Helpful Strategies for Burnout Awareness in the Workplace

Illustration on a red background of several peoples profiles with low energy batteries in each of their heads to represent burnout

Burnout is becoming an increasingly prevalent issue in workplaces all over the world.

Employers are starting to become more aware of burnout and its effects on employees, and are taking steps to prevent it. But what is burnout? How can you recognize it in yourself and others? And what can you do to recover from it and prevent it from happening again?

Answering these questions is key for employers to come up with strategies and resources to help their employees avoid burnout.

What is burnout in the workplace?

According to the World Health Organization, burnout is, “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” Burnout is a growing concern in workplaces all over the world.

Burnout can lead to a number of negative consequences for employees, including decreased productivity, poor mental and physical health, and even depression or anxiety.

How to recognize workplace burnout in yourself

1. Exhaustion is a sign of burnout

If you find yourself feeling exhausted all the time, even after a good night’s sleep, it could be a sign that you’re burned out.

This can also present itself as feeling rundown and low-energy which can lead to feeling overwhelmed more often.

2. Irritability is a sign of burnout

If you find yourself snapping at your colleagues or loved ones more often than usual, it could be a sign that you’re burned out.

This can also mean feeling on edge all the time, or having a shorter fuse than normal.

3. Loss of interest in work is a sign of burnout

Decreased levels of motivation and enthusiasm for your role is another sign that you could be burned out.

This can also manifest as feeling like you’re going through the motions, or that your work is pointless.

4. Reduced work performance is a sign of burnout

If you’re normally a high performer and you find that your productivity is down or that you’re not producing the same level or quantity of work you usually do, this could be another sign of burnout.

It can also result in making more mistakes than usual or feeling like you’re not meeting your usual standards.

5. Increased anxiety is a sign of burnout

Some level of stress or anxiety with regular life stressors is to be expected but if you’re finding your anxiety levels are higher than you can comfortably manage, this could be another indicator of burnout.

This can also present itself as feeling restless or having trouble concentrating or focusing on tasks.

6. Sleep problems are a sign of burnout

If you’re having trouble sleeping, whether that’s difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up feeling exhausted, this can be a sign of burnout.

This can also lead to increased levels of fatigue during the day and can make it difficult to concentrate or focus on tasks.

How to recognize workplace burnout in others

1. Decreased productivity

If you see a significant or sudden drop-off in productivity from one of your best performers, it could be a sign that they’re feeling overwhelmed and nearing burnout.

In these cases it’s a good idea to keep an eye on them and see if they’re showing any other indicators of burnout.

2. Increased absenteeism

If an employee who’s usually reliable starts calling in sick more often, or taking more days off, it could be a sign that they’re burned out and need a break.

It’s important to take these signs seriously and not just write them off as someone trying to get out of work.

3. More errors or mistakes

If an employee who’s usually very detail-oriented starts making more mistakes, it could be a sign that they’re not able to focus as well as they normally do and may be experiencing burnout.

Again, it’s important to take these signs seriously and not just write them off as someone having an off day.

4. Increased irritability

If an employee who’s usually even-tempered starts snapping at colleagues or seems on edge all the time, it could be a sign that they’re burned out.

In these cases it can be helpful to have a conversation with them to see what’s going on and how you can help.

5. Loss of interest in work

If an employee who’s normally passionate about their work suddenly seems disengaged or uninterested, it could be a sign of burnout.

This could look like them going through the motions, or not putting in the same level of effort they normally do.

6. Isolation from colleagues

If an employee who’s usually social and outgoing starts to withdraw from colleagues and seems to be isolating themselves, it could be a sign that they’re burned out.

Isolation can present in many ways but things to look out for can include an employee who’s usually chatty suddenly being quiet, or someone who’s normally happy seeming withdrawn or disengaged.

How employers can prevent burnout in the workplace

Encourage a healthy work/life balance

This means ensuring employees have time for themselves and creating a culture that fosters work/life balance.

Some ways to do this include can include:

  • Allowing flexible work hours
  • Encouraging employees to take vacation time
  • Offering paid time off for mental health days

Provide burnout support and resources in the workplace

This can be in the form of things like counseling, stress management classes, or an employee assistance program.

It can also mean providing tools like a meditation service or monthly stipends for things like mental health services, child care, and gym memberships.

Be aware of red flags in the workplace

This includes things like long hours, unrealistic deadlines, and high demand for travel.

Checking in with yourself regularly and asking yourself if you could be contributing to overworking your team is a good way to ensure you’re doing your part to keep your employees’ work lives manageable.

Encourage vacation time to avoid employee burnout

This is important so that employees can take time to recharge and come back feeling refreshed.

Some ways to encourage employees to take vacation time include:

  • Paying out vacation days
  • Offering unlimited vacation days
  • Encouraging employees to use all their vacation days
  • Making it easy to book time off

How to avoid burnout in the workplace

Take regular breaks to avoid burnout

This can mean taking a vacation, taking a mental health day, or just taking some time for yourself outside of work.

Exercise to avoid burnout

Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and improve your mood and can be anything from going for a walk to going to the gym, just make sure you’re doing something you enjoy.

Eat a healthy diet to avoid burnout

Eating healthy can help improve your mood and give you more energy, both of which are important when you’re trying to recover from burnout.

Set healthy boundaries to avoid burnout

This means setting limits on how much work you’re willing to do, saying no when you need to, and taking time for yourself.

Seek professional help if you’re struggling with burnout

If you’re finding it difficult to recover from burnout on your own, it may be time to seek professional help. This could be in the form of therapy, counseling, or simply talking to a friend.

Advocate for yourself to avoid burnout

This means communicating your needs to your employer, asking for help when you need it, and speaking up if you feel like you’re being overworked.

PDF Download: Burnout 101 – Recognizing Burnout in the Workplace & Supporting Your Team

Overcoming burnout in the workplace

When it comes down to overcoming or avoiding burnout, it’s up to each of us to be our own best advocate and do what works best for us.

However, employers also play a role in preventing burnout in the workplace.

By being aware of the signs of burnout, promoting a healthy work/life balance, and providing resources to help employees cope with stress, employers can do their part to prevent burnout.

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