A consistently productive workforce helps businesses achieve optimum functionality. That said, expecting the same level of productivity every day from a workforce isn’t always practical. Every employee is unique, and that leads to significant a significant variance when you review workforce metrics for performance appraisals.
You may have erratic hyper-performers, employees that are steadily working, ones that only do the bare minimum, and even ones that may be struggling to meet targets.
The last type is particularly off-putting for any employer. An employee failing to meet targets out of laziness is one thing. But a worker visibly doing his or her best and still failing is an entirely different story, especially if the worker has had a history of dependable performance in the past.
If this sounds familiar, you could have a case of employee burnout on your hands. Discover more about mitigating the impact of burnout on your workforce and business below:
Table of Contents
What Is Employee Burnout?
“Burning out” is a term that people throw around very casually these days, but worker burnout is a very real phenomenon across all types of industries and workplaces. Simply put, the phrase “burnout” refers to an employee being so exhausted by different variables that he or she can no longer deliver regular productivity.
Burnout is often very noticeable when a worker’s performance suddenly dips. However, other symptoms may be far less visible. To better understand the nuances that cause burnout and how it manifests, hiring managers require empathy and emotional intelligence. Burnout symptoms can differ from employee to employee. If left unaddressed, they can manifest in permanent damage to a worker’s health, career, and even the business as a whole.
What Causes Burnout?
Burnout can manifest itself in a range of symptoms. Before addressing those symptoms, employers would do well to understand what causes these symptoms in the workplace. Workplace burnout is often the result of a number of factors coming together in a perfect storm. An employee could be a star performer, earning rewards and recognitions for years.
A few bad months could suddenly derail all of that. Generally speaking, factors that cause burnout include (but are not limited to):
- Excessive stress, workload pressure, or workplace hostility.
- Fatigue, sleeping issues, mental health problems like depression.
- Sudden changes in living conditions, breakups, or divorces.
- Death of a loved one, grief, or loss.
- Mounting medical bills for a sick family member.
- Workplace bullying, racism, bias, or discrimination.
Things That Could Indicate Burnout
In addition to this list, other factors could be driving one of your team members to burn out. Everyone has a breaking point, and prolonged exposure to such factors might manifest burnout faster. In addition, there is the added complexity of the employee’s own traits and personality attributes attributing to burnout.
Certain employee burnout signs can be very dramatic. A usually calm employee could suddenly become aggressive or unreasonable, for example, but the signs of a frustrated employee can vary. This requires managers to pay close attention to the workers reporting to them. Visible signs such as dark circles from lack of sleep, a tired shuffling walk, slumped shoulders, and a head hung low may sound stereotypical. But they may well indicate exactly what you expect: a worker close to burning out.
How to Address Burnout in Workplace?
Performance statistics, medical history, and emotional intelligence may all have to come together to identify the early warning signs. As always, a drop in performance should initially be cause for concern (not reprisal). This is often the telltale sign of a more serious issue. However, reducing further stress and choosing empathy over discipline will often help to combat burnout.
The Magnitude of The Problem
Employee burnout is a much bigger problem than one or two employees in your business. Most employee burnout statistics seem to indicate it is very widespread across a range of industries, businesses, and work cultures. That does not include abnormal conditions compounding the burnout rates in specific industries.
For example, employee burnout in the hospitality industry and the medical services sector began shooting up during COVID-19. Even without an unprecedented pandemic, the extent of employee burnout is concerning. At the very least, businesses need to start addressing the internal variables contributing to burnout within their control.
Areas to Focus on to Reduce Burnout in the Workforce
It may not always be possible to eliminate burnout from the global workforce entirely. However, employers can certainly take certain steps to mitigate the risk of their employees burning out. These usually revolve around adjusting workplace conditions. The three areas below are logical aspects on which to focus:
Discriminatory behavior or practices have no place in the modern workplace. Most unfair treatment at work quotes on the internet typically discuss horrible bosses, but the widespread presence of racial, ethnic, gender, or other types of biases in the workplace can be far worse. The constant hostility and stress associated with this type of workplace can wear down an employee’s motivation and even expedite burnout.
Manager Sensitivity Training
Manager sensitivity training is an important tool in terms of mitigating workplace burnout for several good reasons. Reporting managers often engage directly with their teams. This offers them the unique position of having a closer and more accurate understanding of their employee behaviors, as well as being the first layer of support within a workplace.
Empathy can be extremely effective as a support mechanism, offering workers the necessary space to relax and address burnout-associated causes and/or symptoms.
Employee Feedback Channels
Employee feedback is something employers can leverage to identify and address less visible problems in the workplace that could be contributing to a higher burnout rate. Workers, as the “boots on the ground”, are closest to these patterns, which means they may have witnessed them or even experienced them firsthand, such as workplace bullying.
For workforce managers and HR functions alike, keeping feedback channels open and confidential can be invaluable.
Moreover, quick and visible responses to feedback will help improve how an employer is perceived by existing workers as well as future candidates. It can make it far easier for third parties like a staffing agency to pitch your EVP when the audience is favorable and receptive to your employer brand.
The Impact of Ignoring Worker Burnout
Burnout can be a very serious situation for the worker involved. If unaddressed, it can evolve into serious performance and behavioral issues. Extreme cases may even put a premature end to an otherwise promising career. However, the fallout from an employee burning out can also spillover.
Burnout can impact team cohesion, job satisfaction, and even employee turnover rates. Even a single case of burnout should be cause for alarm, ideally jumpstarting an internal evaluation of the workplace for toxicity, stress, hostility, or bias at the very least. The alternative could be a PR nightmare.
A bad employer with a high turnover thanks to burnout is a perception that no business wants. Especially for high-pressure and high-attrition roles such as mortgage, title, and escrow. It could become very difficult for a mortgage staffing agency to convince even a temp worker to work at an employer with such a reputation.
If allowed to fester, burnout not only causes you to keep losing good workers to the condition but also makes it harder for you to follow your desired talent acquisition strategy in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to avoid burnout?
Create a safe and inclusive work culture with minimal hostility or stress.
How to manage employee burnout?
Managers need to be empathic, emotionally intelligent, and responsive to employee needs.
How to measure employee burnout?
Each worker is different, so no one way always works. But HR analytics such as turnover rates, exit interview feedbacks, and even medical reimbursement info could help with an estimate.
How to prevent employee burnout?
Encourage work culture revamps, offer sensitivity training, and leave no tolerance for hostile or toxic behavior contributing to workplace stress.
What causes employee burnout?
A number of in-workplace variables like bias, racism, or bullying as well as factors like the employee’s personal life, traumatic events, lifestyle, and general attitude.
How does employee burnout affect organizations?
It increases the rate of employee attrition, tarnishes the employer brand, and even impair the ability to source or hire high-quality talent in the future.
How to reduce employee burnout?
Offer relaxation to affected employees, be watchful for symptoms and take the necessary action to offer mental or other kinds of support.