Six ways employers can tackle burnout

Employee burnout is becoming a problem for many businesses. We look at what you can do to tackle it.

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 — all issues that can have a knock-on effect through your workforce.

After an incredibly difficult year, we’re seeing pressure build on employees as they juggle work and home life in the same environment, with limits placed on their usual outlets for stress.

Burnout doesn’t fix itself, so it’s essential to be able to spot the signs and take proactive steps to address it before it escalates. 

Here’s our list of six things you can do to tackle burnout.

1. Identify the stress factors 

To understand any situation, it’s essential employers look out for and capture any signs of stress or burnout. 

Look out for changes in the behaviours, attitude and working patterns of your employees. You should 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.

This will help you identify trends, which will put you in a better position to address any underlying problems directly and quickly.

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. 
  • organisational procedures and work processes employees need to know about but don’t have time to catch up with 
  • scheduling issues, workflow interruptions and timing conflicts.

Individually, these stressors might not be a big deal if they happen every now and again, but added together over a long period of time, they can lead to burnout. That’s often particularly true during uncertain times like the ones we’re all living through at the moment.

2. Encourage open and honest conversations 

With so many employees currently working remotely, it’s more important than ever to understand how they are feeling. 

Make sure you have regular conversations with your employees and encourage them to have open conversations among themselves. Building a culture where your employees are used to regular communications will also help create a sense of belonging and a strong social purpose.

If you have some employees still working from home while others have returned to your physical place of work, you may also need to 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 colleagues returning to work. You can reassure them that’s not necessary with some well-timed and thought through communications.

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. Unless you demonstrate the values, you want to see from your employees, you risk continuing to drive unhealthy practices. 

There will be times where it’s appropriate for someone in a senior leadership position to work long hours outside of the normal working day, particularly during a crisis. However, you need make it clear to employees what is expected of them. Good communication is key in this situation.

4. Make work-life balance a priority 

Even before the pandemic many employees were struggling to juggle work and home life. But the current climate has added extra complexity — particularly for those working from home while looking after family members. 

It’s important to encourage your employees to balance their home and work life and take time to look after themselves. Where an employee has had a significant workload for a period of time, try to give them back some time with leave or by working fewer hours.

If you have a wellbeing programme, now’s the time to promote it. If you don’t already have a solution in place, it’s worth considering introducing wellbeing support to encourage your employees to take time out to lead 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, don’t forget 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 

Give some serious thought to putting specific 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. 

You can also give your line managers and staff the tools and skills they need to identify the signs of burnout in themselves and others. There is also training available to help your employees develop coping mechanisms. 

Adding specific policies to help make burnout less likely can help create a healthy, happy working environment, no matter what kind of business you’re in.

6. Signpost to support

There is plenty of support available to your employees to help them if they’re struggling with their physical or mental health. From online time management courses to wellbeing tips to access to medical expertise through cognitive behavioural therapy or stress counselling, there are steps they can take to get help.

The key thing here is to make sure they are aware of the help available to them and where to find it, so make sure you promote your support package.

Find out more

To learn more about burnout, we have a guide to burnout that offers you more information on the subject, plus a couple of useful articles you can read to find out more:

Explore Business perspectives

Your hub for expert insight and knowledge

Health & Wellbeing articles

Business perspectives articles