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Employee Burnout: An HR’s Guide to More Motivated Employees

January 31, 2024 by LaRae Pieroni

Employee burnout is a common phenomenon that’s prevalent in workplaces across the globe. Employee burnout can pose significant consequences for employees and employers alike, so it’s crucial for an organization’s HR department to understand why employees may burn out and how to prevent employee burnout.

In our employee burnout guide, we’ll provide a plethora of information for HR personnel to implement in their workspaces. Here, you’ll learn what employee burnout is, tips for preventing employee burnout and how to implement a burnout prevention program to keep employees motivated and satisfied in their roles.

Understanding Employee Burnout

To start our employee burnout guide, it’s important to understand what employee burnout is, its causes and the impact it can have on an organization. Let’s dive into this information below.

What Is Employee Burnout?

Employee burnout refers to the physical, mental and emotional exhaustion an employee may feel at work. This feeling of extreme exhaustion can occur when an employee becomes overwhelmed with their tasks, is emotionally drained and unable to perform their intended duties outlined in their job description.

Employee burnout doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it’s a gradual progression that builds up over time, resulting in an employee becoming less motivated to work at a high level and detaching from their work and fellow employees.

Causes and Symptoms of Employee Burnout

There are many reasons why employees may feel a lack of motivation at work and begin to get burned out. Some of the top causes of employee burnout include:

  • High workload: One of the most common causes of employee burnout is when employees are assigned too much work without enough time to rest. An increased workload can overwhelm employees, resulting in them withdrawing from their work and losing motivation to complete their tasks to the best of their abilities.
  • Unclear expectations: Employees who don’t understand the task can also begin to burn out. Without goals or clear expectations, employees may become unsure of what’s expected of them, resulting in stress and anxiety that decreases productivity.
  • Lack of support: Employees need to feel supported to perform their best. If a worker doesn’t have support from their managers or colleagues, it can result in them feeling isolated and unsupported, resulting in employee burnout.
  • Poor skill match: In some cases, employees might be poorly matched with their job requirements compared to their skill level. When this occurs, an employee can become overwhelmed or disengaged, depending on the scenario. For example, employees may become bored if they aren’t using their skills or strengths to their full potential.
  • Lack of control: A lack of control can also lead to employee burnout. This can occur when a manager doesn’t allow an employee to have any say in their work, leading to feelings of helplessness or decreased motivation.

These are just some of the potential causes of employee burnout. Whether you’re an HR professional or a manager, understanding the causes can help you identify the root cause and prevent it from escalating. Understanding the symptoms and warning signs of employee burnout is also important. Doing so can help you with preventing employee burnout. Symptoms can include:

  • Decrease in job satisfaction
  • Emotional exhaustion with feelings of frustration and irritability
  • Decrease in motivation and a loss of interest in work and productivity
  • Increase in absenteeism or tardiness with employees missing work or showing up late
  • Relationship problems with colleagues, friends and family
  • Physical symptoms like fatigue, insomnia and headaches

Spotting these warning signs of employee burnout can help you identify workers who may feel overworked or overwhelmed, allowing you to take action swiftly.

The Impact of Employee Burnout on Businesses and Employees

Employee burnout can have a significant impact on businesses and employees. To start, employee burnout can affect the overall well-being of employees. For example, they may develop anxiety that can lead to insomnia, headaches or relationship problems with those closest to them, such as colleagues and their family.

Aside from heavy impacts on employees and their emotional, physical and mental health, employers can suffer from employee burnout. When an employee withdraws from their work, it can result in decreased productivity, which can result in decreased revenue, costly errors and promote a hostile work environment that affects other employees.

Preventing Employee Burnout

Now that you know what employee burnout is, its causes, symptoms and impact on businesses, it’s time to focus on how to prevent employee burnout. Preventing employee burnout can be done with a few key actions.

Creating a Positive Work Environment

Creating and fostering a positive work environment is one of the top actions you can take to prevent employee burnout. There are several strategies you can take to create a positive work environment, such as:

  • Maintaining open lines of communication where employees feel comfortable sharing thoughts, ideas and feelings.
  • Fostering teamwork and allowing employees to collaborate to achieve common goals.
  • Being transparent about the company’s goals, values and decision-making processes and allowing employees to participate when possible.
  • Addressing conflicts in the moment by providing support and resources to employees to resolve issues constructively.

Encouraging Work-Life Balance

Another tip on how to prevent employee burnout is encouraging a healthy work-life balance that allows employees to maintain their well-being. There are several ways you can promote a healthy work-life balance, such as:

  • Offering flexible schedules, including telecommuting opportunities, remote work or flexible hours that allow employees to balance their work and personal lives.
  • Setting clear expectations on employee workloads and deadlines and ensuring they’re not overworked.
  • Leading by example and practicing a healthy work-life balance to show employees it’s OK to take time for yourself.
  • Providing family-friendly benefits, such as paid parental leave and flexible schedules that allow parents to be with their children.
  • Encouraging breaks and time off by requiring employees to use their vacation time or paid time off for rest and relaxation.

Providing Employee Support and Resources

Employees need to feel supported by their managers and colleagues to avoid employee burnout. Providing employees with the necessary support and resources can help with preventing employee burnout by ensuring they don’t feel overwhelmed or stressed. For example, you can provide employees with career development opportunities to strengthen their skills to perform their duties better. You can also invest in tools, equipment and software that can assist employees in their roles.

Recognizing and Addressing Signs of Burnout

Finally, recognizing and addressing signs of burnout can help prevent it from occurring in the workplace. Using our employee burnout guide with our list of causes and symptoms can prepare you and your HR team with the warning signs an employee is suffering from burnout. From there, you can take the necessary steps to help your team feel supported and part of a healthy work environment.

Interventions can include administering anonymous surveys for employees to provide feedback on how they’re feeling so you can use that data to make changes. You can work with employees in focus groups or one-on-one to spot workplace issues causing burnout and develop solutions together.

Implementing a Burnout Prevention Program

If you’re looking for strategies on how to prevent employee burnout, you can implement a burnout prevention program. A burnout prevention program can take many forms but is generally a set of policies and procedures designed to help employees feel supported in the workplace to prevent burnout. Here’s how you can implement a burnout prevention program in your organization:

Assessing Your Workplace

The first step of an employee burnout prevention program is assessing your workplace. To conduct a workplace assessment, gather information on employee satisfaction, stress levels, turnover rates, absenteeism and other metrics. This can be done through surveys, focus groups and interviews. It will allow you to identify risk factors causing employee burnout, such as high workloads, poor communication or a lack of support.

With this information, you can identify areas for improvement by evaluating organizational policies related to work-life balance and workload and whether these policies support or contribute to burnout. From there, you can create a customized prevention program that includes changes to your organization’s policies and procedures, leadership practices, workload management and more.

Developing a Wellness Program

Emotional, physical and mental wellness is crucial for all employees in your workplace. Developing a wellness program can help prevent employee burnout in a variety of ways. There are several types of wellness programs that can prevent burnout, including:

  • Physical wellness programs, such as fitness classes, healthy eating options and reimbursements for gyms.
  • Mental health programs that provide stress management tools, mental health resources and counseling services.
  • Social wellness programs that promote a positive work environment that brings employees together through team-building events, volunteering opportunities and employee social clubs.
  • Mindfulness programs that help employees practice mindfulness through yoga, meditation and similar stress-relieving exercises.

A few key strategies for creating a successful wellness program include identifying your employee’s needs, setting clear goals and objectives and promoting participation through incentives and other means.

Communicating Your Program

Communication is vital when promoting your burnout prevention program, as it helps encourage participation and ensures employees feel valued. Some effective communication strategies include active listening and responding to employee concerns, picking up on nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions, accepting and providing feedback. By communicating the program’s benefits, you can reduce employee burnout and ensure employees have the support they need to succeed and stay motivated.

HR Departments and Employee Burnout

Even HR departments aren’t immune to the impacts of employee burnout. HR staff can become burned out with their responsibilities dealing with this phenomenon. On top of that, HR departments can lose sight of the bigger picture when they’re overloaded with tasks, such as responding to income verification requests, identifying employee tax credits to apply for or managing I-9 verification.

At Experian Employer Services, our workforce management solutions can help HR departments streamline time-consuming tasks, from issuing pay statements to generating year-end tax statements. Our solutions put time back into the hands of HR staff, so they can focus on more important areas of the business, such as improving company culture and employee well-being to combat issues like employee burnout.

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