In our work providing corporate chair massages, we hear from a lot of HR mangers and wellness directors about an important topic: employee burnout. These wellness directors, HR managers, and CEOs know burnout is a real issue, which is why we're there in the first place.
Like most anything, it's easier to prevent an issue than to try to pick up the pieces after something has exploded. So here are some signs and symptoms of employee burnout -- and what to do about them.
Employee Burnout Definition
Burnout means low engagement, which ultimately means low performance. And that's bad for business. It’s not that burnt out employees don’t care – it’s that they’ve cared too much for too long without refilling the reservoir, and they’re left with nothing left to give. If any of these signs look familiar around your office, it's time to take some action. Are you on the road to employee burnout?
You may be feeling burnout if:
- Every day seems like a bad day
- Caring about work or even loved ones seems like a waste of time
- You are extremely tired 24/7
- Tasks you spend your day on seem either dull or overwhelming
- It seems nothing you do is valued
What are Signs and Symptoms of Employee Burnout?
Burnout can be a gradual process that creeps up on your staff! They might seem just a little run down now, but burnout is cumulative and continues to pile up if left unaddressed. Signs and symptoms can be subtle at first but will become unhealthier as time goes on unless steps are taken to make sure your staff starts feeling better. Early symptoms are red flags and should not be ignored, since they are bound to only lead to more burnout. Finding ways to reduce your team's stress now will avert any major breakdowns down the road. Wondering how to fix burnout? Read on!
Sign #1: Your Employees Have Low Engagement
Workers who are unenthusiastic about their jobs produce low quality work. There are many reasons an employee might be disengaged from the work and job tasks, and some of these reasons can be prevented.
When employees aren't solicited for input or ideas on company policies or hiring decisions, it will seriously impair their interest in the workplace culture.
How To Fix It
Never underestimate the importance of employee buy-in.
Whether it's a policy change or the hiring of a new team member, your employees want at least a little say in the matter. It's always a good idea to get employee input during some stage of a hiring process to assess how everyone feels about a potential candidate. While the ultimate hiring decision may lie in the hands of the CEO or HR director, your current employees want to know that you value their opinion on who would make a good addition to their team.
The key to becoming engaged with a work task is caring about the outcome, and the best way for that to happen is to be in charge of as much of the task as possible. Employees who have decision-making capabilities for their workload, and who have freedom and autonomy to work without a micromanaging leader will produce the best results.
Related: Top 3 Ways to Improve Employee Retention
Sign #2: Your Employees Are Dropping the Ball
When tasks start getting left unfinished, or little mistakes start showing up regularly, it's likely your employees are overworked. When workers are treading water everyday just to keep on top of the most important tasks, corners get cut. The cause for this could be a bottleneck in the way a project moves forward -- or it could be the sheer number of tasks and responsibilities an employee has.
How To Fix It
A good manager's main focus should be how to make the workflow easier for the employees so they can produce the quality work you hired them for. Ask employees to make a list of the tasks they do that take up more of their time than they'd like. Have them list what they actually do, not just what's in their job description.
Management needs to listen to employee ideas about how the work process could be improved. Does one department constantly hold up other departments, creating crunch time for everyone else? If so, how can it be prevented?
Sign #3: Your Employees Are Out Sick a Lot
We all know that stress makes people sick. In addition to lowering your immunity and causing common colds, there are the inevitable body aches and sore muscles that come along with too many hours on the clock.
Combine that with poor diet, lack of exercise, and bad sleeping habits, and your employees are likely to be calling in sick a lot. This slows production in a big way
Other physical symptoms of burnout:
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of sleep
How To Fix It
Though employers can’t expect to turn a worker’s health around all on their own, making wellness a priority at work can have a big impact on people’s health.
An office wellness program can include healthy snacks, water instead of soda in the break room, gym passes, an in-office massage program, and ergonomic desks and workstations.
Giving an adequate number of days off (paid or not) and understanding that employees have a life outside of work, will go a long way in keeping your workers in tip top shape.
Related: 8 Creative Wellness Program Ideas You Haven't Considered
Sign #4: Your Employees Are Moody
Have you noticed that people have been a little more negative or pessimistic in a way that is out of character for them? That's a huge sign of employee burnout. If morale is low, they've got a lot on their plate, or they're feeling undervalued, they may bring a bad attitude to work.
Other emotional symptoms:
- Failure or self-doubt
- Loss of motivation
- Decreased sense of accomplishment
- Cynical attitude and outlook
How To Fix It
Focus on positivity. During your meetings it is important to solve problems but be sure to talk about the accomplishments that your employees have made. If you balance out the problem-solving with celebration of what's already working, it'll be easier for everyone to stay positive.
Sign #5: Your Employees Are Quiet (Or Chatty)
If you're noticing a change in your employees' social habits, they may be experiencing burnout. Chatty employees may be avoiding their long list of things to do, while quiet employees may be overwhelmed.
Other emotional symptoms:
- Overeating, over drinking, or taking drugs
- Taking out frustration on other employees
- Coming in late/or early
How To Fix It
Make sure your employees aren't overloaded. Check in with your team, ask them what they're spending their time on and find a way to help them balance their responsibilities. A healthy work-life balance is essential to avoiding burn-out.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STRESS AND BURNOUT
So, what's the difference between workplace stress and burnout? Stress is fairly inevitable. Deadlines, big projects and more can all bring on stress. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, a little stress can be a good motivator, and isn't necessarily unhealthy. However, when stress happens consistently over time it can start to wear down on your staff. This is when burnout may start to happen. Burnout is experienced as a lack of motivation, not caring anymore about what gets done, apathy and disengagement.
CAUSING OF BURNOUT
Burnout can be caused by both work and lifestyle related issues. Here are a few causes that lead to signs of employee burnout.
Work related causes of burnout:
- Not having control over your work: When employees feel they have no say over things that impact their work, from scheduling, assignments, and workload.
- Lack of the resources to get the job done: If employees don't have the support or tools to accomplish their work.
- Expectations aren't clear: Not knowing exactly what needs to be accomplished or when can have a draining effect on employees.
- Workplace social issues: Feeling uncomfortable at work because of unpleasant work dynamics can take a huge toll on employee's stress levels.
- Work is too demanding: Constant high stress levels trying to meet aggressive deadlines and complete big projects can lead to burnout over time.
- Long hours: Working too many hours means that the work-life balance tips too far towards work! This can leave staff drained and unhappy.
Lifestyle related causes of burnout:
- Not having a support network: Having friends and family to talk to as an emotional support system is extremely important. If staff don't have that social network their bound to start feeling burnout.
- All work and no play: When work takes up all the waking hours of the day, employees don't take time to socialize and shake off the workday.
- Not getting enough sleep: Sleep is important to every function of the body and brain! Without enough sleep, your team will likely start feeling the effects of burnout.
- Taking on too much: Employees may be working full time plus committing to coaching their kids' teams, cooking dinners, hosting the next book club, and more. Taking on too many responsibilities (even fun ones!) can lead to burnout.
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