How to prevent, identify and reverse employee burnout

by Sirius People

As work and life become increasingly intertwined during COVID-19, many employees are facing burnout. Here's why employers should be taking on more accountability in employee burnout, and how to identify, prevent and reverse it. Sirius People, 2020 ©
Estimated Reading Time: minutes

Usually, when we think about employee burnout, we think of 12-hour work days, checking emails at all hours of the day and frantically finishing up projects your manager needs immediately.

To a certain extent, this is true.

Companies with the highest burnout rates have three things in common: Excessive collaboration, weak time management, and a tendency to overload the most capable employees with too much work, according to Harvard Business Review.

However, what employers often don’t realise is how widespread burnout is in the workplace – with 67 per cent of employees report feeling burned out at work – and their role in fueling it.

Employee burnout usually occurs as a result of prolonged stress or frustration. Sometimes this may be due to a stressful job itself, a lack of support or resources or tight deadlines, other times it has to do with employees’ expectations of themselves or their personal circumstances.

Although it may seem like “employee burnout” is the employee’s fault for not managing their stress well or taking on too much work – it’s often the fault of the employer.

Burnout can manifest in a number of ways. The more overworked, under pressure and available a person is, the more likely they are to:

  • Become disengaged (63 per cent more likely),

  • Have poor performance (13 per cent lower confidence and half as likely to discuss career goals with their manager), 

  • Be involved with an accident at work (23 per cent more likely), or

  • Leave for another employer (2.6x more likely).

It’s tough to ask for space when you’re mentally and physically exhausted.

It’s even more difficult when employees are being exhausted in a whole new way as burnout morphs in this pandemic.

The new face of burnout

Every day, we’re being bombarded with new information, whether its about COVID-19 itself, further restrictions on leaving the house, the ethical dilemmas of helping elderly neighbours, best practices for working from home or homeschooling kids, or even hot takes on whether or not you should wash your groceries.

This constant onslaught of information leads to what is known as ‘decision fatigue,’ where we become exhausted by the constant decision-making we have to make in a single day based on new information.

Many of us also can’t unwind the same way we once would, as going to the gym, taking a pottery class or even grabbing dinner with a friend are now temporarily illegal. 

We’re also feeling the pressure to be productive with our hobbies from social media, with seemingly helpful ‘motivational’ posts like, “Shakespeare wrote King Lear whilst in quarantine from the plague.”

Although it’s easy to think these new adjustments are an employee’s responsibility, the truth is that organisations need to find a way to help their employees adjust to their new reality.

We've put together our top tips and questions to identify, prevent and reverse this new form of employee burnout during COVID-19. Download your free copy today!

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