29.05.2019

How to recognise the signs and prevent employee burnout

The tech industry is a candidate driven market and alternative opportunities are relatively easy to come by, you don’t want to lose your best talent due to burnout, knowing you could have done things differently had you recognised the signs and implemented suitable prevention strategies.

How to recognise the signs and prevent employee burnout

What is employee burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when employees feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. As the stress continues, they begin to lose interest and motivation in their role.

Why is it important to minimise employee burnout?

As team leaders or managers, it is vitally important to prioritise the well-being of your team. Creating a workplace that prevents employee burnout is beneficial to team productivity and employee engagement, which in turn improves staff retention and attraction.

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Employees suffering from burnout are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times as likely to be actively seeking a different job. Those who stay, typically have 13% lower confidence in their performance and are half as likely to discuss how to approach performance goals with their manager.

Recognise the signs of employee burnout

1. Uncharacteristic disengagement

Employees on the verge of a burnout may experience a certain disconnect with their work and people. They may not actively communicate with co-workers or in team meetings, they may be unwilling to offer helpful tips and ideas or be glued to their desk, and they probably won’t ask questions.

2. Increased absenteeism

When an employee is experiencing burnout, they are likely to take extra sick days or be late to work more frequently. Burnout due to stress and anxiety is responsible for over two-fifths (44%) of all reported illnesses in the workplace.

3. Exhaustion

All employees feel tired or worn out at some point, but you need to look out for team members with extended periods of exhaustion. These employees may seem tuned out, forgetful, unable to concentrate, and already drained when they arrive in the morning.

4. Decreased productivity

It is easy to assume employees are getting a little lazy when productivity decreases and projects aren’t completed on time, but it could also be a sign of employee burnout from feeling overworked and under pressure.

5. Cynicism and negativity

Most jobs aren’t perfect 100% of the time, every employee has a bad day once in a while but when you constantly hear negativity from someone who was previously a source of encouragement for the rest of the team, it is likely they are feeling the effects of burnout.

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Employee burnout prevention strategies

1. Be realistic when assigning tasks

It is easier for star employees to burnout because they are often over-burdened. Some employees take on too much, which may be feasible for a short period but if this continues it becomes unsustainable. As a team manager you should delegate an amount of work that is stimulating, but not overwhelming. Regularly checking in with your team can help you identify the perfect balance between challenging and deflating.

2. Keep reasonable work hours and encourage breaks

For most jobs there will be occasions when project deadlines need to be met and therefore extra effort is expected, however this should be carefully monitored to ensure staff don’t burn out. Encourage your team to take regular breaks and compel your employees to create a healthy work-life balance. They need time to relax and switch off from work, it isn’t fair to expect them to access work emails from home 24/7 and it will only hurt their productivity in the long run.

3. Provide ongoing training and support

Ensure your team can keep up with the demands of the job by offering ongoing training and support. This can be technical or personal based on the needs of the individual. It may benefit employees with particularly stressful jobs to have training on how to manage stress at work for example.

4. Listen

You will never know for sure what your team are thinking or feeling unless you ask and listen. It is important issues and concerns are taken seriously and potential solutions are identified so frustrations don’t fester. If an appropriate solution can’t be reached open communication about the reasons why will help maintain a positive environment.

5. Acknowledge, reward and promote

Awards, public praise, bonuses and other tokens of appreciation and recognition go a long way to keep morale high. Surprise your team with a treat you know they will love after a difficult week or for meeting a tough project deadline.

For a more comprehensive list of employee burnout prevention strategies check out this post.

Without meaning to some employers misinterpret an employee suffering from burnout as a lazy low performer. When this happens, the employee is unlikely to get the support they desperately need. By recognising the problem may be burnout, the right type of support may help the employee overcome the problem and return to their prior levels of productivity and engagement.

In order to keep your top talent happy, healthy and engaged you need to invest time and resources into preventing burnout. By implementing prevention strategies and recognising the signs you can minimise employee burnout, enabling you to retain your star employees and attract top new talent to your team.

If you think someone on your team could be at risk of burnout start up a conversation, try to identify potential issues and collaborate on solutions. Open communication and a willingness to adapt will have a positive impact on the health and well-being of your team and consequently productivity.

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Attraction, retention and engagement

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