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How to Deal with Employee Burnout

In the post-pandemic work world, burnout is creating a crisis for many businesses. A recent global survey conducted by Catalyst reveals that 92% of employees are suffering from burnout. Work-related stress, personal struggles, and the pandemic have seemingly created the perfect storm for a condition that’s threatening the post-COVID workplace.



Earlier in the year, a study conducted by Indeed revealed that burnout is up among employees of all generations, with millennials and Gen Z the most affected at 59% and 58% respectively compared to 2020. Burnout among baby boomers is up by 7%, while 14% more Gen X employees are struggling with a burnout in 2021 than 2020.


The Catalyst study suggests that it's not all doom and gloom though. Offering remote work options like flexible work locations and remote work may reduce burnout by 26%. Even more, workplace burnout falls by 43% with a combination of empathetic management and remote work access. And those aren’t the only strategies you can use. These six tips can help you deal with and possibly prevent — or at least minimize the damaging effects of — employee burnout.


Recognize the Signs and Symptoms


Before you can make any moves to deal with it, you need to be able to spot employee burnout. Although we're hearing a lot about it now in the post-pandemic workplace, it's not a new phenomenon. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it as an occupational phenomenon back in 2019. The WHO defines it as a “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that hasn't been successfully managed.” Employers might notice that employees are absent more often. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling depleted/exhausted

  • Increased cynicism, negativity and mental distance from the job

  • Reduced professional efficacy

  • Increased irritability and sensitivity to criticism


Understand the Main Causes of Employee Burnout


When you have a good grasp on what’s driving employee burnout, you can make more effective plans to avoid and relieve it. Employees who feel that they're treated unfairly are 2.3 times more likely to experience high levels of burnout than employees who have more trust in their coworkers and leaders. When employees feel like they're mistreated, subject to bias or favoritism, or disrespected, the psychological bond that allows them to find meaning in their work breaks down. Actively working to reduce mistreatment and these four major causes of employee burnout can help you start reversing the damage:

  • An unmanageable workload: High demands can wreak havoc even on high performers. According to research from Gallup, employees who feel like they consistently have unmanageable workloads and demands are more than twice as likely to suffer from workplace burnout.

  • Unclear communication: When leadership fails to give employees the information they need to work effectively, it creates frustration and makes things more difficult than they need to be. Consistency is key, as is regularly discussing goals, expectations, priorities and responsibilities.

  • Lack of support from leadership: Employees who feel like they've got a great support system from management are 70% less likely to suffer from workplace burnout. When supervisors, managers and other members of the leadership team listen to what employees need while offering encouragement and opportunities to develop, it gives employees a psychological buffer against challenges and mistakes.

  • Unreasonable time pressures: Everyone handles time pressure differently. But those who feel like they rarely have enough time to get their work done or they routinely face unreasonable deadlines are 70% more at risk of burnout than those who feel like they've got time to get everything done.


Schedule Some Time Off


If you’re noticing signs of burnout in yourself, talk to the powers that be ASAP and get some vacation time on the books. No matter if you’re in the C-suite or on the floor, once you start noticing yourself suffering, it’s time to make some changes. And you need more than just a quick break — you need some time completely away from the office and your workload. Ideally, give yourself two weeks without any emails, calls and other work-related activities. Instead, spend some time doing things that bring you joy and fulfillment outside of work.


Prioritize Mental Health


The past few years have taken a toll on the mental health and wellness of employees and employers alike. That's why it comes as little surprise that organizations are increasing including mental health benefits as part of their offerings. More than four out of 10 companies are planning to expand their mental health benefits. Additionally, research from Harvard Business Review reveals that nearly 60% of senior leaders are prioritizing work/life benefits to better support their employees.


That’s great news because prioritizing wellbeing as part of the company culture and for yourself as an individual is an important step toward mitigating burnout. Providing the resources that employees need to live healthier lives encourages them to better care for themselves. Creating a safe space for employees to share their emotions, offering programs to help them manage their mental health and prioritizing overall wellbeing won’t just reduce burnout. It also enhances productivity, creativity and effectiveness.


Find Ways to Release Stress


If you’re dealing with burnout, finding ways to destress is essential. Increasing physical activity is one of the most effective ways to work off stress and frustrations while boosting endorphins and improving your mood. On your own, you should find ways to move more. Take a brisk walk, go for a bike ride — whatever exercise you enjoy will help manage your stress and burnout.


As a workplace, you can also weave stress relief into your group activities. Schedule meditation time, activities and tip-sharing sessions to help the entire team increase self-care, foster deeper connections and give people more choices for taking care of themselves.


Embrace New, Non-Traditional Ways of Doing Things


There’s no rule set in stone that you have to keep a strict 9 to 5. In fact, one of the biggest lessons that many companies have learned from the pandemic is that flexibility can boost productivity and engagement. Traditional notions about what the workday (and place) should be are quickly becoming obsolete as a growing number of organizations are embracing flexibility and employee empowerment. Remote and hybrid work models, scheduling meeting-free days and switching to new roles and responsibilities are all growing in popularity. Even better, these new ways of working can help reverse burnout and keep things feeling more fun and interesting, which boosts engagement and productivity in the long run.


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