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Top Signs of Employee Burnout
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Recruiting & Hiring

Top Signs of Employee Burnout

One Minute Takeaway

  • Over 50% of American workers are experiencing burnout.
  • Burnout can manifest as emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion.
  • Burnout can lead to excessive absenteeism, disengagement and a negative attitude.

If you’re not already taking your employees’ mental health seriously, it’s time to start. 59% of American workers are experiencing at least moderate levels of burnout according to a recent study (Aflac). Burnout also tops the list of reasons why many people left the workplace altogether during the Great Resignation (US Chamber).

Employee burnout is more than just dealing with an overwhelming project or working overtime for a few days in a row. It’s a condition in which an employee feels chronic work-related stress, energy depletion, and cynicism and it can have a number of negative side effects.

A key warning sign of burnout is low engagement, which ultimately means low performance and poor business results. Not only is it causing many employees pain, it is also having a tremendous impact on business. Similarly, more than half (51%) of employers surveyed recognized that employee mental health issues have affected their businesses over the past year.

What does severe burnout look like? Well, we can all do more to pay attention to our coworkers—if you see a team member exhibiting these warning signs, he or she may be experiencing burnout, and it’s time to take action.

Emotional, Mental and Physical Exhaustion

One of the clearest signs of burnout is exhaustion. It’s hard for anyone to be “on” 100 percent of the time but suffering from burnout is more than just feeling tired. Exhaustion affects the entire body. It can physically manifest as a co-worker looking ill and worn down, perhaps with increased headaches, noticeable dark circles under the eyes, and weight loss.

If someone is consistently dragging themselves to work and appears to be suffering from work burnout, take a moment to ask how they’re doing. By simply listening to their response, you may begin to understand the root cause of their job stress. It could be issues with a lack of role clarity, emotional exhaustion, an unmanageable workload or unreasonable time pressure. Or, they might simply need a few days off to rest and reboot. In any case, reevaluate their workload to see what can be delegated and examine whether you need to hire more employees to prevent burnout from happening to others.

Excessive Absenteeism

If an employee who typically has good attendance starts missing more days or calling in sick more often, it may be a sign that they are experiencing burnout. Employees suffering from burnout will most likely try to avoid the work environment, regardless of your organization’s employee attendance policy. Whether it’s calling in for an abnormal amount of sick days or consistent tardiness, there’s no motivation to go to work and get the job done. Additionally, a worker experiencing burnout may prefer isolation to attempt to process his or her unmanageable feelings.

A targeted workplace wellness program can help. Consider inviting regular speakers to educate employees on how to cope with stress or manage a busy schedule. Think beyond the traditional “physical fitness” options and introduce daily mediation sessions or create settings for outdoor meetings to help break up the monotony.

Disengagement and a Negative Attitude

Changes in behavior or attitude can also be warning signs of employee burnout. It could be a red flag when an employee suddenly loses interest in activities and projects that once excited them. When someone continually disconnects from work life and exhibits unenthusiastic behavior, it’s pretty obvious. What’s worse is if an employee brings negativity and cynicism to the workplace, potentially affecting others. This is where regular 1:1 meetings can help leaders gauge employee sentiment and keep track of their workloads. If you notice any changes in an employee’s behavior or attitude, check in with them to see how they’re doing and see if there’s anything you can do to help them get back on track.

To combat lower levels of engagement, make sure employees are involved in tasks where their skillset will be most appreciated. Loop them in on the decision-making process and genuinely ask for their input when possible. Let them know how valuable they are to your team—even the smallest gestures of appreciation go a long way to boosting morale.

Unfinished Assignments and Inability to Concentrate in a Work Environment

Burned-out employees may also start to experience a decrease in productivity. If an employee who is usually a top performer starts slacking off or their quality of work starts to decline, it may be a sign that they need a break. Sometimes, a distraction is just a distraction, but if an employee is consistently unable to focus, misses deadlines, ignores meetings and only partially completes tasks, it can signify worker burnout. As the condition worsens, so will performance and productivity. Take a look at what they have on their to-do list and see if there’s too much to handle. If there is, consider using independent contractors or freelancers to help handle the workload.

Also be aware that, unfortunately, managers can inadvertently contribute to employee burnout. Properly training your leaders and continual development is critical. Employers who can get ahead of burnout will have a competitive advantage as their workforce will be more engaged and productive. Start by examining the benefits you offer—they can have a direct impact on reducing employee burnout and thus turnover.

Strategies to Prevent Employee Burnout

As an employer, you are in a great position to help prevent burnout by keeping your employees’ workload balanced and ensuring there are methods in place to reduce work-related stress. In addition to the solutions we’ve mentioned, here are a few more ways to prevent employee burnout. 

  1. Practice Gratitude – A little gratitude goes a long way. Even without a big budget you can show your employees some appreciation for their role in your success through simple actions like offering a MVP parking spot, recognizing small wins each week in team meetings, or bringing in a special treat just because!
  2. Offer Coaching – When leaders become coaches instead of just managers, employees find more purpose in their positions. Suddenly, the work isn’t just a list of tasks that need to be completed but steps that can take them into their next phase or part of a larger team goal.
  3. Celebrate Small Victories – A little celebration never hurt anyone. Boost your team’s morale by celebrating the small wins that lead to big successes, it will make a big difference in motivation for future goals.

How Paycor Helps

Fortunately, when it comes to burnout, you don’t have to figure it all out alone. You can do your part by using Paycor to engage employees and drive efficiencies.

Paycor Pulse lets managers regularly gauge what employees are feeling at any given moment . Besides asking in 1:1s it is a great way to gather current signals from your workforce.

Paycor Scheduling can help by offering maximum efficiency for schedulers and freedom for employees. Save time by automating schedule creation and give employees more control over their time by letting them select from open shifts or swap shifts (with a manager’s approval).

Paycor’s Learning Management System offers learning modules you can customize to help train leaders on how to promote a culture of wellbeing and how to have sensitive conversations.

For more information on how HR technology can help you lighten your load and enhance the employee experience, check out our Buyer’s Guide or view features of Paycor’s HR and Benefits Advisor.