Employee Burnout: the Early Signs and Prevention Tips

How happy are your employees? Although this might seem like a simple question, it is much more complicated than it may initially appear. Burnout tends to plague the modern workplace and unfortunately, it seems to be on the rise.

Did you know that a study conducted in December 2020 found that a staggering 76 percent of 1,136 workers surveyed stated that they had experienced some level of burnout in the recent past?

Now that we have identified the problem, the next step is to look at some powerful strategies to adopt. Let’s see what the experts have to say.

Recognizing the Early Warning Signs of Burnout
There are many times when the initial stages of burnout will go unnoticed by management. Or, they might mistake burnout for other conditions such as short-term fatigue or being temporarily tired due to the demands of an ongoing project. If left unchecked, mild levels of burnout can become much more serious. Here are some tell-tale symptoms to keep an eye out for:

  • Physical signs such as deep circles beneath the eyes, an unkempt appearance, and a somewhat “blank” expression.
  • Employees tend to be less likely to become actively engaged with their daily tasks. In other words, they lose interest.
  • Your workers begin to take more sick days than usual. This can be caused by chronic stress, a physical illness or a combination of both.
  • Decreased levels of productivity.
  • Workers who begin to isolate themselves from others for no apparent reason.

Let’s now imagine that you have noticed one or more of the conditions outlined above. What steps can you take to return your office to an even keel and to increase levels of job satisfaction?

A Bit of Incentivization Can Go a Long Way
According to research conducted by the American Institute of Stress, employee burnout causes American businesses an estimated $300 billion every year. This is why finding solutions sooner as opposed to later is crucial.

Clarify Your Expectations
Straightforward goals should be set from the very beginning. Imagine how difficult it would be to complete a marathon if the finish line was never defined. Workers who strive towards specific milestones (such as making a certain number of calls per day) will be much more likely to pace themselves and to remain on track.

Provide Adequate Resources and Support
It would be foolish to expect an employee to complete a task if he or she does not possess adequate resources. A common example of this scenario includes outdated data entry forms, clumsy CRM software and insufficient members within a team.

From modern office gadgets and cutting-edge software to managerial assistance if a question arises, offering up timely support will demonstrate to employees that you are keeping their best interests in mind.

Highlight the Value of Individual Employees
The HR experts at Michigan State University also point out that many workers will become stressed if they feel that their efforts are not being recognized. After all, it makes little sense to put in a great deal of work only to remain underappreciated.

Management should strive to let employees know that they are valuable assets within the company. This helps to foster a sense of individual pride and as a result, they can remain motivated when the going gets tough.

Use “Walking Meetings”
Walking meetings are another interesting method to “get the blood pumping” during an otherwise average workday. Employees who are forced to remain sedentary for long periods will be more likely to feel stressed, exhausted and burned out. Of course, a bit of fresh air is also quite healthy for everyone involved. Workers will begin to look forward to such meetings and they will also be more likely to contribute regularly.

Set Straightforward Working Hours and Consider Telecommuting
Employees should know how many hours they are expected to work each week. Suddenly surprising them with overtime or after-hours tasks is a sure-fire way to drain any enthusiasm that might have existed.

Also, provide options to telecommute when relevant. It is currently estimated that one out of every four Americans works from home at least one day per week. Not only will workers benefit from this sense of flexibility, but the office can reduce traditional in-house costs that might have otherwise been incurred.

Create Wellness Programs
Self-care and stress management might not always be possible without additional help. This is when the power of employee assistance programs will come into play. Research performed by Morneau Shepell found that every dollar invested in such a program can result in more than eight dollars in profit (return on investment). This results from increased productivity, fewer sick days and an overall positive attitude.

Help Those Who Struggle with Heavy Workloads
Everyone works at a different pace. Some tasks are therefore much harder than others to complete. This is why management and HR should keep an eye out for anyone who seems to be floundering in the background. Extra training, peer support and appreciating when a workload needs to be reduced are all great ways to ensure a well-oiled machine. Workers will also appreciate the fact that supervisors care about their performance.

Nipping Burnout in the Bud
While burnout is a serious issue within the workplace, it is entirely avoidable if managers can detect the symptoms at an early stage. The correct strategies can then be adopted at the right times. Ultimately, everyone has his or her breaking point. As opposed to reaching this threshold, why not instead embrace proactive strategies to avoid such situations entirely? Not only will your workers remain happy and loyal, but a more positive brand identity will follow. Always remember that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.


Sandy Chernoff
Sandy Chernoff
SANDY'S 30 years of didactic and clinical teaching in study clubs and continuing dental education, coupled with her almost 40 years of Dental Hygiene practice bring a wealth of experience to her interactive soft skills workshops. With her education background she easily customizes interactive sessions to suit the specific needs of her clients. Her energetic and humorous presentation style has entertained and informed audiences from Victoria to New York City. Sandy’s client list includes law firms, teaching institutions, volunteer and professional organizations and conferences, businesses, and individuals. Her newest project is turning her live workshops into e-learning programs using an LMS platform. Her teaching and education background have helped her to produce meaningful and somewhat interactive courses for the learners wanting the convenience of e-learning options. As the author of 5 Secrets to Effective Communication, Sandy has demonstrated her ability to demystify the complexities of communication so that the reader can learn better strategies and approaches which will greatly improve their communication skills and ultimately reduce conflict, resentment, disappointment, complaining, and confusion. As a result, the reader will be able to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity, improve all the relationships in their lives and ultimately enjoy a happier, healthier existence! Sandy blogs regularly on her two websites on the various soft skills topics that are featured in her workshops and e-learning programs.

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  1. All great info here. I currently don’t work I’m retired early do to a disability but I will say that when I did work had these steps been in place I may not of had a burnout myself. I worked 3rd shift and it was a difficult shift to begin with. I know I often felt isolated and like no one cared. When I went to HR on my own they took the employer side and I got no satisfaction. I found our they weren’t about helping the employee but catering to the employer. Great article