We all know burnout when we feel it. However, it’s still hard to spot signs of employee burnout and step in to prevent it.

Burnout is defined as the physical or mental exhaustion that comes with chronic workplace stress. The World Health Organization (WHO) officially acknowledged workplace burnout as a medical condition in its 2022 International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11).

WHO is currently working to establish guidelines that can help organizations prevent burnout. For now, it’s up to managers and Human Resources to notice when team members show signs of burnout and work to improve their situation.


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5 warning signs of employee burnout 

Work-related stress and emotional exhaustion can take a toll on your team, so don’t let workplace burnout take you by surprise. Be mindful of your team’s workload and watch for signs of burnout.

Here are five warning signs of burnout you can watch for and act on before you lose an employee. 

Decreased productivity

One of the more obvious warning signs of employee burnout is decreased productivity. Decreased productivity is evidenced by a team member not completing their work on time or showing a decrease in the number of projects they complete.

Some managers may mistake decreased productivity for an employee that is slacking off. But when you mix reduced productivity with these other signs of burnout, it’s time to make a change.

Employee disengagement

If a team member is noticeably disengaging from their work and teammates, this can signify burnout. The team member may be checking out emotionally due to being stressed and overworked.

Some may become overwhelmed by their workload and emotionally disengage from their team. Employee engagement is a crucial component of productivity and the overall employee experience.

According to Gallup, 36% of U.S. employees are engaged in their work.

Absenteeism

If you notice a team member taking excessive PTO or sick days, you might consider this a sign of burnout. Combined with other factors on this list, it could signify that they’ve been too busy.

Your first thought might be that your team member is looking for a new job during this time off. In reality, their unsustainable workload might have left them looking for extra time to decompress. Regardless, it’s not a good sign when an employee is absent more than usual.

Isolation 

Noticing and tackling isolation may be tricky for employees working from home. For on-site employees, isolation is easier to detect. Isolation is hard on mental health, something many of us have learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you notice one employee is isolated from their team, this is another sign they may be suffering from burnout. Isolated employees are often unresponsive to messages and unwilling to attend company meetings and mixers.

Negative attitude

A team member who becomes increasingly negative is another sign that your team may be experiencing high stress levels and burnout. Their outlook on their workload and stress may be causing them to act out of character. That can then spread to the rest of the team.

Everyone has a bad day every once in a while, but a reoccurring negative attitude is a cause for concern. A cynical outlook on the company can be one of the most glaring signs of burnout.

What causes these signs of employee burnout?

If your team members have high burnout risk, you should be especially vigilant in watching for signs of burnout. The Mayo Clinic considers these job conditions to be burnout risk factors:

  • Heavy workloads and long work hours 
  • Work-life balance issues 
  • Working in a helping industry like health care or law enforcement
  • No control over your work (schedule, workload, etc.)

Working conditions can cause employee burnout. It’s important to remember that company leadership often inadvertently creates these conditions. It’s important to remember that company leadership often inadvertently creates these conditions.

If you think your team is immune to burnout risk factors, you might want to think again. The number of employees who experience burnout is startling.

76% of employees experience burnout at least sometimes, according to Gallup research.

Over three-quarters of the workforce claim to experience burnout from their job. This number proves that widespread burnout is a challenge that all managers should take steps to minimize.

Here are a few more ways you can contribute to job burnout:

  • Undefined job expectations
  • Dysfunctional work environment 
  • Long hours and unrealistic workloads
  • Poor management
  • Lack of communication or isolation from team members

Be cautious not to create an environment where employees feel overworked and overwhelmed. Giving your team more work may backfire and lead to productivity issues and high turnover.

10 tips to prevent workplace burnout

Chronic job stress can result in exhaustion, frustration, and a lack of productivity at work — but burnout is much more than just feeling overwhelmed at work. It can also impact your team’s health.

According to the Mayo Clinic, workplace burnout can cause insomnia, heart disease, vulnerability to illness, and even Type 2 diabetes.

Applying simple solutions to this critical issue won’t cut it. That’s why you must take significant steps to prevent workplace burnout before your team faces these severe consequences.

Monitor excessive work hours

Long work hours are also a risk factor for burnout. When combined with a lack of breaks or flexibility, studies have shown that they’re detrimental to your team’s health. The World Health Organization found that excessive work hours led to 745,000 deaths in one year.

To combat this, establish a policy for overtime and consider adding a cap to your team’s work hours. This will also help you keep overtime costs to a minimum.

Set clear expectations

Clear boundaries and expectations can help your team understand what you expect from them. Setting reasonable goals and guidelines for your team can eliminate stress by letting them know what success looks like in their position.

These expectations might include workday hours, communication standards, and project completion rate. When you set clear expectations, your team will feel more comfortable in their role and know how to succeed.

Give and receive feedback

Communication is crucial to minimizing burnout. Check in with team members regularly and give them feedback on their performance. And be willing to receive feedback in return.

Constructive feedback can help them perform better, and positive feedback can let them know when they’re on the right track. When your team knows they can come to you with issues, you open the door to conversations that can prevent burnout.


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Manage workloads

Carefully managing your team’s workload can be one of the best ways to minimize their risk of burnout. Effective workload management can be the difference between a successful, productive team and a burnt-out workforce. ​​Strategically assign tasks and let team members know they can approach managers about their workload whenever needed.

Offer flexible schedules

76% of team members state they would be more loyal to their company if they offered flexible work options.

If your industry allows for it, create a flexible work policy. This can include working from home or flexible hours. If you can’t accommodate a flexible work schedule, encourage your team to work reasonable hours and take breaks.

A healthy work-life balance can improve your team’s productivity. When team members can step away from work to walk their dog or spend time with loved ones, it may enhance engagement levels and decrease burnout. In fact, employees with an excellent work-life balance work 21% harder than those who don’t.

Employee appreciation

Employees who are overworked and underappreciated are more likely to experience burnout. Making team members aware of their hard work and contributions is a great way to keep them motivated and engaged.

Try to get creative with employee appreciation by endorsing them on LinkedIn or sending a personal message acknowledging their progress. Check out our employee appreciation examples if you need some ideas.

Offer support 

A lack of support can lead to employee burnout. When you help team members manage their workload, you can reduce their risk of burnout and strengthen your team’s bond.

You can help your team by eliminating bottlenecks and managing workplace stress. Encourage all team members to support their colleagues and model this behavior by helping your team.

Cultivate your company culture

Improving your company’s employee experience is a great way to reduce stress and encourage employee engagement. One way to do this is to create a healthy company culture that prioritizes a work-life balance for your team.

If you manage a remote team, remote company culture is especially important. Organize regular check-ins with your team and come up with clever ways to strengthen team chemistry across borders.

Companies in the top quartile for employee experience are usually 25% more profitable than their competitors in the bottom quartile - Deloitte research

Ensure employee well-being

Self-care and physical wellness are crucial steps to reducing burnout. As a business owner or manager, you can consider talking to your HR department about including mental health or counseling in your health care package.

Or, create incentives for your team members to get exercise. According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, physical health can help you better cope with stress.

Work on employee engagement

Employee engagement can benefit productivity and improve your employee experience. The Harvard Business Review found that organizations with a high level of engagement are 22% more productive than those that don’t.

An engaged workforce is more likely to be productive and content in their work. Use our employee engagement ideas for inspiration.

Final words

It’s crucial to address burnout before it impacts your team’s mental health and productivity. It’s better to take steps to prevent burnout before it occurs rather than reverse its effects once they’ve set in.

Even if one burnt-out employee starts to fall behind on work, it could spread to others. When the employee’s team steps in to help, they’ll have to increase their respective workloads too. After all, burnout stems from the work environment you create, not your team members.

Use our tips to deal with workplace burnout before it becomes a problem for your organization. You can prevent burnout by managing your team’s workload, organizing regular check-ins, and creating a healthy company culture.

Using the right tools to check in could help your team improve retention rates and productivity moving forward.


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