Special offer 

Jumpstart your hiring with a $75 credit to sponsor your first job.*

Sponsored Jobs are 2.6x times faster to first hire than non-sponsored jobs.**
  • Attract the talent you’re looking for
  • Get more visibility in search results
  • Appear to more candidates longer

10 Ways to Prevent and Address Employee Burnout

Employee burnout is a serious mental health concern that can affect businesses of all kinds. In fact, according to an Indeed survey, 1 in 4 job seekers report looking for new job opportunities when they’re feeling discouraged or dissatisfied about their current job situation.*

That’s why it’s crucial for employers to recognize the signs of employee burnout and take steps to prevent and address it within their teams. Below, learn how to identify, prevent and address employee burnout at your business.

Post a Job

What is employee burnout?

Employee burnout is when employees become exhausted, frustrated, disengaged and unmotivated at work. It often occurs when a person is both physically and mentally drained, which causes employees an inability to work as productively as they normally would. The condition can lead to poor performance at work, decreased productivity, inter-workplace conflict and mental health issues.

In 2019, job-related burnout was officially recognized as a mental health concern by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the WHO’s eleventh revision of its International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) diagnosis guidelines, employee burnout signs include:

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
  • A sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment

Common causes of employee burnout

Employee burnout has many causes and can happen to employees regardless of age or experience level. Numerous factors can lead to burnout, such as increased demands, overwhelming workloads, lack of recognition, feelings of helplessness, unjust treatment, and negative relationships with colleagues. 

Burnout often happens when employees with a history of performing well are given additional responsibilities or asked to complete their tasks in less time. Although the employee tries their best to perform well under these new conditions, pressure from their supervisor or pressure they place on themselves can cause mental stress.

Other employees experience burnout if they do the same job for too long without being given any opportunities to grow their career. Additionally, professionals who create for a living (e.g., writers, graphic designers) sometimes run into mental blocks that prevent them from generating new work.

Other issues that can cause employee burnout include:

  • Unrealistic deadlines or schedules
  • High-stress work environments that do not allow enough breaks
  • Harsh consequences or disciplinary measures in response to failure
  • Not enough praise or recognition for exceptional performance
  • Lack of independence or autonomy in the workplace
  • Ineffective leadership
  • Lack of adequate staff to do the work

Employee burnout signs

Here are a few signs of employee burnout to keep an eye out for:

  • Lack of interest or enthusiasm
  • Moving slower than normal
  • Disinterest in conversation
  • Disengagement
  • Exhibiting a negative attitude
  • Frequent tardiness or absences
  • Decline in productivity
  • Producing lower quality work

Noticing and taking steps to mitigate employee burnout is an important practice for businesses. Burnout can happen to anyone, including supervisors and those in upper management. Employers who ignore burnout often encounter unusually high job dissatisfaction and employee turnover rates.

You may also find that employee burnout can cause long-term losses. Burned-out employees are more likely to take PTO and call in sick during busy workweeks. They’re also often looking for other jobs and may resign with little to no notice. That means learning to handle employee burnout effectively can save you time, money and mental strain.

Related: How to Increase Employee Engagement

10 ways to help employees with burnout

There are many methods and strategies you can implement to address employee burnout. The first step in overcoming burnout is learning how to mitigate it within your organization. Employers can help promote the mental health and well-being of their team members by establishing a work environment that fosters appreciation, respect and support.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for dealing with burnout, but here are 10 tips every employer can follow to try to alleviate some of the pressure their employees are dealing with:

1. Reach out to those who are struggling

If you suspect an employee may be experiencing burnout, the first step is to request a one-on-one meeting. In a private conference, share your concerns and ask them if they’re feeling unmotivated or overwhelmed. Encourage them to be honest. Even if they’re not yet burned-out, talking over common employee burnout signs with a manager can help them self-evaluate and prevent any issues that may come up.

Once you’ve established a rapport, you can work together to find a solution to the problem. Possible solutions to employee burnout include giving them time off, reassigning one of their projects to someone else or moving them to a different team or department.

2. Create a safe space

It’s important to catch burnout and address it before the employee feels like their only option is to quit. Managers should be on the lookout for signs of burnout. Some common symptoms of burnout include the following:

  • Exhaustion or constant fatigue
  • A cynical or negative attitude
  • Frequent illnesses
  • Reduced productivity
  • Loss of interest in the job

When managers notice these signs, they should be encouraged to approach their employees and have a candid conversation. The discussion should come from a place of concern and care, not judgment. Managers should encourage employees to share their feelings and listen to what they have to say. Once the problems have been outlined, managers can offer to help in whatever way is needed. Solutions might include lessening an employee’s workload, giving an employee more resources or extending project deadlines.

3. Send an employee satisfaction survey

Employee burnout isn’t always obvious. To take a pulse on how your employees are feeling, try sending out an anonymous employee satisfaction survey. By asking questions like “How do you feel about your job overall?” and “Do you have everything you need to do your job well?” you can find out if employees are feeling burned out and take steps to mitigate it.

4. Distribute workloads carefully

Another way to prevent employee burnout is to be thoughtful about how you distribute tasks and assignments. Giving a single employee or team more projects or tasks than they can complete before deadlines can cause frustration and unnecessary stress.

Check-in regularly with your team members to find out how they’re handling their current schedule. If anyone is overwhelmed, consider reassigning a task to another employee or offer to help them handle it yourself. Treating your team with respect and consideration can go a long way toward preventing burnout.

Simplifying workstreams by streamlining processes and eliminating unnecessary steps can help enhance efficiency and relieve pressure on team members. Reevaluate tasks to identify what is essential so employees can focus on what is most important; this might mean postponing or even stopping projects that no longer align with strategic objectives. Be sure to delegate and distribute work evenly among team members, taking into account each team member’s current capacity and workload.

5. Assess your management style

Managers can sometimes unintentionally contribute to burnout by using a management style that causes employees stress or frustration. If you notice symptoms of burnout among your team, take time to consider your management tactics and compare them to the behavior of other managers in your organization.

For example, if you frequently contact team members outside of work hours, assign tasks before the previous ones are finished or show bias to certain employees (even if it’s unconscious bias), consider making adjustments to your management style.

Related: Five Management Tips You Can Try Today

6. Provide workplace variety

If an employee excels at a particular task, you may be tempted to assign them the same task all the time. However, doing the same thing at work for long periods of time can negatively affect an employee’s energy levels and enthusiasm. Instead, try giving your employees opportunities to work on a variety of tasks whenever possible.

Create a rotating schedule or assignment sheet so that no one has to handle the same problems or address the same issues for months in a row. Ideally, by listening to your team’s feedback, you’ll be able to assign tasks that they excel at and enjoy.

7. Take mental health seriously

The final step in mitigating employee burnout is to make prioritizing mental health a part of your team’s culture. Reach out to your human resources department and find out if your organization has a mental health policy. Read over it carefully and determine whether you need to make any additional provisions for your team.

Many companies allow employees to take mental health days to allow themselves time to rest and recuperate from workplace stress. Others provide insurance coverage for visits to a mental health professional or access to meditation and mindfulness apps. By cultivating a culture that supports mental health, you can promote long-term satisfaction and productivity within your team.

8. Encourage relaxation

A primary cause of burnout is when individuals work too hard and don’t take breaks to recharge. Employers may not be able to force an employee to relax, but they can make an effort to encourage regular breaks.

Employers should also have their HR departments review vacation days near the end of each year. If employees have taken few or no vacation days, the HR team can reach out to them and ask that they plan to take their allotted days before the year is over. This helps employees feel like they have the permission and encouragement to take the time off they deserve.

Additionally, upper management can set a policy that only allows employees to work during set hours. If a company typically operates from 9 to 5, managers can tell employees to avoid sending emails, responding to messages or working before or after these hours. They can also remind everyone that work shouldn’t be done on holidays or weekends. Managers can lead by example by never emailing or messaging outside of working hours.

Taking these small steps to encourage relaxation can make a huge difference to employees who need to be reminded to stop overworking.

9. Provide professional help

Burnout is an occupational phenomenon that sometimes requires professional help. Employers should consider adding coverage to their benefits package for therapists or counselors. Businesses can send out a notice to their employees of this addition and encourage anyone who is in need to take advantage of this benefit. A professional can then help an employee identify the cause of the burnout, assist them with coping and teach them how to set boundaries to prevent escalation.

10. Encourage people’s right to say no

It’s important to foster a workplace culture where employees feel they can safely say no. Employees should be told they can say no to other workers or management when their workload is becoming too heavy. There should be no penalization for an employee who wants to set boundaries as long as those boundaries are reasonable.

Address burnout for better retention

It is important for employers to prioritize their employees’ health and well-being. Taking care of employees is an essential part of running a successful and well-functioning business. A workforce that is not burnt out will likely be more productive, collaborative and engaged at work, which will ultimately lead to the overall success of the business.

Employee burnout FAQs

How do you help an employee who is already struggling with burnout?

If you have a team member who is already showing the signs of employee burnout, you may need to take more advanced steps. These could include:

  • Making a change to their weekly work schedule
    Putting them on paid leave for a predetermined amount of time
  • Redistributing roles or responsibilities to other team members
  • Scheduling regular meetings so that you can consistently offer advice or guidance
  • Starting a mentorship program so employees can talk with their peers
  • Promoting transparency and open communication in your workplace

What are the stages of employee burnout?

Everyone experiences burnout differently, but there are a few common stages:

  1. Normal job stress: Employees in the first stage of burnout experience routine work-related stress (i.e., short bursts of stress that can be handled well with coping mechanisms).
  2. Onset of stress symptoms: In the second stage of burnout, employees often feel stress symptoms on a more regular basis, may experience a decline in optimism and often have symptoms like anxiety, fatigue, headaches or an inability to focus.
  3. Chronic job stress: In this stage, employees often feel symptoms of stress on a daily basis and have a harder time managing it. Stress during this stage may begin to affect an employee’s productivity.
  4. Burnout: During the burnout stage, employees typically experience worsening levels of stress that can’t be successfully managed, including behavioral changes, loss of productivity, lack of engagement and may be more likely to quit or be looking for a new job.

*Indeed survey, n=12,168

Post a Job

Ready to get started?

Post a Job

*Indeed provides this information as a courtesy to users of this site. Please note that we are not your recruiting or legal advisor, we are not responsible for the content of your job descriptions, and none of the information provided herein guarantees performance.

Editorial Guidelines