man sleeping on cluttered desk to show employee burnout signs

Employee Burnout Signs: How Can You Recognize Them?

In recent times, hustle culture has become an increasingly common discussion topic, as more and more people strive to achieve the optimal work-life balance.

However, what happens when you’re already working hard and feel like you’re constantly running on a hamster wheel with no end in sight?

This is called burnout, and can be something your employees may be suffering from on a daily basis.

Employee burnout can harm not only your bottom line, but the wellbeing of your employees which is a crucial component of success for any business.

In this article, we’ll be discussing the meaning of employee burnout, its signs and causes, as well as some common remedies to manage and prevent burnout in the workplace.

Let’s get going!

What is Employee Burnout?

Employee burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress at work.

It occurs when an individual feels overwhelmed, hopeless, trapped, and disconnected from their work — and can lead to feelings of cynicism, detachment, and a decrease in productivity.

Employees who experience burnout are more likely to report taking sick days, to have accidents while on the job, and to look for a new job within the next year.

woman with head in hands looking at laptop

5 Signs of Employee Burnout

Employee burnout can present itself in a few different ways. Here are five signs that your workers may be experiencing this toxic state of being:

1. They’re Always Exhausted

One of the most common signs of employee burnout is when they are always exhausted, both mentally and physically.

If your employees are finding it hard to concentrate or are always tired, this could be a sign that they’re burnt out.

2. They’re Not Producing Their Best Work

Another sign of employee burnout is when the quality of their work starts to suffer.

If you notice that your employees are making more mistakes than usual or their work is becoming sloppy, this could be a sign that they need a break from the office and should take a few days off.

The production of poor work is extremely dangerous for companies in all industries. In fact, a study by the Harvard Business Review found that employee burnout costs US businesses up to $190 billion every year in lost productivity.

3. They’re Isolating Themselves from Their Coworkers

If your employees are normally social and outgoing but have suddenly started isolating themselves, this could be another sign of burnout.

If they’re not interested in interacting with their coworkers like they used to be, it may be because they’re feeling overwhelmed and need some time to themselves.

4. They’ve Become More Negative Than Usual

A fourth sign of employee burnout is when you notice them becoming more negative than usual.

If they seem pessimistic about work tasks or are constantly complaining, this could mean that they’re struggling to cope with the demands of their job.

This is bad for team morale and so has to be addressed immediately before it leads to harmful consequences for everyone.

5. They Always Seem Stressed Out

Lastly, if your employees always seem stressed out, this is another big sign that they may be experiencing burnout.

If they can’t seem to relax or unwind, it may be because they’re constantly thinking about work even when they’re not at the office.

man looking outside window in a dark room

Common Causes of Employee Burnout

Now that we know the signs of employee burnout, we must also understand the underlying cause of this burnout so we can address the problem at its core.

Here are a few underlying causes of employees feeling this way in the first place.

Lack of Control

A study by the American Psychological Association found that a lack of control is one of the main causes of work-related stress.

When employees feel like they’re constantly being micromanaged or that their work hours are inflexible, it can lead to a feeling of powerlessness and frustration.

They may feel like they are always under pressure throughout the work day and don’t have a minute to breathe — which is never good for overall employee wellbeing.

Unclear Job Expectations

One of the main causes of employee burnout is when employees are unclear about what is expected of them in their role.

This can lead to feelings of anxiety and insecurity, as they are constantly second-guessing themselves.

If your employees don’t have a clear understanding of their job responsibilities, it’s important to sit down with them and go over what is expected of them on a day-to-day basis.

Lack of Social Support

According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, employees who feel like they have a good social support system at work are less likely to experience burnout.

On the other hand, employees who feel isolated or unsupported by their colleagues are more likely to suffer from burnout.

If your employees are feeling isolated, see if there are any ways you can encourage team bonding or give them opportunities to connect with others in the company.

Excessive Workload

One of the most common causes of employee burnout is an excessive workload.

When employees are given too much work or are expected to complete tasks that are unrealistic, it can lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed out.

If your workers are feeling bogged down by their workload, see if there are any ways you can lighten their load or give them more time to complete their tasks.

cluttered desk to show employee burnout signs

The Best Ways to Prevent Employee Burnout

1. Understand the Causes

The first step in preventing employee burnout is to understand the root causes. We have highlighted these above — so it is important to have another look at these and nail down exactly why your employees are feeling the way they are.

2. Communicate Openly and Frequently

Open communication is key in any workplace, but it’s especially important when trying to prevent employee burnout.

Managers should take the time to check in with their team members on a regular basis to see how they’re feeling and what their needs are.

Additionally, employees should feel comfortable communicating with their managers about any concerns they have regarding their work. A good way to encourage this is by having an open-door policy in your office.

3. Promote a Healthy Work-life Balance

One of the main causes of employee burnout is a poor work-life balance which can impact their mental and physical health.

In order to prevent this, it’s important to encourage your employees to take breaks during the day, step away from their desks for lunch, and take vacation days when they need them.

It’s also beneficial to offer flexible work hours or the option to work from home on occasion so that employees can better manage their time.

4. Invest in Employee Development

When employees feel like they’re stuck in a rut, it can lead to burnout.

To prevent this, invest in your team members’ development by providing opportunities for them to learn new skills and grow within their role.

This could include offering training courses, cross-training for other positions, or simply giving them more challenging projects to work on.

When employees feel like they’re constantly learning and growing, they’re more likely to be engaged with their work.

5. Encourage Healthy Habits

Last but not least, one of the best ways to prevent employee burnout is by encouraging healthy habits both inside and outside of work.

This includes things like eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and taking breaks throughout the day.

Additionally, you can create a healthy work environment by providing things like standing desks, ergonomic chairs, and air purifiers.

When employees have the tools they need to stay healthy, they’re more likely to be productive and engaged with their work.

group of people doing yoga

What do Employee Burnout Statistics Show?

According to a recent study by Gallup, 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% said they felt burned out sometimes.

The same study found that employees who frequently experience burnout are 63% more likely to take a sick day and 2.6 times as likely to leave their job within the year.

Another study done by the American Institute of Stress indicates that job stress is the number one source of stress for American adults and what’s more — The World Health Organization even classified burnout as an occupational phenomenon.

In fact, they’ve gone as far as to list it in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) under “Problems Associated with Employment or Unemployment.”

With that being said, it’s no surprise that job burnout is an increasingly common topic of discussion in today’s society.

Final Thoughts

Employee burnout is a serious issue that can have a negative impact on both your business and your employees.

The statistics themselves show that employee burnout is a major problem in the workplace and can have serious consequences if left unchecked.

However, by taking the time to understand the root causes, recognise the signs and implement some preventative measures, you can help create a healthy work environment that will reduce the risk of burnout.