Burnout is a specific kind of work-related stress that affects employees when they work too hard for too long under too much pressure. Many employees who experience burnout have been working hard for their company for longer than is sustainable.
The Mayo Clinic defines burnout as a type of work-related stress that takes the form of physical and emotional exhaustion and involves "a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity."
In other words, when employees feel burned out, they're not only tired, but they have a negative emotional response to their job. It can be hard for burned out employees to even get out of bed and go to work in the morning – a feeling no employer wants to cause for a member of their team.
According to the U.S. News and World Report, burnout generally comes from organizational issues ranging from job pressures to lack of support from managers. Therefore, employers are responsible for much of the work-related stress employees experience.
If your employees are burned out, they're certainly not doing their best work. Furthermore, you may be in danger of losing them as employees altogether and being responsible for long term negative effects on their health.
While burnout in the workforce is common, it's still a frequently misunderstood phenomenon. To help you understand burnout and how to prevent it among your employees, we're debunking some of the myths surrounding work-related stress.
Myth #1: Burnout Only Affects Weak Employees
You may be at risk of losing some of your most highly motivated, hard-working employees not because they aren’t engaged or dedicated to their work, but because of work-related stress and burnout.
A recent Gallup study found that 23% of employees consistently feel burned out at work and another 44% experience feelings of burnout at least some of the time.
If 44% of your employees feel burned out, the phenomenon will inevitably affect employees from all levels of performance at some point.
Furthermore, one in five employees experience both high engagement and high burnout, according to the Harvard Business Review.
In other words, employees that you think are the most dedicated and engaged in the workplace may be struggling the most with burnout.
With burnout affecting such a high percentage of employees, it's important for employers to know how to identify burnout among their workforce.
According to Psychology Today, symptoms that indicate an employee is burned out include chronic fatigue, increased illness, isolation, lack of productivity, poor performance, loss of appetite, and forgetfulness.
Employers may have difficulty identifying these symptoms among their workforce. These symptoms don't necessarily point to burnout in all cases either. However, if you notice that your employees are showing several of these symptoms, it is worth addressing the possibility of work-related stress and burnout.
Myth #2: Vacation Is the Cure for Burnout
Many people assume the solution to burnout and work-related stress is time off. While taking a week off can help ease day-to-day stress at work, a vacation won't permanently solve burnout problems for employees.
Unfortunately, the issues that lead to burnout will still be there when the employee returns from that restful vacation.
According to an article in the Journal of Applied Psychology, while burnout levels do decrease following a vacation or time off, they'll usually return to previous levels within a few weeks of returning to the job.
Burnout is more deeply rooted than other kinds of work-related stress. Employees don't begin experiencing burnout overnight, and burnout can't be solved overnight either.
Myth #3: Quitting Is the Only Solution for Burnout
If a vacation doesn't cure burnout, it seems logical to assume that the only real solution employees have is to pack up their desk and move on.
Thankfully, this isn't the case. In fact, employees who experience burnout are only 2.6% more likely to leave their current job.
Employees who experience burnout don’t need to leave their job or drastically change their lives. Burnout is preventable and treatable if the person experiencing it and those in leadership are willing to make changes.
Myth #4: You Can't Prevent Work-Related Stress
According to HelpGuide, burnout is a gradual process. The symptoms are subtle at first but gradually become worse. If you help stomp out signs of burnout early among employees, you can prevent burnout before it even sets in.
If you want to retain and nurture your employees, there are many things you can do to decrease and turn around employee work-related stress, such as:
- Help make your employees' workloads realistic and manageable. If an employee has to work overtime to complete an important project, for example, provide them with some gratuitous time off after completing the project.
- Provide clear communication and clarity on each employee’s role. If employees know what to do and what they're responsible for, that can go a long way in creating a stress-free environment.
- Model self-care and foster a mindset for healthy well-being. For example, encourage employees to unplug on the weekends and anytime they're off the clock. Downtime is critical to preventing burnout.
- Increase the resources available to employees. Provide counseling and materials to help your employees understand, prevent, and deal with burnout.
Striving for engagement among your employees is a vital part of your business, but it's not worth sacrificing your employees' self-care and their balanced lifestyle for the sake of engagement.
The time we spend away from work can recharge us to perform our best once we return to the office. Your company can't reach its full potential if your employees aren't at their best.
Eager for more tips on employee wellness and creating a positive company culture? Let us know what you need help with in the comments below. Then share this article with your team to get everyone on board in the commitment to reducing work-related stress.