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ATD Blog

Building Resilient Teams: How Managers Can Detect and Respond to Burnout

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Burnout is not just a fleeting feeling of stress; it’s a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged work-related pressure.

Burnout can lead to detrimental consequences in the workplace. But knowing the signs can help to prevent and reduce this chronic issue. Explore how managers can identify the early signs and learn practical strategies to support and prevent employee burnout.

The Truth About Burnout at Work

Think your workplace is safe from employee burnout or that this was just a passing fad during the pandemic?

Think again: 67 percent of workers report that stress and burnout at work have increased since the pandemic. And according to research from Zippia, burnout is prevalent in workplaces across industries:

  • Eighty-nine percent of workers have experienced burnout within the past year.
  • Seventy-seven percent of employees have experienced feelings of burnout at their current job.
  • Forty percent of workers have left a job due to burnout.
  • Fifty-nine percent of millennial workers feel burnt out at work.

With such alarming statistics, it’s more important now than ever for managers to recognize the signs of burnout and understand how to best support employees.

Signs of Employee Burnout

Despite its prevalence, burnout often goes unnoticed until it takes a severe toll on individual well-being and overall organizational performance.

But understanding the subtle signs of employee burnout empowers managers to identify and address this pressing concern before it escalates, fostering a healthier and more supportive work environment.

A Shift in Mindset and Attitude

One of the most telling signs of burnout is when employees become cynical toward their work and feel undervalued within their teams.

According to a study from workhuman, more than 46 percent of employees report feeling only somewhat valued, and more than 10 percent report feeling not valued at all.

This attitude can often be observed during performance evaluations, where employees may lack interest or disconnect from their roles.

Decreased Productivity and Engagement

Burnout can lead to a significant decrease in productivity, as employees lose their enthusiasm and energy for tasks they once excelled at.

Additionally, their level of engagement may drop, and they may start to disassociate from company culture and events.

The effects of burnout can be costly and devastating for an organization. For example:

  • Job-related stress contributes to 550 million workdays lost annually.
  • Disengaged employees cost employers an average of 34 percent of their annual salary.


Behavior Changes

Managers should pay attention to behavioral changes, such as increased absences or tardiness, signs of stress, and employees expressing exhaustion or feeling inadequate about their job performance.

“Managers can effectively recognize employee burnout by paying attention to several key signs,” Sarah Watson, psychologist, certified coach, and COO at BPTLAB says. “These include a significant decrease in productivity, increased absences or tardiness, a previously enthusiastic member showing a lack of interest in their work, significant changes in behavior that indicate stress, or a previously high-performing employee making repeated errors.”

Burnout can manifest in physical symptoms, like anxiety and outbursts, as well as emotional ones.

Spotting Burnout: A Manager’s Responsibility

As a manager, it’s crucial to recognize the signs of burnout. But this is often easier said than done. Twenty-one percent of workers say their company does not offer any program to help alleviate burnout, and 70 percent of professionals feel employers aren’t doing enough to prevent or alleviate it.

Regular one-on-one meetings and performance reviews provide an opportunity to connect with employees and identify potential burnout or stress early on. Additionally, promoting a culture of open communication allows employees to voice their concerns without fear of retaliation.

How Managers Can Support Employees

Recognizing burnout is the first step, but managers must also take the necessary action to support employees suffering from work-related stress.

And while these strategies are directed toward managers, organizations must recognize that spotting and treating employee burnout should be a company-wide effort.

Engage in Open Conversations

When managers notice signs of burnout, initiating open and empathetic conversations with employees is vital. Employees need to know that their concerns are being heard, and they need to feel like a valued part of the organization.

“My first approach is to talk with the employee to reaffirm their value to the company by carefully presenting their contribution to its milestones,” Doris Joyce, co-founder of Electrly, says. “I also go further to share positive feedback their teammates give them. I then work on a recovery plan, allowing them to take a break to reflect and recharge.”

Encourage Work-Life Balance

Promote a healthy work-life balance by setting realistic deadlines and expectations, discouraging excessive overtime, and encouraging employees to take time off when needed.

“Organizations need to foster a supportive and understanding work culture,” Ryan Mckenzie, CMO and co-founder of Tru Earth, says. “This involves shifting the ethos away from the toxic workaholic stereotype and towards a more sustainable and empathetic approach to productivity where employees feel supported and healthy. Combatting burnout is about more than just individual interventions—it’s about fostering an organizational culture that prioritizes well-being and resilience.”


Establishing clear boundaries between professional and personal time can also contribute to preventing burnout.

Invest in and Promote Employee Wellness Programs

Employee wellness programs can improve employee health and well-being and have a number of benefits, including increased retention, better company culture, and decreased absenteeism.

Consider implementing employee wellness initiatives, such as mindfulness training, yoga classes, or mental health days. Sixty-four percent of organizations plan to invest more in their employee wellness programs in 2023.

A more comprehensive program may include things like:

  • Expanded medical and healthcare benefits
  • Mental health care
  • Lifestyle spending account to help employees pay for things like fitness equipment, memberships, health coaching, financial seminars, and more
  • Financial support
  • Peer support
  • Unlimited (or additional) PTO

These programs demonstrate the organization’s commitment to employees’ well-being.

Provide Mental Health Resources

If burnout symptoms persist, managers should consider referring employees to mental health professionals who can provide specialized support.

Professional mental health experts can help employees outside of work, but it’s also essential to prioritize mental health as part of your company culture. This can include creating an open dialogue where employees feel comfortable sharing concerns, internal task forces or employee resource groups, flexible work options, and including mindfulness activities in the workday.

Create a Supportive Work Culture

Fostering a company culture that values employee well-being and resilience can significantly reduce the prevalence of burnout. Regular check-ins, team-building exercises, and acknowledging employees’ accomplishments create a supportive environment.

Help employees feel valued at work by shouting out their accomplishments in all-hands meetings, team meetings, or via Slack or other work communication tools.

A Preventive Approach to Combat Burnout

Rather than reacting to burnout when it occurs, managers should focus on a preventive approach. This involves education and training on stress management, resilience, and emotional intelligence. Mentorship and coaching opportunities can help employees develop better coping strategies.

Burnout can have severe consequences for both employees and organizations. As a manager, you must be attentive to the warning signs and take proactive steps to support your team. By fostering open communication, promoting work-life balance, and investing in employee well-being, you can create a healthier and more productive work environment.

Ultimately, combating burnout requires a collective effort from both employees and management to build a workplace that prioritizes well-being and resilience.

Prioritizing continuous learning and employee development can help team members feel valued at work. The Learning Cloud from WorkRamp can help you create engaging training programs to maximize employee performance. Contact us to learn more.

About the Author

Maile Timon is WorkRamp’s content strategist. She has over 11 years of experience in content marketing and SEO and has written for several publications and industries, including B2B, marketing, lifestyle, health, and more. When she’s not writing or developing content strategies, she enjoys hiking and spending time with her family.

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