Signs of Employee Burnout (And What You Can Do About It)

Employee burnout is a company-level issue that often goes unaddressed. Learn the early indicators to prevent burnout.

Employee Burnout And Covid 19

More than ever before, workers are vulnerable to burnout. According to a study done by HR consultancy Randstad US, almost 40% of 2,000 adult Americans questioned were considering leaving their employment, citing burnout as the main factor. That's a scary statistic for any employer, especially in a tight labor market.

Although burnout has long been recognized in front-line, compassionate care, and social workers, no profession or individual is immune. The presence of burnout is becoming more prevalent across all occupations and should be ringing warning bells and motivating changes in corporate culture.

The term "burnout" describes a state characterized by extreme fatigue and a feeling of powerlessness and resignation that leads to a loss of productivity and overall malaise. Burnout at work often manifests as emotional and physical exhaustion, loss of focus, reduced motivation, and an increased risk of illness and workplace incidents.

Burnout is becoming increasingly common, with 75% of employees reporting that they felt exceptionally fatigued since the beginning of covid-19. It's not just social isolation and the pandemic either—it's an amalgamation of daily stressors with no slated relief in sight. Despite companies providing mental health resources and days off, employees are still exhausted.

In this article, we'll deep dive into the causes of employee burnout, how it affects business, and approach some solutions that safeguard against creating a culture that contributes to employee burnout.

What Causes Employee Burnout

What causes employee burnout is complex and varies between individuals. However, common issues are consistently identified as the first and foremost factors contributing to stress in the workplace.

Employees report the following pain points:

●      A poor work culture.

●      Job insecurity.

●      Unclear assignment expectations­.

●      Leadership that lacks empathy.

●      Constant fluctuations in workload.

●      The company is disorganized or inconsistent.

●      Scarcity of friends and support in the workplace.

●      A lack of work-life balance causes personal relationships to deteriorate.

●      Lack of control over position, schedule, or workload. 

Companies must accept responsibility for employee burnout to understand their origins in order to prevent and remedy the problem. Many business executives believe that burnout is a talent management issue affecting a single individual. However, a poor company culture created by those same administrators is more likely theculprit.

5 Stages Of Burnout At Work

1.  The Honeymoon Phase

The honeymoon phase is the first of the five stages. It's especially significant when it comes to taking on new job responsibilities or launching new work projects. At this point, there are no indications of burnout; instead, new employees are full of passion, dedication, and job satisfaction. Productivity during this time is often accelerated. There is an eagerness to take on any task or opportunity to impress colleagues and become an integral asset to the organization. Usually, this phase is when most people take on more responsibility than is sustainable because they feel innovative, hopeful, and full of energy.

2.  The Onset Of Stress

Next, it seems the honeymoon phase has exceeded its shelf life. The workload has gotten heavier, and expectations are feeling out of reach higher, or maybe for some, there hasn't been a successful integration into the company culture. This is when many people say they begin to lack time for personal needs and become disengaged with their circle of peers. Furthermore, early signs of improperly managed stress begin to manifest as physical symptoms resulting in an incapacity to focus, anxiety, changes in appetite, sleep disorders, and even high blood pressure.

3.  Chronic Stress

Chronic stress occurs when people frequently experience high levels of stress. Anxiety limits the capacity to solve issues effectively, and overall performance deteriorates rapidly. At this stage, some individuals may begin to feel out of control and powerless when they do not see the same amount of success as they did previously. This causes many people to disengage and avoid responsibilities to evade feelings of pressure and inadequacy.

Chronic stress has a detrimental impact on mental and bodily health, further aggravating the symptoms described in stage 2. Employees may be getting sick more frequently now or no longer appear to have their emotions under control. This instability and oversensitivity are early indicators of impending burnout. Leaders must be able to recognize these early warning signs. Identifying these indicators will enable leadership to support employees experiencing chronic stress before it becomes burnout.

4.  Burnout

Entering burnout, many employees recognize things aren't working out but can't seem to address the root of the problem. Some workers report feelings of anxiety, apathy, and boredom at work. Others feel depressed, start having emotional outbursts, become cynical or disengage altogether.

If the initial phases aren't addressed, exhaustion can reach debilitating levels making it challenging to manage responsibilities. Aside from being constantly exhausted, individuals entering burnout also report digestive issues, chronic headaches, and altered behavior patterns. Employees eventually become despondent and dissatisfied when they don't anticipate a rest period or a resolution. At this stage, employees often develop a strong sense of self-doubt, loss of interest and exhibit a pessimistic attitude toward work.

5.  Chronic Burnout

The impact of burnout on individuals and their careers can be devastating. If left untreated, it becomes chronic and can manifest into acute depression, anxiety, and even substance abuse. Symptoms of burnout that compromise personal relationships are often referred to as “spillover”. To make matters worse, individuals experiencing chronic burnout may lose pleasure in the pastimes they used to enjoy, self-isolate, and not want to do anything. At this point, outside assistance is required to overcome burnout symptoms and begin recovery.

How Workplace Burnout Hurts Companies

Burnout is not a novel notion—the term was first used in 1974 by psychologist Herbert Freudenberger; however, many employers are yet to combat the issue in a meaningful way. Growing awareness of burnout should shed light on a topic that costs businesses hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars every year.

●      According to a 2017 study, stress caused by burnout costs the United States $125 billion to $190 billion each year in healthcare expenditures. Workplace stress accounts for 8% of overall national healthcare spending.

●      Burnout causes low productivity and can increase turnover by 20-50%. Burnout is especially common in high performing individuals that businesses can't afford to lose. 

Employee burnout is a company problem. Employers who can anticipate and avoid burnout will have the edge over their competition. Employees will be healthier, happier, and more productive, they'll deliver better service to clients and customers, have greater loyalty to the company, less absences, and contribute more to the bottom line than their burned-out coworkers.

Employee Burnout Statistics

Professionals feel the strain of an 'always on' work environment, resulting in extreme stress and burnout. These employees are:

●     63% more likely to take a sick day

●     23% more likely to visit the emergency room

●     50% less likely to discuss performance goals with leaders

●     13% less confident in their performance

●     2.6x more likely to be looking for a new position

Deloitte's external marketplace research of 1,000 full-time US professionals investigates the causes and impact of employee burnout, as well as the advantages and programs workers feel assist, prevent or alleviate burnout versus those their organizations are now offering.The study revealed that businesses might misinterpret employee needs and not provide incentives to help them cope with stress at work.

●      90% of respondents claim that having an unmanageable quantity of stress or annoyance in their job hinders their productivity.

●      85% noted that work burnout has caused “spillover” in their personal lives.

●      87% of professionals said they had a passion for their current work, yet 64% reported being stressed frequently. This data debunks the notion that passionate workers are immune to stress or burnout.

●      70% of professionals believe their businesses are not doing enough to prevent or relieve employee burnout.

●      72% of respondents said their firm does not have any programs or initiatives in place to avoid or alleviate burnout.

●      One in four professionals claim they never or seldom take all vacation days. According to the survey's top cause of burnout, the lack of support or appreciation from leadership indicates how vital leaders' roles are in establishing the company culture.

●      Compared to 77% of all respondents, 84% of millennials report they have experienced burnout.

●      Nearly half of millennials claim they have abandoned a job position due to burnout, compared to 42% of those surveyed.

Furthermore, 77% of respondents claim they have been affected by employee burnout at their present position, with more than half reporting more than one occurrence. According to the findings, employers may be shortchanging their workers when creating well-being and employee engagement initiatives that employees find helpful to combat stress in the workplace.

Employee engagement is good for the health of individuals and organizations. 

Employees that are engaged in their work are more productive, perform stronger and have a higher level of job satisfaction. Engaged employees like to work, be enthusiastic, and grow.

Organizations with engaged employees are 78% more profitable and experience stock growth price 2.5x that of their competitors.

How To Prevent Workplace Burnout

Burnout occurs when employees become unwell due to unmanaged personal and workplace stress.Employers play an essential role in ensuring that their employees have a positive experience. They're not only responsible for the employee's career development, but they're also responsible for bringing the company's principles and culture to life. Businesses must aid leaders in learning how to do this.

The Strongest Drivers of Employee Engagement

●      Maintaining work/ life balance

●      On-going opportunities for personal growth or promotion

●      Participating in collaborative innovations.

●      Alignment of individual strengths and professional responsibilities

●      Feeling appreciated by colleagues and company.

●      Feeling supported by a manager and company-wide support.

When companies establish these necessities for their workers, they are more likely to have employees who are fully engaged and proactively prevent burnout.

The Tech Treatment For Workplace Burnout

Employee burnout will not be resolved with empty lip service or office memos preaching the importance of company culture.If you’ve never evaluated your team’s burnout before, a reliable survey tool with appropriate inquiries can provide you with a starting point. Your evaluation will determine if you have a burnout condition. If you do, it’s time to have an honest conversation about what’s causing it and how to resolve it.

What factors will you evaluate to figure out what matters most to your employees and then follow through on initiatives that would improve them? It’s critical to first gain a thorough knowledge of your employees’ needs before attempting any changes at the corporate or departmental level.

When you use an employee experience platform such as CultureBooster, you’re able to customize surveys for organizations and receive real-time feedback. Culture Booster allows you to combine operational and employee experience data; you’ll also be able to identify signs of burnout early on with in-depth analytics underlining absenteeism, employee attrition, productivity, and engagement.

Combining information gives you a more holistic view of your organization so you can step in and address pain points before they negatively impact the well-being of employees. This blend betweenHR and IT is a way to improve and streamline employees; 96% of Nexthink’s respondents said that business executives regarded it as an intelligent asset.

Key Takeaways

The number one cause of employee burnout is poor company culture attributed to unclear goals, expectations, and lack of communication from upper management—Culture Booster provides companies with insights into potential risks, so they don't miss out on preventing burnout in advance!

Get ahead of employee burnout by:

●     Holding leadership roles responsible for addressing early symptoms of burnout.

●     Making wellbeing a part of your company culture.

●     Defining role expectations and clearly delegating responsibilities.

●     Ensuring workload and time constraints are sustainable.

●     Encouraging collaboration and shared responsibility. When individuals collaborate and support one another, the workload on each individual's shoulders is more manageable.