Burnout is a serious but common issue in the business world. Many preach of the importance of work-life balance, but not many actually achieve it.
Especially today, with many employees expected to be always on, workers often find themselves assuming extra projects, working late and accepting calls off the clock. This type of behavior, while it might seem characteristic of a hardworking and passionate individual, is overrated and will likely lead to burnout in the long run.
Don't let your employees fall into this habit. As a leader, you should work to ensure burnout doesn't wipe out your team. Here's how to recognize and prevent it.
Signs of burnout
There are many symptoms of impending burnout, but not all are easy to spot. Your job as an employer is to pay close attention to each employee, and their behavior and attitude in the workplace.
Here are a few specific signs, outlined by Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster:
- Physical and emotional exhaustion
- Detachment from work
- Increased illness
- Poor performance
- Reduced productivity
If you notice any of these signs in your workers, you can then take precautions to prevent and/or treat the threat of burnout.
Prevention is the best way to avoid the issue altogether. Here are some ways to do so.
1. Manage your employees' workloads.
Salemi advised making sure every employee's workload is appropriate for them. No worker is the same; some might be more flexible and willing to take on more work, while others might be more precise and need extra time. Determine the best arrangement for each individual, and adjust accordingly if there are any issues, Salemi said.
2. Check in.
Open communication between an employer and their employees is crucial. If you don't check in with your team on a regular basis, they'll likely think you don't care, and you could miss out on any concerning patterns or potential issues.
"Communication will help spot things like work-life imbalances, misalignment of expectations, and if any processes or aid have not been clearly communicated," said Tabitha Scott, CEM, CDSM, CEO of Cole Scott Group. "It also creates a safe zone for employees to speak out when they feel mistreated, overworked or that procedures are unfair. Literally, the act of allowing someone to release their frustrations aloud can reduce stress and mitigate a more serious blowup."
Salemi advised simply making conversation with your workers, asking how they're doing and if they need help with anything.
"As you engage in conversation, watch their body language," she said. "Do they look exhausted or lethargic? Are they dragging?"
Don't be afraid to bring up any concerns you might have. For instance, if you think your employee hasn't been performing as well or seems quieter, let them know you're willing to make adjustments to ease their stress.
"Most people feel as if they're the only ones suffering, so acknowledging extra workloads, longer hours, additional preparations with the holidays approaching is the first step to getting people to share and release some of their frustration," Scott said. "Creating this safe zone to talk about frustration – before it becomes burnout – is critical."
3. Set a good example.
As always, you should lead by example. If you clock in on the weekends, send emails after hours or skip lunch often, your employees will feel pressured to do the same. While looking out for your workers, also look out for yourself.
"If you're concerned about your employees reaching burnout and want them to truly create boundaries, then this is an opportunity to lead by example and not reach the point of exhaustion either," said Salemi.
You might believe you're working extra hard to help your company perform better, but you're really setting yourself up for failure. Prioritizing your job over your health is not an efficient or sustainable habit.
If your employees do reach burnout, don't fret. It's bound to happen at some point in one's career, and with your help, they can recover.
"If burnout is reached, often the employee is mentally checked out and may be looking for a new job externally," said Salemi. "Employers can help burnt-out employees by not only saying changes will be made, but by making them."
Ask your employees what they want and don't want, and really follow through on any compromises you promise to make.
"Employees need to see employers are true to their word, but if nothing changes and nothing is being done to alleviate the situation, it can be very challenging for employers to get employees back in the game," Salemi said.
Above all, value your workers. At the end of the day, they are the most important part of your business.