Employee Engagement Employee Experience

How Employers Can Spot & Prevent Job Burnout

August 2, 2022
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8 min read
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This post was written by guest author Eva Chan of Resume Genius.Today's work environment presents many challenges for employees. With new economic and social obstacles resulting from the pandemic and a rise in mental health struggles, your workers need more support than ever. Gallup reflects that in 2018, 67% of employees experienced burnout, which increased to 74% in 2021.

According to the Mayo Clinic, job burnout is a form of workplace stress that causes employees to feel emotionally or physically exhausted and a lack of accomplishment or loss of identity. 

Although it’s not surprising that workplace burnout exists, HR departments should do their part to prevent these figures from increasing. 

Read on to learn why employee burnout occurs, identify common job burnout symptoms, and discover five tips to reduce burnout and ensure your employees can thrive in the workplace.

Did you know that 74% of employees experienced #burnout last year? Find out how to spot and prevent #employeeburnout at your business:

What Causes Employee Burnout?

Employee burnout can happen at any workplace due to stressors such as daily job demands, the need for frequent innovation, and understaffing. Without proper support from managers and your company, some of your best employees might start writing a resume and applying for new jobs elsewhere.

“Burnout is more than just an employee problem; it’s an organizational problem that requires an organizational solution.” - Harvard Business Review

Here are some other common factors that can cause employees to experience burnout at your workplace:

Feeling unsupported by the manager

Fast-paced turnaround times for tasks often lead to stress. Suppose employees have direct supervisors who don’t understand their struggles or put in the effort to hear them. In that case, these employees might feel alone and unsupported as they face issues or make major decisions.

Having confusing or unclear job expectations

Organizations that don't communicate their goals or expectations to their employees can negatively impact staff productivity and wellbeing. If employees are unsure whether they're doing their job correctly, their anxiety levels will increase. As a result, workers may question their roles and become more stressed.

Receiving minimal recognition

When employees don’t feel like they receive recognition at work, they’re more likely to describe their company culture negatively, using phrases like “plays favoritism.” According to Gallup, younger workers report that they want recognition more frequently than older generations. Research also showed that Black and Hispanic employees are less likely to feel they receive equitable, genuine recognition from their managers compared to white employees. 

Unmanageable workloads

Heavy workloads, packed work schedules, and increased responsibilities can impact employees’ mental stress. Employees who feel work is unmanageable may work less effectively, take work home, or call in sick more often. And as a result, employees will pile on more unfinished tasks and continue to feel overwhelmed.

3 Types of Job Burnout

Although job burnout is an area that psychologists are still researching, three types of burnout syndrome have emerged. By taking the time to understand them, you can recognize whether your organization has an employee burnout problem and how to fix it.

1. Overload Burnout

Overload burnout is when employees work long hours with few breaks. This type of burnout is linked to exhaustion and a lack of energy to work on tasks.

High ambitions often cause overload burnout because most workers want to succeed and feel accomplished when they help their company. Employees may also overwork themselves because of financial needs.

However, overexertion can have an effect on both work and home life. Performance can actually decrease while employees lose time with their loved ones or stop pursuing hobbies. Without enough time to rest and recharge, employees’ need for health care may increase because they can't prepare healthy meals or get enough sleep, exercise, and time outdoors.

2. Under-challenged Burnout

Under-challenged burnout occurs when employees have little to do and feel unproductive or unnecessary to an organization. 

When your workforce experiences under-challenged burnout, it could mean there are:

  • Few to no opportunities for progress in your employees’ careers
  • Infrequent feedback sessions or recognition from management
  • Limited professional development opportunities
  • Minimal attempts to help staff understand where they fit into the company's growth goals

3. Neglect Burnout

Employees who don’t feel fulfilled by or connected to their work may develop neglect burnout. This type of burnout may also occur if employees don’t feel like they are capable of doing their job well. 

Neglect burnout makes it hard for employees to stay engaged and productive. They often manage their tasks less efficiently and their performance and productivity suffer. 

4 Employee Burnout Symptoms to Watch For

APA's 2021 report saw an increase in burnout rates for American workers, with 79% experiencing symptoms of work-related stress. Their surveys also showed a 38% increase compared to the 2019 figures regarding cognitive weariness, emotional exhaustion, and physical fatigue. 

Burned-out employees may also exhibit physical symptoms of exhaustion, cynicism, and a lack of productivity. Below are four more signs of employee burnout:

1. They’re Making More Mistakes on the Job 

HR professionals may notice a steep decline in their employees' work quality and efficiency. Employees who lack caution, attentiveness, and vigilance will be careless when performing their tasks. As a result, burned-out employees may make mistakes they usually don’t. 

2. Their Work Performance is Suffering 

Tasks may take longer to complete, and employees may lose focus if they’re experiencing burnout. This leads to employees missing deadlines and dreading any meetings or new tasks. Your organization may also experience decreased productivity and increased labor costs.

3. They’re Irritable with Colleagues 

Receiving feedback and connecting with colleagues is a good source of support. But employees going through burnout at work might react negatively to criticism and view their coworkers with envy or as competition. Your employees might also struggle to understand how others can work well while they can barely handle their own tasks. 

4. They’re Increasingly Absent From Work 

You may have a budding burnout problem if you notice that employees are increasingly calling in sick or not showing up to work. Absenteeism can have a financial impact on your business and hurt productivity and morale.

#Employeeburnout costs more to treat than it does to prevent — get 5 tips for treating #workburnout from @ClearCompany and @TheResumeGenius:

5 Tips for Treating & Preventing Work Burnout

HR professionals should prioritize employee engagement and retention by acknowledging that tackling burnout challenges is key to a healthy workforce. 

Remember that burnout is an organizational issue, not just an individual employee's problem. Even if only one staff member shows signs of burnout, evaluating and adjusting your workplace standards is essential. Otherwise, your company risks failing to achieve targets or deadlines and losing valuable A Players.

How To Treat Your Own Burnout Symptoms

Are you feeling burned out? Try these tips from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Talk to your supervisor to adjust goals.
  • Seek support from friends, family, colleagues, or employee assistance programs.
  • Try relaxing activities like yoga.
  • Exercise regularly and get adequate sleep. 
  • Practice mindfulness.

Here are five tips to help you take action on treating and preventing employee burnout:

1. Ask Employees for Their Input 

Work engagement increases when employees know their voices are heard. Provide your staff with the opportunity to be heard through anonymous employee engagement surveys, focus groups, or project meetings. Doing so builds rapport, shows you value your staff, and creates a more inclusive, transparent culture that benefits everyone.

2. Provide Mental Health Resources 

Employees’ mental health is as important as their physical health. Giving them access to mental health resources such as subscriptions to wellness apps, therapy sessions, or mindfulness training can help them feel more supported at work.

3. Offer Employees Flexible Work Arrangements

Part of today’s organizational challenge is coping with your employees’ needs for safety and security, especially after the pandemic. In a 2022 Special Report by APA, hybrid work became popular with employees as it allowed them to adjust schedules, feel safe, and save time and costs on transportation.

Now, more companies are letting employees work from home than ever. Consider preparing a more flexible arrangement to give your workers more freedom and a better work-life balance.

4. Create Upskilling Opportunities 

To motivate your employees and prevent under-challenged burnout, offer to hone their existing skills by providing upskilling opportunities. 

For instance, course subscriptions, workshops, or dedicated self-study time are ways to update your employees' CV skills. Addressing their professional development also fixes skill gaps and gives employees a chance to advance within the organization. 

5. Get Managers Involved 

Support from managers can be a big part of burnout prevention considering that they’re responsible for 70% of the variance in employee engagement levels. 37% of employees also say more personal recognition is the number one way their manager could help motivate them to produce great work.

Your managers can help prevent burnout, build trust, foster engagement, and promote a positive and productive work culture in many ways, including:

Engage Employees to Prevent Burnout

It’s easier — and costs less — to prevent burnout than it does to treat it, so the business case is strong for paying attention to burnout before it becomes a real problem. Watch for signs of burnout, use these five tips, and then download the resource bundle for even more ways to engage your employees and prevent burnout.

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