6 Ways to Prevent Employee Burnout

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Preventing employee burnout should be a priority in a busy workplace. Here are 6 ways to stop it before it starts.

Perhaps you've been there—work is overwhelming, help is limited and before you know it, your drive and determination have diminished and all you can think about is how to get out of work. 

Regardless of whether it's you or your employees you're trying to protect from burnout, it's of vital importance to your business. Not only are burnt out employees unengaged, but they are less healthy. According to the American Institute of Stress, "workplace stress costs more than $300 billion each year in health care, missed work and stress-reduction." 

The causes of employee burnout out are many—and few. Each situation is unique, but they typically fall into three general categories:

Personality factors. The people most likely to burn out quickly are over-achievers, perfectionists, and pessimists.

An imbalance between work and home life. If one or the other is taking over an employee’s life, work will suffer and burnout will ensue.

Work-related stress. An overwhelming workload, increased job demands without commensurate benefits, a lack of recognition or feedback, and a loss of faith in leadership can all contribute to burnout. According to studies by Stress.org, the main causes of workplace stress is:

  • Workload – 46%
  • People issues – 28%
  • Juggling work / personal lives - 20%
  • Lack of job security – 6%

Related Article: Why Company Culture Matters More to Employee Than Pay

The Catastrophic Effects of Burnout

Not only are burned out employees tough to deal with for customers, they can become a toxic presence in your office. As they begin to show symptoms of burnout, they begin to transfer their stress (and work) to others. Some of the more common manifestations of burnout include increased anxiety, irritability, weight gain or loss, frequent absences, and/or susceptibility to illness.

Most managers are inclined to demote or fire an employee who is burning out, but this can often backfire. Other employees can start to burn out because they are now forced to carry an additional workload or they begin to fear for their own jobs.

What You Can Do: Take action

If you’re noticing signs of employee burnout, take immediate steps to prevent it from continuing. Here are six ways to stop burnout in its tracks:

1. Lend a listening ear

As an employer, you have a duty to make sure your employees are being heard. Ideally, an employer would engage with a team member well before burnout begins, but the day-to-day workload can sometimes prevent this from happening. When burnout does begin to manifest, meet with your employee to get to the heart of the problem. Sometimes the solution is readily apparent. Sometimes, it’s a bit more complicated. You’ll never know, though, unless you listen.

Related Article: The Numbers Don't Lie: Quantifying Employee Engagement

2. Provide functional equipment

Nothing can be more maddening than having to use a tool or equipment that is ineffective or slow to respond. Not only does the equipment’s performance reflect poorly on the employee’s production, the failure of management to recognize the need to upgrade can create an air of helplessness. Frustration with equipment can be one of the first symptoms of burnout, and solving this problem can alleviate work-related stressors tremendously.

3. Be fair

Nothing causes burnout quicker than watching someone else receive preferential treatment or get credit for the wrong reasons. Even worse is unfairness that seems arbitrary. Pay inequality, random promotions, capricious recognition—all of these things can create animosity or a sense of despair in an employee. They’re made worse by the fact that, in most cases, the employee must bottle up their feelings of injustice.

4. Give them a voice

For employees who feel as though they have no say in organizational decision-making, burnout can be a natural or even expected consequence. Dale Carnegie’s tips to empowering employees have endured because they work. They include:

  • Challenging your team members
  • Stoking their passion for the company’s vision
  • Giving them clear opportunities for advancement
  • Applying the same measuring criteria to everyone, and
  • Getting out of their way, and letting them do their work

Related Article: Do You Really Need to Hire Another Employee? 

5. Have fun

Employees who enjoy coming to work will burn out far less frequently than those who loathe their job. Why not build a positive work environment for your employees? Stocking the fridge with goodies, having lunch-hour parties, or giving half-days off before a holiday can all boost morale and prevent employee burnout.

6. Recognize success

No matter what they tell you, every employee wants to feel needed. An unexpected pat on the back or recognition in front of peers for a job well done can be a tremendous ego boost and go far toward stemming the onset of a burnout.

According to an employee engagement survey by SHRM, 71% of respondents believed that appreciation by a direct supervisor had the most impact on employee engagement in their organization.

Don’t let employee burnout become a problem at your workplace. Educate your staff, recognize the symptoms, and take action when necessary. You’ll be glad you did.

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