9 Ways to Avoid Employee Burnout

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Are some of your employees suffering from burnout? Maybe even your best employees? Burnout is a talent issue because it is more often experienced by your top employees - those who are trying to contribute most to your organization. It can even affect your leaders. Top performers and leaders tend to be more susceptible to burnout based on their personalities, work habits, and strong desire to achieve.

Burnout occurs when employees experience physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion as a result of work. Employees who are burned out typically experience exhaustion and fatigue, emotional volatility, detachment and withdrawal, change in attitude, decreased interest and passion in their work, and difficulty performing their job effectively.

Though burned out employees may be physically present at work, they can be checked out mentally. They may struggle to “keep their head in the game,” and your employees who were once superstars start shining a bit less brightly than they have in the past.

What leads employees to burnout? Here are some common causes:

  • Working long hours and unwieldy workloads
  • Lack of work/life balance; inability to meet personal needs
  • Constantly feeling the need to prove oneself or push oneself beyond his or her limits
  • Unclear or unrealistic job expectations
  • Unresolved or ongoing conflict with a boss and/or coworkers
  • Too much monotonous or boring work; too much change/chaos on the job
  • Lack of control over schedule, assignments, workload, or resources to complete work
  • Inability to influence decisions that affect their job
  • Feeling isolated; lacking social support or interaction in the workplace
  • Poor job fit for interests, skills, and abilities

Keeping top employees from burning out or handling a burnout situation effectively is important to helping them sustain engagement, high performance, and their level of contribution over the long term – as well as retaining them – since burnout can eventually lead to turnover. Here are some ways to avoid employee burnout.

  1. Meet with the employee at the onset. Have a conversation with the employee at the onset of a noticeable behavior or attitude change that is symptomatic of burnout. Try to resolve issues before they lead to burnout.
  2. Allow them to decompress. Burned out employees usually need a break. Encourage the employee to take some time off, a vacation, or a personal leave of absence/break. It may also be necessary to offer a temporary alternative or reduced work schedule. Likewise, always encourage employees use your time off benefits when they need to.
  3. Make a change in their job. Have they lost interest in what they are doing? Do they want or need a change in responsibilities? Do they have enough discretion and autonomy? Make a change to an employee's job or allow them to pursue another career opportunity in your organization.
  4. Boost their social support. Make sure employees have opportunities to interact and collaborate frequently with others, especially if they want to. Social support and strong coworker relationships help employees deal with work stressors more effectively.
  5. Avoid overwork. Regularly evaluate employees' workloads and adjust, delegate, staff, and make other accommodations to make sure that they are not overloaded for an extended period of time. Be particularly mindful of workload when you begin to notice signs of burnout.
  6. Help them meet their work/life needs. Help accommodate whatever gaps there are in the employee's work/life, such as personal needs, family responsibilities, flexible schedules, or illnesses/medical conditions.
  7. Manage the manager. Managers can be a source of burnout, particularly if their style isn't a fit for the employee they are managing or if they micromanage. Consider coaching and training the manager on adapting their style or move the employee to a different manager.
  8. Resolve workplace conflicts. Workplace conflict and tension is a silent stressor, and if it goes unresolved for too long, it can result in a burned out employee. Make it a priority to manage, mediate, and resolve conflicts quickly.
  9. Support employees in their next move. If it's clear that burnout can't be resolved and the employee needs to make a career change, support employees in their next move. It's generally better to have employees move on when you've exhausted your efforts.

Burnout can happen to the best of your employees, but these strategies can help you keep your top performers and hardest working employees from tuckering out on the job.

Additional Resources

Employee Assistance Programs
ERC's Preferred Partner, ease@work, provides employee assistance, work/life and wellness services to companies throughout Ohio with employees throughout the United States. ERC Members receive one free management referral or consultation, one free annual seminar, and discounts on Drug Free Workplace Training.