Employee burnout reached a fever pitch during the COVID-19 pandemic. But research shows that burnout in the workplace is not a fad. Deloitte’s Workplace Burnout Survey found that 77 percent of respondents have experienced burnout at their current job.
Burnout can cause workers to feel stressed, fatigued, depressed, and disengaged from their jobs or companies. Dissatisfied employees can be detrimental to your organization and can lead to:
- Poor performance
- Decreased productivity
- Employee turnover
Understanding the causes, risk factors, and solutions for combating employee burnout can help you re-engage and retain your workforce and empower your team members to perform to their potential.
What Causes Burnout at Work?Several factors can cause employees to feel dissatisfied with their jobs or workplaces. Some of the most common factors for burnout include:
- A lack of autonomy over a job or position
- No clear path to advancement within an organization
- Working long or excessive hours
- An unmanageable workload
- Unclear or unrealistic expectations
Age, demographics, and lifestyle can also be indicators of burnout, including:
- Gender: Based on a Women in the Workplace report, women are more likely to experience burnout than men. Forty-two percent of women reported feeling burned out often or almost always in 2021 compared to 35 percent of men.
- Working parents: Forty-seven percent of working mothers of young children felt burned out often or almost always compared to 38 percent of fathers of young children.
- The current state of work: Based on data from McKinsey, the lack of a hybrid work plan is 2.9 times more likely to result in moderate to high levels of burnout in employees.
- Lack of support from leadership: Employees who don’t feel supported by managers are 70 percent more likely to experience burnout.
4 Ways to Tackle Burnout in the WorkplaceUnderstanding the risk factors that can lead to burnout is essential to help you anticipate where it may occur. Organizations must take a holistic, proactive approach to prevent burnout and improve employee engagement and well-being. Here are four focus areas to support your employees who are experiencing burnout.
1. Prioritize employees’ mental health.
It’s more important than ever to prioritize mental health in the workplace. Based on Corporate Wellness magazine’s 2022 State of Workforce Mental Health report, 31 percent of workers surveyed said their mental health has declined over the past year—up from 24 percent at the end of 2020.
Mental health issues like stress and anxiety can lead to burnout, decreased productivity, and employee turnover. But prioritizing mental health isn’t just HR’s responsibility. Leadership and management can get on board as well.
Open the lines of communication. While certain information should be kept private, don’t treat mental health as a taboo topic. Instead, encourage managers to regularly check in with team members and discuss workload, responsibilities, goals, and well-being.
Offer mental health benefits. Help employees get the support they need by offering a robust benefit package that includes mental health care. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2021 Employer Health Benefits Survey, 39 percent of employers have updated their health plans since the start of the pandemic to expand access to mental health services.
“We work to foster an environment where it’s OK to discuss mental health,” Meredith Fish, vice president of people and culture at WorkRamp says. “We have a mental health employee resource group and sponsor different speakers and events to address mental health across the organization. We also encourage using our employee assistance programs, which offer many different ways to support those experiencing burnout or mental health issues."
Promote mindfulness. The workday can be stressful, but it’s crucial to find ways to encourage employees to slow down and take time to pause for breaks. Plan activities that help employees unplug and regroup, like meditation sessions and yoga classes.
2. Support work-life balance.
The term work-life balance gets thrown around often, but it’s a genuine concern for employees. We spend more than 81,000 hours working during our lifetime, so employees must unplug and recharge during their time off.
Remind employees to take breaks. Team members may feel rushed to finish everything, but breaks can help with focus and productivity. Robert Pozen, senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and author of Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, recommends taking a break every 75 to 90 minutes.
Be generous with paid time off. If you want employees to be engaged and productive during work, you must give them the time they need outside of work, and data shows this is a priority for team members. A 2019 employee benefits study shows that 72 percent of workers value unlimited PTO. You may not be able to offer unlimited vacation time, but you can get creative with things like half-day Fridays or mental health, volunteering, and self-care days.
At WorkRamp, we offer one self-care day per quarter. Employees receive $50 to use toward a self-care activity. We encourage employees to share photos from their day off in a dedicated Slack channel. This reminds us to prioritize self-care and encourages employees to plan and share their own activities.
Manage workloads. Do your employees feel buried under never-ending projects or tasks? Talk to team members about their responsibilities. If they feel overwhelmed, help them solve problems, prioritize, and delegate when possible.
3. Recognize employees for their efforts.
Team members can feel disconnected from the workplace when they aren’t valued or appreciated. Recognition for good work is the most important aspect of the work environment for 37 percent of employees according to one survey.
Managers and leaders need to show their appreciation for team members. There are many ways to recognize employees, but these efforts must be genuine and sincere.
Here are some ways to show appreciation:
- Give out thank you cards, and encourage employees to write them for coworkers.
- Celebrate milestones like anniversaries, promotions, goals, and quotas.
- Recognize great work and effort in company-wide messaging apps like Slack and Teams and in all-hands meetings.
- Offer rewards like gift cards and cash incentives.
- Plan team happy hours, outings, and employee appreciation events.
“We promote ongoing recognition in our #props Slack channel,” says Samantha Popke, people success manager at WorkRamp. “Team members can share praise, shout outs, and gratitude for coworkers. The #props channel is one of the most active channels we have. The leadership team, managers, and colleagues regularly take time to recognize team members’ accomplishments and wins.”
You should also ask employees about the best ways to help them feel appreciated. Send out an anonymous survey, and use the results to plan activities or initiatives to help the team feel recognized and valued.
4. Offer Learning and Development Opportunities
Creating opportunities for team members to learn, grow, and advance can prevent them from feeling stagnant or bored. Ongoing L&D efforts help employees feel more fulfilled at work. According to Glint’s 2021 Employee Well-Being Report, opportunities to learn and grow are the top driver of a positive work culture.
Continuous learning and development can help employees succeed in their current roles, advance to more senior positions, and feel more engaged. There are some key ways to promote L&D in the workplace.
Start with onboarding. Show new employees you’re invested in their growth and success. Help them acclimate to their roles and the company. But don’t stop there; talk to new hires about their professional goals, create an action plan, and schedule regular check-in meetings to hold them accountable and help them succeed.
Promote ongoing skill development. Employees are in their current roles because of their skill sets, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to upskill and reskill. The job market is constantly changing, technology is evolving, and you must continue developing employees’ skills to increase their job satisfaction and maintain a competitive advantage.
Ensure employees are receiving the training to develop and improve role-specific hard skills like programming, coding, and data analysis and soft skills like conflict resolution, leadership, and communication.
Your employees are your organization’s most important asset, and when you invest in your workers and help them feel valued, you create an unstoppable team.