Workplace burnout is a particular type of work-related stress, it’s a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that may involve the person affected having a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity. Anyone can become exhausted; and with the increasing levels of pressure and expectation in the modern workplace, it is becoming more and more common and so important for employers to be aware of the signs.

Though burnout and stress have similar and sometimes interlinked characteristics, there are some distinct differences. Stress is generally short term, when dealing with a particular situation or issue where you may feel out of contract or overwhelmed, for example working on a complex project or to a tight deadline. Once this changes, stress levels tend to reduce. If this carries on however or the feeling is constant, this can become a longer term problem of course.

Burnout often occurs and develops over a longer period of time, for example when your workload increases to a constant excessive level which is unsustainable, when you don’t receive enough support or recognition, or you get to a stage where you don’t want to be doing what you’re doing anymore and your values and aspirations no longer align with the business you are working for.

What can you do to recognise if an employee may be suffering from burnout?

Some of the potential signs include:

  • Reduced efficiency and energy.
  • Lowered levels of motivation and interest in work.
  • Increased errors.
  • Fatigue.
  • General illness such as headaches or backache.
  • Increase absenteeism.
  • Irritability.
  • Increased frustration or having a more negative or critical attitude
  • Suspiciousness.
  • Emotional detachment.

The impact of workplace burnout can be damaging to the person suffering in terms of their health and wellbeing, but also to your business in terms of morale and productivity and potentially increased absenteeism.

There are things you can proactively do as an employer to prevent burnout such as:

  • Make sure your employees have purpose, direction and support.
  • Ensure they feel valued to maintain motivation and therefore productivity. Regular check ins / one to ones / performance reviews can help with this, encouraging honest feedback.
  • Have a mental health policy, encourage openness and communication around this topic so people are aware of signs and are able to recognise, support and mange situations before they worsen or become to severe.
  • Create a pleasant working environment, both physically in terms of your workspace – plenty of natural light, break out space, and in terms of company culture – encouraging communication, positivity and openness.
  • Encourage a health work life balance – make sure people take a break and use their holiday, encourage healthy eating and exercise which can help reduce stress and set boundaries to employees to make sure employees switch off out of working hours.

No one is immune to burnout, and in fact it is often more common in the high performing, dedicated employees who shine and love what they do!

Its important for employers to create a work environment where employees feel happy and motivated but be in a position to recognise and address signs of burnout early on to prevent it developing and having a negative impact on their own wellbeing and on your business.