employee burnout and decrease employee retention. 

employee burnout

Lacking autonomy and access to resources

If employees do not have access to materials they need to work, they spend a lot of time trying to find out where these resources could be and whom they have to contact to access them.

Moreover, perceived lack of autonomy, for example being excluded from decision making progress, can also lead to employee burnout.

Are you sure that your employees’ voices are heard by their managers, and that they can access the resources they need easily?

Inadequate compensation and benefits

When workers believe they are working more than they should for the compensation and benefits they receive, there is a real possibility of growing dissatisfaction with their job and employee burnout.

To prevent this, try to reevaluate your employee benefits on an annual basis and conduct regular employee surveys.

Poor workplace culture

Too often do employers encourage competitive workplace culture among their employees. The goal? To spark rivalry and inspire employees to go the extra mile.

However, such workplace culture is not conducive to healthy growth in the long run, and it can significantly increase chances of employee burnout. Instead, companies should seek to create comradery between workers and make the whole company feel like one team – not like you should compete with your colleagues.

How to Prevent Employee Burnout

In his recent article, Josh Bersin writes about employee burnout – and how it is a problem that has been troubling organizations for decades.

The most important lesson about employee burnout is that it does not happen overnight. There are numerous systemic indicators leading to exhausted and stressed out workforce.

Luckily, organizations have a couple of proven strategies at their disposal to prevent employee burnout.

Make work more meaningful

Everybody needs to find their job meaningful to stick to it. The work employees do every day needs to align with their interests at least to some extent.

That being said, some employees have intrinsic, while others extrinsic motivation for what they do. If employees do not find their work meaningful but annoying or even boring, they are at danger of burnout – or boreout!

Improving leadership skills

Managers are accountable for 70% of their employees’ engagement. Think about it: managers present the unique bond between employees and upper management. They are employees’ direct superiors.

employee burnout

If managers do not lead adequately, it can lead to frustration and eventually to employee burnout. Therefore, ask yourself: are your managers educated to manage their teams? Sadly, 58% of managers say they do not receive proper management training.

Positive workplace culture

Positive company culture can significantly reduce chances of employee burnout. Workers should feel like they belong to their organization, share its mission and values, and should have good work relations with their colleagues.

Moreover, when companies support open employee communication and transparency, workers are more likely to report they feel burned out and ask for help.

Emphasizing employee wellbeing

Although wellbeing in general has been a popular topic since the pandemic, companies are still not paying enough attention to their employees mental and physical health. However, individual employee wellbeing strongly correlates with decreased chances of burnout.

🔥Learn what workplace wellness is and why every company should prioritize it.

In sum, when workers know how to deal with stress and how to achieve optimal work-life balance, they are less prone to employee burnout.

Recognizing employees’ work

According to HR Professionals, employee recognition has multiple benefits. It positively impacts employee happiness, relationships, and engagement.

employee burnout

When managers appreciate their team members’ work, employees’ confidence grows. Moreover, employees get the information that their work is meaningful. In the long run, continuous recognition of employees’ work contributes to the positive company culture and better team relations – thus reducing the possibility of employee burnout.

Providing regular feedback

Getting a sense of how they are performing is important to employees – especially young ones. Millennials and Gen Z are generations that grew up seeking constant approval, and they need it in the workplace as well.

Therefore, feedback should not only be regular, but continuous. You do not need to spend hours reviewing your employees’ work every week – many prefer informal feedback, just to know where they are standing.

Furthermore, research shows that 57% of employees prefer corrective feedback over praise. Practicing constructive feedback will amount to healthier work relationships, growth, and confidence, which contributes to preventing employee burnout.

Building Health and Wellbeing Culture

When you want to scale your wellbeing initiatives to create a more healthy workplace, you need technology to achieve this. 

Healthain is a corporate wellness solution in Semos Cloud’s employee experience suite which helps you engage and motivate employees. Besides including employees in company-wide wellbeing initiatives, you can reward workers for personal achievements and ignite friendly levels of competition over wellbeing goals.

Get in touch with our team to learn more about Healthain and set your company for success.