Employee burnout is at an all-time high. A study by Indeed shows that more than half of employees surveyed expressed feeling burned out and two-thirds say it’s gotten worse.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to business leaders, who may be feeling a bit of burnout themselves. We’ve all been running at a fast pace over the past two years with no letup.
Teams have been challenged to find new ways to work and adapt to changing conditions under great stress. On top of it all, employees worry about their health, job, and family — all while under added pressure from worker shortages. It’s led many workers to reevaluate their priorities and become one of the driving forces behind what’s been called The Great Resignation that’s impacted nearly every business.
In simpler terms: burnout is real, and it’s a real problem for almost every business leader.
Recognizing Employee Burnout
Before you can solve employee burnout, you’ve got to recognize it and take action. Look for these warning signs in your employees:
- Difficulty concentrating or completing tasks on deadline
- Lethargy or indifference
- Irritability or impatience with coworkers or customers
- Mounting frustration about systems or processes
- Unprovoked anger or heightened sensitivity
- Increased tardiness or illness
The American Psychological Association estimated that burnout costs the US economy more than $500 billion annually and contributes to more than 550 million lost workdays from stress on the job. And, those numbers were from before COVID emerged.
Managing Employee Burnout
Letting burnout fester will only aggravate the situation. When you see the warning signs, you need to take action.
Here’s what successful business leaders are doing to help alleviate the stress and help employees re-engage.
- Understand What’s Causing the Burnout
Don’t make assumptions about what’s behind employee burnout. There may be different triggers for each individual. Business leaders should hold in-person, private, one-on-one conversations to try to determine the root cause. Ask lots of questions and demonstrate sincere concern.
- Advocate for Your Team
One of the most important things business leaders do is to support their team. Be a strong advocate to help release the pressure valve on their stress. Depending on what’s triggering burnout, you can:
- Set guardrails for work hours and workloads
- Offer more flexible work schedules (if possible)
- Provide additional resources
- Help prioritize work and remove items from employee to-do lists
- Be Authentic
You need to be compassionate and demonstrate empathy for your team, but it has to be genuine. An insincere approach to dealing with burnout will likely exacerbate the situation and may diminish how the team views you.
This can be difficult for many leaders, especially those that have been taught not to get personal or overly friendly with their employees. Dealing with burnout, however, is highly personal and you’ll need to break down barriers to help your team overcome them.
- Practice What You Preach
Finally, make sure you’re taking care of yourself. It’s difficult to lead when you’ve burned out yourself.
Employees will watch how you handle yourself and often take the lead from that. If you’re telling them to reduce their workload and you’re sending them more tasks, or advising them to stop working after hours and then sending emails during their off-hours, you’re not helping the situation.