Employee Wellbeing

How Managers Can Quickly Identify Job Burnout Signs To Keep Teams Motivated

Reading time 7min

Job burnout is nothing new. In fact, work-related burnout symptoms have been affecting exhausted employees since before Covid-19 ever hit us.

But because of the pandemic, nearly 70% of workers who transitioned to remote work options said they worked weekends last year (with a further 45% claiming to have worked more during the week than ever before). What's more, the Great Resignation further contributed to the labor shortage, causing the remainder of employees to work around the clock to compensate.

Regardless if you have a fully remote team that you need to engage with, or if you require employees to be physically present in the workplace, your workers are prone to experience signs of burnout that could affect their performance and even their health.

Why Your Employees' Mental Health Matters

Why Your Employees' Mental Health Matters

Burnout is on the rise: More than half of workers say they’re experiencing burnout, up from 43% last year. Furthermore, 80% of them say the pandemic has played a role, according to a 2021 survey by job site Indeed.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized workplace burnout as a medical condition that could also be considered a mental health issue. That's huge.

But a stigma about mental health at work still exists, and employees feel more often than not reluctant to confide in their manager about their own physical and mental challenges with burnout (or any sort of mental health concerns).

The result? The employee then carries the diminished energy burden themselves. This ongoing stress at work can eventually cause their health, productivity, performance, happiness, and even their sense of self, to rapidly deteriorate.

According to WHO, when job burnout is left untreated, it can lead to serious physical and psychological illnesses such as

  • Depression
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes

What is Job Burnout?

What is Job Burnout?

Job burnout is a particular type of work-related stress that can affect your employee's job performance and even their personal lives (depending on how serious the job burnout feels).

It's a delicate state of physical and/or emotional exhaustion. Burnout can also reflect a negative feeling of diminished results and even a loss of personal identity.

Chronic stress can ultimately lead to burnout and, for some workers, they might feel so physically and emotionally exhausted that they could literally collapse.

What Are The Signs of Burnout at Work?

What Are The Signs of Burnout at Work?

Researchers show that factors such as personality traits and family life can heavily influence who experiences job burnout. Whatever the cause, job burnout can affect your physical and mental health.

Employees experiencing burnout might see their jobs as stressful, taking a huge toll on their life and health. These employees could grow cynical about their work conditions, their coworkers, management, and their workload.

As a responsible manager, you're probably wondering what main causes lead to job burnout. Let's find out.

7 Main Causes of Job Burnout

  1. Vague expectations
  2. Lackluster work communication
  3. Feeling overworked and under-appreciated
  4. Feeling the need to be constantly connected to work, even when you feel physical symptoms of stress
  5. Working in a toxic environment or having toxic colleagues
  6. Chronic stress
  7. Lack of support from a manager and/or coworkers
  8. Feeling micromanaged

What Burnout Feels Like

Now that we understand the causes of burnout, it's important that you understand what burnout feels like. This way, you are able to understand and empathize with any employee who is suffering from emotional exhaustion at work.

Burnout symptoms are not always black and white, and identifying employee burnout signs might require some observation on your part.

Freudenberger and Gail North are the scientists credited for originally identifying burnout as a condition. They've determined that job burnout has 12 stages:

  1. The compulsion to prove oneself
  2. Working harder
  3. Neglecting personal needs
  4. Displacement of conflict
  5. Working and ignoring everything else
  6. Denial of emerging problems
  7. Withdrawal
  8. Odd behavioral changes
  9. Depersonalization (unable to connect with others or one’s own needs)
  10. Inner emptiness
  11. Depression
  12. Burnout syndrome

The Best Ways to Identify a Job Burnout Before It's Too Late

The Best Ways to Identify a Job Burnout Before It's Too Late

It’s common for your employees to feel stressed at work or even to feel like they lost a bit of their motivation due to job burnout. This is to say, not every employee who is having a bad day is feeling burned out.

But the secret to avoiding the road to job exhaustion and keeping your employees motivated (regardless if they're physically present or remotely managed) is to successfully identify and manage burnout by catching on to the early symptoms. This will allow you to treat burnout factors either by preventing your workers from experiencing any sort of work-related stress or by fully extinguishing the risk of burnout.

That said, there are questions you could ask your employees to assess if they are having any sort of negative feelings in the workplace or, worse, already experiencing burnout signs.

8 questions to find out if your worker is feeling job burnout:

  1. Are you having more bad days than good days at work?
  2. Do you find yourself unusually low in motivation or feeling stressed at the end of the weekend?
  3. Do you have negative physical symptoms, such as stomach aches, migraines, or pains in your back or neck?
  4. Are you having headaches more frequently than usual?
  5. Have your sleep habits changed (sleeping much more or much less than usual)?
  6. Do you have trouble finding focus at work or understanding what is expected of you?
  7. Are you avoiding work, having conversations with colleagues, or check-ins with your manager?
  8. Are you too exhausted to do anything fun or interesting when you’re not at work?

Take notes of the replies you get from your employees. Circle back to the ones who are signaling red flags to show that you care.

How To Help Your Employees Recover from a Work Burnout

How To Help Your Employees Recover from a Work Burnout

By now you're probably asking yourself how you can help your employees recover from work burnout. Great question!

The 5 best ways to help an employee who is suffering from a job burnout:

  1. Provide (And Encourage) Time to Recharge & Recover
  2. Praise The Good Work
  3. Increase Collaboration in the Workplace
  4. Build a Culture of Gratitude
  5. Reaffirm Your Organization's Purpose

Now let’s get into these, one by one.

Provide (And Encourage) Time to Recharge & Recover

As a supportive manager, it's important to not only provide your burned-out worker with personal time to recharge, but also to encourage and facilitate it. That way, any employee who is stressed and needs to recharge doesn't feel uncomfortable taking personal time to do so.

Also, take note of your employees who rarely take time off and encourage them to plan a healthy break.

Praise The Good Work

By now you understand that burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion from work, which results in a lack of motivation, low efficiency, and a feeling of utter helplessness. Giving regular positive feedback will fuel extreme feelings of positivity and motivation at work, which in turn will increase your workers' sense of purpose.

Increase Collaboration in the Workplace

A sense of belonging is one of the most powerful antidotes to burnout. By promoting an inclusive culture, you can build a more comprehensive work environment that naturally fosters belonging, teamwork, and healthy relationships.

This takes us to our next point.

Build a Culture of Gratitude

Companies that foster a culture of gratitude experience higher productivity and job satisfaction from their employees. Aim to foster a work environment where it's common for team members and upper management alike to show gratitude.

Reaffirm Your Organization's Purpose

Reinforce your company's missions and values to strengthen each team member's purpose within your organization. The moment your team has a bird's eye view of what the company or organization is aiming for, your workers become more engaged.

Noticing Burned Out Employees at Work? Take Action Now.

Noticing Burned Out Employees at Work? Take Action Now.

Experiencing burnout at work is an accumulation of various ongoing issues that could make a workplace insufferable to a given employee should it be left untreated.

By tackling the root causes of your employee burnout, you can increase job morale and build a supportive workplace culture.

Start paying attention to occurrences, people, or circumstances that could regularly trigger stress and aim to tackle them as soon as possible. Choose to make health and wellness a priority, understand your own role in burnout, and support any employee’s needs for professional support when needed.

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