According to Indeed’s recent “Employee Burnout Report,” employee burnout has worsened since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2019. Specifically, more than half of surveyed respondents reported feeling burned out, with more than two-thirds stating they believe that feeling worsened throughout the pandemic.
What’s more, the Indeed report found that, year-over-year, employee burnout is rising. The study’s authors noted that an incredible 52% of respondents are experiencing burnout in 2021, up from 43% who said the same in Indeed’s pre-COVID survey.
Although the notion of employee burnout is not new, especially among healthcare workers and first responders, what is clear is that the pandemic has exacerbated workplace challenges and highlighted areas where employers can make improvements. Whether pandemic-fueled or not, the fact is that burnout rates are up across all industries.
So, what can employers and HR leaders do to recognize and reduce signs of burnout among staff? Read on to find out.
Defining Workplace Burnout
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently classified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon or work hazard.” According to WHO, “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”
WHO classifies burnout in three dimensions:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
- Reduced professional efficacy
The simple fact is that employee burnout is a condition that will likely only worsen if companies don’t take preventative measures and get buy-in from C-suite executives, managers and HR leaders. Of course, burnout can affect employees at all levels of a company; even HR leaders must find ways to address their burnout triggers to help others succeed.
How to Recognize and Manage Burnout
Are you exhausted but get little sleep? Do you feel dread when you wake up in the morning? Have you turned to food or substances like drugs or alcohol to cope? Each of these is symptoms and behaviors indicative of burnout. Much like the common cold, burnout symptoms may not hit all at once but in phases.
Other common symptoms of burnout include:
- Excessive drive/ambition
- Neglecting your own needs
- Displacement of conflict
- No time for nonwork-related needs
- Behavioral changes
- Inner emptiness or anxiety
- Mental or physical collapse
Although causes or stressors may vary from person to person, burnout can be triggered by some of the following workplace situations:
1. A lack of control. Do you have any control over your schedule or the amount of work you manage at any given time? If the answer is no, there’s a good chance that you’re not able to focus all your efforts and potential on any one task. To combat, try focusing on the things you can control. For instance, you likely don’t need to check your email every minute, so attempt to tamp down on that instinct to compulsively refresh your inbox. Or, if your manager hands you a new task, remember that you have every right to clarify how you should prioritize this with your current workload.
2. Unstable team dynamics. Do you have a good team dynamic? Does your team lift you up for your successes? If not, it can be much harder to stay positive, motivate yourself and even feel good about the work you produce. The people you surround yourself with can be firm predictors of how you act and your potential work ethic. In that vein, when possible try not to work next to your coworker who brings you down by complaining all day. Even better, take note of the positive people in your life, including the people you interact with who lift you up the most. This can help you set healthy boundaries and push you to seek out more positive people in your life.
3. A lack of balance. Maybe your job feels chaotic one day, but the next day feels calm and ordered. An inconsistent workflow or a lack of autonomy in your workday can also contribute to increased stress levels and burnout in the workplace.
Whether the demands of your job are too extreme or too lax, it’s essential to find ways to bring more balance into your life. Remember that your work is not meant to affect your connections and wreak havoc on your life outside of the office.
So, how do you bring balance back into your life? Begin to tackle burnout by utilizing these three key solutions:
1. Focus on goals and small wins, both at work and in your personal life. Think about what you want to accomplish throughout the week, and try not to overthink those small items. They can be as simple as only checking your email three times a day, or maybe you’ve been wanting to ask a friend for coffee but haven’t had the time. Start small, try and reward yourself for trying to take back control.
2. Acknowledge the fact that there’s no such thing as perfect. Some days may be easier than others but what matters most is that you realize you’re trying your best, both at work and at home.
3. Have an open and honest conversation with your manager about your workload. Make a game plan for how you’ll prioritize your task list moving forward.
Addressing the root causes of burnout is not simple, and the solutions can take time and effort. That being said, the first step is simply acknowledging the problem and working with your company to create a better path forward.
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