If you’ve been feeling drained or unmotivated at work, you might be experiencing workplace burnout.
Burnout is a state of mental and physical exhaustion at work caused by chronic stress, leading to a loss of personal identity and a feeling that one’s achievements are not being recognized.
Besides common factors such as family, career anxiety, and dysfunctional workplace dynamics, the pandemic has only amplified the issue, with a recent Forbes study showing that over 52% of respondents experienced burnout in 2021, which is a 10% increase from pre-pandemic levels.
If you’re a manager, being able to identify and prevent burnout in the workplace is crucial. Doing so will not only benefit you and your workers but also lead to a more productive, healthy, and engaged workforce. In this article, we’ll explore five causes of workplace burnout and offer six practical tips and strategies to combat it.
Signs of Workplace Burnout
Spotting burnout early can help reduce the risks of health consequences and developing further symptoms. Although there isn’t a foolproof way of identifying burnout, here are five common signs to look for:
Decreased quality and quantity of work submitted
While this isn’t the case for some lines of work, a standard way to track employee performance is by using key performance indicators (KPIs).
If these KPIs are dropping steadily within a certain amount of time, especially if it’s from a top-performing employee, the employee responsible for the task might be burnt out. This decrease in performance can often be due to excessive stress, fatigue, and the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Late work submissions can also cause KPI drops. In some cases, employees may work very hard but still not get much done and therefore miss deadlines. Thus, addressing the issue is essential before it causes long-term harm to the employee’s health and well-being.
Increased sick days
When an individual experiences burnout, it can have a significant impact on their overall well-being. The chronic stress and exhaustion caused by burnout can lead to a range of negative mental health effects such as anxiety, depression, and a decreased sense of personal accomplishment.
These symptoms can in turn affect an employee’s physical health, causing physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, drowsiness, and even an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. As a result, employees who are experiencing burnout may take more sick days, further contributing to decreased productivity and performance in the digital workplace.
The effects of burnout can be far-reaching and have a profound impact on a worker’s daily life. When someone experiences burnout, they may feel a constant state of exhaustion and fatigue. This chronic fatigue can make it difficult for them to get adequate rest and sleep, leading to further stress and anxiety.
The lack of restful sleep can also affect a person’s ability to concentrate and remember things, making it more challenging for them to perform their job duties effectively. As a result, burnout-stricken individuals may make frequent mistakes at work, impacting their overall job performance and potentially causing further stress. Keep an eye out for employees who experience poor concentration, short-term memory, or seem exhausted at work.
Loss of creative passion
Many people struggle with staying creative while working under pressure. Burnout triggers feelings of no control and a lack of recognition, especially when employees are expected to do the same tasks over and over again. It goes for all humans — people might lose their creative spark if they don’t have the time to exercise their creative muscles.
This loss of creative passion can be reflected in how employees contribute during group discussions or on personal projects. If you notice that an employee isn’t contributing ideas or seems disinterested in trying out new things, they might be experiencing creative burnout.
When employees are depersonalized, they’ll focus more on profit rather than their work ethic, clients, and performance. Signs of depersonalization due to burnout include an insensitive attitude toward clients and coworkers and a loss of trust in the workplace.
If you start to observe negative changes in an employee’s behavior and attitude towards work, clients, and coworkers, you may be dealing with someone who is becoming increasingly unhappy and tired of their work environment.
How to Prevent Burnout at Work
Now that you know the signs of burnout to look for in yourself and your employees, here are five methods of alleviating and preventing it from becoming an even bigger issue:
Oftentimes, burnout occurs because of long-term stress build-up without the time to recharge. DeskTime revealed after a study that a 52:17 ratio of work to break time in minutes is the secret to being productive.
Working for long periods of time can also cause cognitive boredom, which can trigger one of the signs of burnout: depersonalization.
Knowing you have a break coming up makes you more likely to work with purpose and stay motivated. Your brain also gets to reset during your break and bring down your stress levels. You can choose to meditate, read a chapter of a book, or even go for a short walk during your breaks, and give your employees an opportunity to do the same.
Create a healthy workspace
To combat burnout and improve employee retention, both your body and mind must stay physically and mentally healthy in the workplace. Some products you can consider buying for your employees who are working from home or the office to help their bodies remain functional during work include:
- Lumbar support: sitting for long periods of time can damage the lower back, strain the spine, and lead to poor posture.
- Blue light glasses: these glasses can help reduce eye strain and make it easier to focus on tasks — especially if your job requires long hours of screen time.
- Wrist supports: provide support for your wrists to prevent wrist injuries when typing and using a mouse.
- Standing desk: according to Mayo Clinic, those who sit for more than eight hours a day have similar risks of dying posed by smoking and obesity. Many jobs require the use of a computer, so sitting down for long periods of time is common. Using a standing desk will help you reach a healthy balance between sitting and standing up.
Keep in mind that pain is a cause of stress, and burnout is caused mainly by stress. By making sure your body is fully supported when you work, you can reduce the risk of yourself and your workers developing burnout.
Be a supportive manager
The most productive employees are the ones who are both happy and healthy. Therefore, it’s in a manager’s best interest to support employee well-being and provide psychological safety in the workplace.
If you know your employees are struggling with an aspect of your job, do your best to listen and provide solutions such as giving yourself more time to do creative research, approving time-off requests, or even modifying your management style.
Self-imposed silence by employees due to reasons such as fear of being seen as unreliable and unprofessional is still common but can be combatted by using anonymous surveys and establishing honest two-way communications.
Balance work with other forms of group interaction
Encouraging other forms of group interactions at work and promoting wellness at work can help combat the loss of creative passion and attract talented employees. For instance, office banter during different activities lets coworkers get to know each other and helps build a more open company community.
Here are some ideas for workplace group interactions:
- Teambuilding activities: Adding fun activities such as escape rooms, exercise, and creative classes is an effective way to boost employee morale and break up the monotony that can occur in the traditional workplace. Completing fun tasks and hanging out with coworkers outside of the usual work setting can create a positive environment for employees.
- Mixing up teams: Allowing employees to join different sectors or groups for one day each month helps them learn transferable abilities and breaks up the monotony of work.
- Competitions and wellness challenges: Placing teams against each other in a lighthearted, fun way can motivate workers in the same team to get to know one another, learn to problem-solve together, and increase future team productivity.
- Hold smaller group meetings: Employees might feel more comfortable sharing ideas and concerns if they don’t need to address the entire company.
Leave your work at work
People who are burned out often don’t have a healthy work-life balance. Because they have a hard time finishing tasks during work hours, they may often bring their work home to complete.
Home should be a place of comfort and relaxation, while evenings and weekends are precious resources to be used for your leisure. In fact, getting a full weekend can boost your creativity by 50%. Your work should be second to your health, so don’t let it consume yourself or all of your employees’ free time.
Encourage upskilling at the workplace
Offering professional development and upskilling opportunities is another effective way to tackle burnout. Providing employees with the chance to learn new skills, gain certifications, or attend workshops can not only help them feel productive and valued but also help them grow within the company.
Encouraging employees to pursue their interests and apply what they learn to their work can also increase job satisfaction and reduce burnout. Additionally, assigning a mentor to each employee can provide guidance and support as they develop their skills and careers. Overall, investing in the professional growth of your employees can not only prevent burnout but also foster a more engaged and motivated workforce.
Being aware of the signs of workplace burnout is vital in order to create a supportive and healthy work environment for yourself and your colleagues. By recognizing the symptoms of burnout, you can take proactive steps to address the issue, help employees recover, and prevent burnout from occurring in the first place.
And after seeing the signs, aim to promote a healthy work-life balance by providing support and encouraging self-care so employees can contribute to a positive, productive workplace culture where they can thrive and reach their full potential.
Author bio: Chloe Chioy is a Staff Writer and Digital Marketing Coordinator at CV Genius and Resume Genius. Her job advice has been featured on career platforms like Zapier and CharityJob, as well as on the BBC.