How to spot the signs of and prevent employee burnout

It has become almost common place that we all work at 100 miles per hour, wake up feeling tired and struggle to switch off. With so many people accepting feelings of stress as the norm its no wonder that stress, anxiety and depression account for over half of workplace absences in the UK!


Do businesses take burnout seriously enough?


For any business, employee burnout can have serious consequences including; loss of team productivity, impacts on the bottom line, high levels of absence costing the business money, increased turnover and challenges in attracting future talent due to reputation. In serious cases it can lead to long term depression and anxiety for an individual, so this is an issue that businesses shouldn’t be ignoring for financial and moral reasons.

Managers and HR teams should be able to spot the signs of struggling employees and have processes in place to offer support.


The most common signs of employee burnout include:

• A change in attitude with the employee becoming much more negative
• Lack of engagement
• Drop in performance level
• Increased sickness and absences
• Becoming easily upset or annoyed
• Complaining about feeling consistently exhausted


Whilst it is important that businesses have formal processes in place to support their workforce, it is even more important that they focus on preventing burnout in the first place. In many cases, businesses will need to look at their culture as a whole, in order to determine factors which may be contributing to the problem.

The key things to address when looking at ways to prevent your workforce from burnout include:

Workplace culture – As mentioned, the culture of any workplace has an impact on the wellbeing of all employees and there are some significant factors which can exacerbate stress levels. When thinking about how workplace culture may impact your employees ask yourself: Is there a culture of teamwork where everyone pulls their weight? Do employees help their colleagues if someone is struggling with their workload? Are there communication channels that employees can use to express their concerns if they are struggling? If the answer of any of these questions is no, action is needed!


Promote work-life balance – recent studies show that 60% of UK workers check their email when on holiday with even more regularly checking them out of normal office hours. It is also common for employees to still come to work when they are ill because of anxiety over not getting things done. These are all huge contributors to stress as employees take less time to switch off and reboot. There are so many ways to encourage a healthier work/life balance such as having break out spaces in the office, encouraging staff to take lunch away from their desk, having team building activities and ensuring staff use up their annual leave. It is so important that employees can take time off and switch off!


Ensure adequate training and resources are provided – workplace stress isn’t always caused by the volume of work; pressure can also be caused if an employee does not have the right tools to do their job. This could mean reviewing whether your staff have access to resources such as up-to-date systems, accurate databases, or accommodating any special requirements. Furthermore, in an ever-changing world it is likely that further training will be required for employees throughout their career to keep up with changing demands. Upskilling should not be overlooked regardless of how competent an employee may appear. Investing in training and development will ensure they are best placed to carry out the job at hand and reduce the chances of causing stress over lack of ability.


Increase flexibility – In line with promoting work/life balance, offer your employees flexible working to enable them to fit their lives around work. This will work differently based on the size and nature of the business but is becoming the norm for many employers to offer more flexible ways for employees to work their contracted hours. Both the TUC and CBI agree that “flexible working is better for staff, and it’s better for profits.”


– Provide support – Without support in place, workplace stress will only escalate and the chances of burnout will increase. Create a culture where employees feel they can talk to their managers or HR Teams about their concerns and feel that action will be taken when necessary. This could involve reducing workloads or simply being able to talk.


Acknowledging this issue and implementing measures to prevent employee burnout will benefit both businesses and their workforce. Forward thinking companies are already introducing some creative measures to help staff de-stress such as selfcare days, having puppies in the office for the day and offering employees mindfulness and yoga sessions.

Think about your current talent and the future talent you’d like to employ; can you afford to ignore the issue of burnout?