Employee Burnout: The Risks and Ways to Combat It

How to avoid employee burnout

Are your employees stressed out at work to the point that they are feeling burned out?

Employee burnout is a common problem businesses face in the U.S. and around the globe — so much so that the World Health Organization recently addressed the issue during its World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

What WHO Discovered

The WHO concluded that “burnout” is an “occupational phenomenon” and “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

The agency even updated its International Classification of Diseases, which is the global information standard for the identification of health trends and statistics, to include the following indicators of the syndrome:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • Reduced professional efficacy

And not managing workplace stress may have more risks than you think.

Health Implications of Job Burnout

According to Mayo Clinic, ignored or unaddressed job burnout has significant consequences, including:

  • Excessive stress
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Sadness, anger or irritability
  • Alcohol or substance misuse
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Vulnerability to illnesses

Health problems such as these can potentially cause low job performance, disengagement, missed work or high employee turnover, to name a few.

However, the good news is that there are ways to combat employee burnout and mitigate associated risks. Here’s how.

Create a Flexible Work Environment

Lessen employee burnout at your business by providing a flexible work environment. You can do this by establishing communal work areas, multi-use furniture or unassigned desks. Unlike a traditional office space which often consists of private offices or high wall cubicles, this set up can help facilitate collaboration between employees who might otherwise have minimal interaction.

More importantly, a flexible work design increases employee comfort and productivity and improves employee well-being, according to TurningArt. Therefore, this effort may indeed reduce burnout. As an added benefit, a flexible work environment can help your business maximize spatial efficiency and reduce costs.

Flexibility in terms of employee schedules is also an integral piece in keeping your employees happy and less likely to burn out. By allowing flexible work hours, your employees will be able to adjust the time or place their work is completed. This arrangement can help accommodate their personal needs, such as to better manage a long commute or to allow parents to take their children to school.

Overall, flexible schedules can enable your employees improve their work-life balance and feel less stressed at work.  Both of which are factors that may help prevent burnout and improve employee retention. In fact, according to a 2018 Work Environment Survey, 73 percent of full-time office professionals say a flexible schedule is in their top two reasons to stay with a company.

Conduct Wellness Programs

Another way to prevent employee burnout is by offering wellness programs to promote healthy habits. And there are many wellness programs for small businesses that don’t require a lot of time and money.

For instance, stock your breakroom vending machine with granola bars and flavored seltzer water instead of high-fat and sugary items like candy bars or sodas. You can also stock your breakroom with complimentary fresh fruit to give your employees a healthy treat and energy boost.

You can also wrestle burnout by implementing daily 15 minute nature walks to allow your employees to get some fresh air and exercise. To boost employee camaraderie, try initiating workplace walking or running clubs. For an added incentive, support leading participants with a monthly prize or a half-day off.

Offer Professional Development

Professional development can mean more to your employees than just job training and educational opportunities.  It can also help to mitigate employee burnout. That’s because it provides the opportunity to connect with your employees in a more personalized way. For instance, instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach to employee growth, give your employees a development plan that is tailored-made for them.

A targeted approach to professional development based on each employee’s specific skill set and strengths will not only help them achieve their personal career goals, but will also make them feel more valued. Solidify this connection by asking your employees for regular feedback or ideas for business improvements. Then, take action on some of those ideas to show that they are appreciated.

When offering professional development, relay your business’s mission and how each member fits as an integral part of the team. This is also an opportunity to relay job expectations so your employees feel more comfortable at work. To avoid members being overworked or working exclusively on their own responsibilities, which can lead to burnout, offer social support by facilitating peer connections and encouraging mentorship.

Recognize Your Employees

Create a positive work environment and reduce burnout by taking the time to recognize your employees for their solid performance. There are many easy, low cost ways to recognize your employees on a regular basis. For instance, a simple shout out in the monthly newsletter or email to relay an employee achievement can go a long way. You can also give a handwritten note expressing gratitude for their work.

Another idea is to offer high performing staff a day off or allow them to work from home for a day. This can help support work-life balance, so your employees return to work recharged and less likely to burnout. You can take it a step further by adding PTO or implementing quarterly bonus incentives. Recognize a group of employees by having a quarterly party or treating them to a meal at a fine restaurant. All of these ways can help your employees feel valued, less stressed and more motivated to succeed in their jobs.

Employee burnout poses risks to not only your employees, but also to your business. However, by providing the right opportunities and incentives, you can help your employees strike a balance between their personal lives and work and take the edge off burnout.


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