Employee Burnout: How to Spot and Take Action

December 22, 2016
Employee Burnout: How to Spot and Take Action

Regardless of business size or industry, a heavy workload is par for the course for highly engaged employees. These enthusiastic leaders often look like the early bird who also burns the midnight oil, remains connected during family vacations and weekends, and consistently stresses over their performance. They wake up and repeat. If left un-checked, this is a formula for potential burnout which negatively craters their health, relationships with colleagues, productivity, retention and the bottom line.

Observation is the first step to reverse burnout
Burnout manifests itself in various ways but these subtle signals are often overlooked:

  • A traditionally social employee no longer collaborates with the team and distances themselves from colleagues both physically and mentally.
  • A top, consistent performer is suddenly unreliable with a blasé attitude. Performance issues may include missed deadlines, client complaints, frequent absenteeism and more mistakes in their work due to lack of focus.
  • Increasingly cynical and negative outlook from previously motivated individuals

Techniques to derail burnout
Revamp daily responsibilities - a change in a previously mundane routine will help employees find a reinvigorated sense of passion and excitement. For example, assign the customer service rep to develop social media content or something of a creative nature. Encourage employees to remain informed on their industry so they’ll be inspired to spearhead new projects and enrich their position to meet their personal needs– a concept called job crafting.

Encourage balance by telling employees that they’re expected to take a lunch break. To discourage overwork, set time guidelines to power down all work devices. Powering through breaks and personal time leads to exhaustion and desperation.

Regularly recognize and celebrate employees’ hard work, including the small wins. Fast-paced businesses often focus on the more stressful facets, so a reward or unexpected acknowledgement can go far toward stemming the onset of a burnout. 

Take the lunch break a step further by including a prioritized mid-day walk.  Bodies crave activity so what might feel like chronic exhaustion with work may actually be the body’s way of communicating that it needs more oxygen circulation.  According to a 2015 study, employees who take three lunch-time strolls a week improve relaxation and decrease work-related tension. These strolls can also take the form of walking meetings.

Re-familiarize and encourage employees to take full advantage of all company benefits. Some may not be aware of perks such as gym membership, travel, concert and restaurant discounts, 401(K) matching program, volunteer programs, counseling, tuition reimbursement or professional development training. By leveraging these benefits, employees will view their employer in a new light and see new opportunities for their family.

Burnout doesn’t only result from Monday morning angst or working too many hours under stressful conditions. Its complexity requires an arsenal of tactics to keep the best talent on the team. To maintain a healthy, productive workplace, managers need to better understand signs of burnout, prioritize employee well-being and put practices in place for long-term fulfillment.

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