4 Ways to Avoid Employee Burnout

employee burnout

Employee burnout is contagious - and it's not something you want going around your workplace. Unlike a split-second light bulb burnout, employee burnout is a more gradual process that builds over time. And it doesn't just wreak havoc on an employee's work, productivity, and wellbeing - it affects the overall workplace, too.

Luckily, there are telltale signs that you, as the employer, can keep an eye out for and things you can do to reignite the fire.

Who's burning out?

In short: almost everyone - 98% to be exact - and workplace stress is especially taking a toll on working parents. According to Bright Horizons' Modern Family Index, 81% of working moms and 73% of working dads think their employers would be unable to spot the signs of burnout; however, 70% of employers think they have a culture that supports work/life balance. Clearly, there's a disconnect here - and it's costing some employers their star players.

What does employee burnout look like?

Fictional employee Jason always goes the extra mile (sometimes even staying late and working on the weekends). His work is high-quality and he completes it in a timely manner - come to think of it, he's never missed a deadline. He's an upbeat person, willing to help others on his team, and often engages colleagues in conversations regarding company strategies and new ideas.

Then, he starts to feel the pressure building each day - he has too much on his plate, and because he has set a precedent that he's willing to work long hours, it's now expected of him.

You might notice he's incredibly stressed, trying to balance both work and life. He's missing deadlines and his productivity is much lower than it used to be.

Or, he might develop a negative attitude. Repeated phrases such as, "I don't think I can manage all of these clients," "There isn't enough time in the day to get all of this done," or "I'm so exhausted from working all night" might be complaints, but they're also cries for help.

These scenarios are signs that he's burned out - but there are ways you can turn it around. And if you haven't yet noticed signs of burnout, the following tips can also be used as preventative measures.

4 Tips to Reignite the Fire

1. Offer support. Whether or not your employees have asked for it, make it known that support is available. They may not complain about their stress or workload - some think that this will jeopardize their job and/or make them seem incompetent. At the first sign of burnout, have an open conversation with your employee - express your concern, talk about recent behavior you've noticed, and ask what's causing it. Alternatively, ask the employee's mentor or friend to approach the subject with him if you think he's more likely to open up.

2. Think about reengagement. An employee who's feeling burned out is likely stressed about his workload or frustrated with the mundane repetition of routine tasks. In this case, he'll benefit from a change of scenery. Present him with a new project, different from what he's used to, reallocate some of his responsibilities, give him new ones that interest him, and allow him to explore other areas of the business.

3. Encourage employees to change their scenery. Being cooped up all day, sitting in the same chair, and working non-stop is a recipe for disaster. Give employees the chance to step away from their computers and take a walking meeting or go for a midday bike ride to reenergize themselves. If your office has a common area, encourage employees to interact with each other during breaks and lunch time.

4. Think about work/life balance and assess your company's benefits package. Do you offer things like flexible schedules and employer-sponsored child care? Balancing work responsibilities while making time to go to the doctor or the mechanic and making sure their children have reliable, quality care can be stressful for employees. When employers make it easier for people to tend to life's responsibilities, they'll likely feel less stressed, happier, and will be more productive at work.

To prevent employee burnout right from the start, provide proper training, set realistic expectations for your employees, and create a culture of open communication. If it turns out you have a shortage of employees in a certain department, fill the gaps instead of asking your current employees to shoulder all of the work. Remember: happy employees are productive employees, which make for a successful business.

Written by: Jeannie Krill

Evan Polisher

Jeannie Krill at Bright Horizons

As a former Bright Horizons preschool teacher, Jeannie has seen what child care means to clients firsthand. She also offers a view from the Millennials camp, cluing us into what’s challenging today’s largest demographic, and what they really want. She holds a BA in Psychology from Valparaiso University.