Burnout: Are Your Employees At Risk?

Burnout is the result of constant stress that leaves someone feeling helpless, exhausted, disconnected, and unmotivated. Keep reading to learn the signs and causes of burnout. And the steps HR/Benefits and leadership teams can take to support the mental wellbeing of employees.

Which Employees Are Most At-Risk?

The root of burnout is feeling a lack of control, support, or equal share of burden. It is often caused by a misalignment in team values, management style, or unfair workload. While it’s commonly experienced in demanding jobs like healthcare, legal services, or the “busy season” of a retail business. It can also arise from the seemingly normal day-to-day expectations of any job. Because burnout is not limited to certain industries or positions.

Additionally, burnout may be caused by a personal life situation—such as parenting, being in a difficult marriage, or being the main caregiver of an ill parent—with the symptoms trickling into their work.

Burnout Affects Mental and Physical Health

Since burnout isn’t an official medical diagnosis, it is often overlooked—or even celebrated—in our fast-pace society. Especially because burnout begins with subtle symptoms that may be hard for others to recognize, before it eventually worsens over time.

Ignoring the early symptoms associated with burnout will negatively affect a person’s mental health and physical health. Extreme cases result in heart disease, high blood pressure, and even type 2 diabetes. This can then overflow to the employee needing sick leave, FMLA, or short-term disability. Which results in higher healthcare costs for your organization.

How Can You Spot Burnout in Your Employees?

As a CHRO or member of the leadership team, employees may reveal their burnout in a wide spectrum of blatant to very subtle clues. Regularly check in with team members by asking how they’re feeling about their current workload, experience, and career path.

Listen carefully to what an employee says. Oftentimes what comes across as a complaint is actually a sign of burnout.

Early Signs an Employee is At Risk for Burnout

An employee is beginning to experience burnout if they share they are:

  • Feeling their workload or responsibilities are uneven
  • Unclear of expectations or long-term goals
  • Uneasy about recent decisions
  • Feeling like changes are happening rapidly, perhaps without clear explanation
  • Feeling their opinions, thoughts, and experience aren’t being considered
  • Experiencing tension with boss or co-workers
  • Fearing their boss doesn’t trust them to do their job or are micromanaging them
  • Starting to daydream about making major changes to their life

Physical and Emotional Signs

Many employees won’t feel comfortable sharing their true thoughts about work or leadership, so they may share their physical experiences, such as:

  • Feeling tired and depleted regardless of sleep
  • Headaches or bodily aches
  • Change in appetite or sleep habits
  • Loss of confidence and sense of accomplishment
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling helpless, defeated, and stuck
  • Increase in time off work; often unexpected or last-minute
  • Withdrawing from responsibilities or increasing procrastination
  • Increased frequency of drugs, alcohol, emotional eating, and/or shopping

How to Support Employees Showing Signs of Burnout

Burnout is more common than you may think. If an employee shares they are experiencing burnout or showing signs of burnout, consider referring them to your employee assistance program (EAP). It is important to train managers to refer employees as well.

  • Provide the employee with promotional materials such as a flyer, brochure, or website.
  • Call your EAP on their behalf and then hand them the phone (often called a warm-transfer).
  • Offer to give them the privacy of your office to call while you step away.

Because the symptoms can also be related to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, it’s important to take concerns about burnout seriously.

How HR/Benefit Leaders Can Prevent Burnout

  1. Be Aware
    Regularly assess current challenges and concerns. What specific circumstances and responsibilities may cause employees to feel uneasy, unclear, unheard, and/or tense? For instance, has there been a recent critical incident, round of layoffs, requirement to return to the office, change in leadership, etc.?
  2. Share
    Be intentional about repeatedly promoting your company’s healthcare benefits, employee assistance program, and wellness benefits. It may feel redundant, but it’s important to vocalize and normalize the use of mental health services.
  3. Genuinely Care
    Positive change only happens within an organization when leadership demonstrates empathy and promotes work-life flexibility. Regular trainings can help develop this skill set for managers.

Prevent burnout by creating a mentally healthy workforce that feels heard, trusted, and valued. This strategy will result in higher productivity levels, employee retention, and job satisfaction. Carebridge EAP can help provide prevention and intervention services to support the mental wellbeing of your employees. Click here to get a quote.