Six ways employers can tackle burnout

As employees and employers find their balance in ever shifting working patterns, burnout may be a reality for some. Recognising and easing the pressures can build a healthier workforce.

Short-term pressure can be a good thing, but when it becomes prolonged stress, that’s an entirely different matter. Employees facing long periods of stress can become exhausted, unmotivated, and ineffective. Footnote [1]

This can have a domino effect throughout the company culture, ethos, and workforce.

As employees grapple with work demands, home life responsibilities, and perhaps financial pressures it may feel as though reality is overwhelming.

Burnout doesn’t fix itself, so it’s essential to spot the signs and take active steps in addressing the underlying problems before they escalate.

You can take these six actions to help tackle burnout in your workforce.

1. Identify the stress factors

To help navigate any challenging situation, it’s important to be aware of and identify signs of stress or burnout.

One way to do this is to look for changes in employee behaviours, attitude and working patterns. You may also keep an eye on workloads and deadlines to make sure they are manageable and take note when employees ask for help with their work.

If you’re not sure whether workloads or deadlines are manageable, encouraging employees to complete anonymous questionnaires may help give you better insight.

This may also help you to identify trends that will place you in a more confident position to address any underlying concerns directly.

Most workplaces will have typical stressors for employees, including:

  • unclear objectives and goals 
  • unrealistic deadlines 
  • extra responsibilities on top of the employee’s current role 
  • workplace procedures and processes employees need to know, but don’t have the time to learn
  • scheduling issues, workflow interruptions and timing conflicts

Individually, these stressors might not be an issue if they are infrequent. Compounded together over a long time, however, they can lead to burnout. And since our mind doesn’t always separate stressors or where they’re coming from, stress from work may pile on top of challenges in different parts of an employee’s life.

2. Encourage open and honest conversations

With employee schedules and workspaces continuing to shift, it’s important to talk with your employees about how they’re feeling.

Creating a safe space and workplace culture that encourages regular conversations with employees, and with employees amongst themselves, can help create a sense of belonging and strong social purpose. A hot drink and chat may also help ease some of the tensions your employees feel from day to day.

If you have some employees working from home while others have returned to your physical place of work, you could consider different communication strategies for the two groups. Employees working from home may begin to feel they need to prove their worth by working longer and harder, particularly if they see some colleagues returning to work. Reassuring them by valuing their contributions to the team may help reframe their perspective.

3. Practice what you preach — and if you don’t, make it clear why

Workplace culture is an important factor in the prevention of burnout. The more you and the leadership team demonstrate the values, ones you’d want to see from your employees, the greater chance of building a healthy and collaborative workplace.

There will be times where it’s appropriate for someone in a leadership position to work longer hours outside of the normal working day, particularly during a crisis. However, it’s important to clearly mark the circumstance as out of the ordinary and make clear to employees what is expected of them.

4. Make work-life balance a priority

As the space between home and work life continues to evolve, and burnout seems to live somewhere in this grey area for some, encouraging your employees to find their balance can help keep burnout at bay. For employees that had significant workloads over an extended period, it may be worth considering giving them back some time with leave or by working fewer hours.

If you have a wellbeing programme, finding an appropriate time and way of promoting it to employees may help them take the lead in coping with burnout. If you don’t have a solution in place, consider introducing a wellbeing support network that may encourage employees to focus on leading a healthier lifestyle.

Setting up a monthly wellbeing calendar could be the first step. It can be as simple as creating a webpage with a range of online exercise and relaxation classes, fun quizzes and useful nutritional support and encouraging your employees to join in.

And, following on from practicing what you preach, remember to look after your own wellbeing. If you show you’re looking after your own wellbeing, your team members are likely to follow your example.

5. Review your HR policy

Dedicate some time to reviewing the HR policies in place that help employees better manage the multiple demands on their time. This can help you manage workloads to a sustainable level and give your employees enough time to relax and recuperate after a busy, stressful day at work.

Giving your line managers and staff the tools (and skills) they need to identify signs of burnout, in themselves and others, is invaluable. You may also signpost available training to help employees develop their own coping mechanisms.

6. Signpost to support

There is plenty of support available to your employees if they’re struggling with their physical or mental health and are ready to receive help. From online time management courses to wellbeing tips to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and access to medical expertise, there are steps your employees can take to help take control of their wellbeing.

Making sure the resources are available and signposting them regularly may help taper feelings of burnout.

With consistent support and easily accessible resources, employees can build a toolkit to prevent, cope and heal from burnout.   

Boost my knowledge of workplace wellbeing

Breathe a sigh of relief with our catalogue of workplace wellness resources to support your business.

Health & Wellbeing articles

Business perspectives articles