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Employee Burnout Signs & How to Address Them

Burnout is a serious problem for employees and employers alike. Employees are burning out at record levels, whether it’s due to the aftermath of the pandemic, a problematic workplace, or a volatile social, economic and political climate. According to Gallup, 76 percent of employees experience burnout in the workplace at least some of the time. 

That’s alarmingly high. 

 

Examples of Burnout in the Workplace

It’s especially prevalent in industries like hospitality and healthcare among nurses—where workers had to bear the strain and risks of the pandemic and constantly perform emotional labor. 

 

Nurses in Healthcare

The pandemic wreaked havoc on the healthcare industry from staffing shortages to the emotional and mental toll on the workers. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, more than half of “health workers report symptoms of burnout, and many are contending with insomnia, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other mental health challenges.” While the systems might have been breeding grounds for burnout before the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s become an all out crisis in the years that have followed. Inadequate support, growing workloads and moral injury from poor patient care has left many nurses at even greater risk of burnout.

 

Hospitality and Retail Workers

With low wages and long working hours to start, the hospitality industry was already stressed to the limits, but tension from constant turnover and mounting work has left those remaining employees vulnerable to burnout. The industry suffers from some of the highest turnover rates of all industries. “​​In hospitality, employees must regulate the outward expression of their emotions to the benefit of the customer and their employer, regardless of what they are feeling.” This can take a great emotional toll on people. 

Burnout can hurt the company’s productivity and bottom line when left unaddressed, so organizations need to be proactive. That means identifying the root causes that might make their employees prone to burnout, and actively instituting measures to combat them. 

 

What are the signs of employee burnout?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the symptoms of burnout are as follows:

 

Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion 

Managers need to pay attention to signs that an employee is unusually exhausted or low on energy. Perhaps you’re noticing they’re zoning out or not concentrating in meetings. They might also show little enthusiasm for projects that once energized or engaged them. 

The lingering stigma around mental health means that employees may not be as forthcoming about sharing health struggles that they might have. Managers have to put in the work to remove that stigma while paying attention to employee energy levels. Do teammates seem more tired than normal? Are direct reports withdrawing or isolating a lot? 

 

Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job

Burned-out employees are more likely to be ‘checked out’ of their job. One sign of this, according to Syracuse University management professor Donald Cardarelli, is silence among high-performers who regularly seek feedback or regularly contribute to discussions. 

 

Reduced professional efficacy 

An increase in missed deadlines is also another sign that people might be burning out. Cardarelli said missed deadlines without explanation or a discontinued effort to learn new skills. It’s essential, however, that managers don’t jump quickly to conclusions if they notice these signs in an employee. Showing concern from a place of support and understanding rather than judgment is crucial. 

It’s also important to pay close attention when employees say phrases like “overwhelmed” or “difficulty prioritizing and balancing.” Employees uncomfortable with talking about mental health in the workplace may attempt to soften their feelings and downplay their struggle. Mangers should follow up on these comments with additional questions about what specifically in roles and responsibilities are taxing employees. 

 

How Does Employee Burnout Affect Organizations?

According to Gallup, ongoing burnout can lead to lower productivity, higher absenteeism and higher turnover. That can cost employees 15 to 20 percent of payroll cost in voluntary turnover. Burnout can also lead to more unplanned absences, which costs the US workforce approximately $47.6 billion in lost productivity every year.  

 

How to Prevent Employee Burnout

Preventing employee burnout starts with building a supportive company culture that prioritizes wellbeing. In practice, that might look like incorporating wellbeing goals into an employee’s development plan or making mental health-related resources, benefits and tools available for employees. 

Creating a supportive culture also requires leaders and managers to prioritize their own wellbeing in a visible way. A company won’t  cultivate a wellbeing-centric culture if its executives work long hours and consistently put their jobs ahead of their family and personal lives, or promote and reward employees who do the same. 

 

How Mentoring Can Mitigate Employee Burnout

Implementing a mentoring program is another effective tool for mitigating burnout. A 2022 study that surveyed 14,500 hospital workers found that employees who participated in mentoring relationships were less likely to report burnout than employees who didn’t. 

Mentoring can come in many forms and can help mitigate burnout in the following way:

 

  • Builds relationships and supportive friendships – Marissa King, a professor of organizational behavior and public health at the Yale School of Management, told Axios that those with one or two more close friends at work were more likely to be engaged with their tasks and the company’s mission.
  • Provides a support network and sounding board – Mentors and mentees can help each other when they’re struggling with issues at work. 
  • Reduces employee isolation – Because of the stigma, employees who experience mental health issues can feel like they’re alone. Yet everyone, at some point in their lives, has struggled with it. Connecting with others who are experiencing the same thing allows employees to feel less alone. 

 

Reduce Employee Burnout with Chronus Mentoring Software

To reap the full benefits that a mentoring program can bring, companies need to be intentional about designing one that works for their employees, meaning that they need to match the right employee population with the right mentors, not simply relying on a one-size-fits-all solution. 

Mentoring software is an effective way to do just that. Using Chronus’ AI-powered technology, take care of the matching and ensure participants are engaged and progressing through mentoring connections. By integrating the Chronus platform with your communication and collaboration platforms (like Slack, MS Teams and more), you’ll meet participants where they already are. 

You can also track and measure the returns that mentoring has brought the business and generating dashboards and reports that spotlight impact to your stakeholders. 

Tackling employee burnout requires a proactive approach, so don’t wait until burnout takes out your top talent and diminishes productivity. Start taking action today! 

 

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