Job burnout is a special type of work-related stress, a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.
Causes of employee burnout.
Unfair treatment: Employees who report being treated unfairly at work are more likely to experience burnout. Bias, favouritism, and unfair compensation or corporate policies all constitute unfair treatment.
Lack of role clarity: only few workers clearly understand what is expected of them in their role. Employees who are not clear on managers' expectations can become exhausted and overwhelmed from constantly trying to figure out what the company wants from them.
Lack of communication and manager support: Consistent communication and support from a manager can provide a psychological shield because the employees know their manager will support them if they run into an issue or something goes wrong.
Unreasonable time pressure: Employees who report always feels that they have enough time to complete their work are less likely to experience burnout. A major issue arises when time constraints are imposed.
Signs of employee burnout
Physical and emotional exhaustion
Chronic fatigue: In the early stages of burnout, you may feel tired and unenergetic on most days. As the burnout progresses, you may feel emotionally exhausted and drained or have a sense of dread about the coming days.
Insomnia: Early-stage insomnia presents one or two nights a week. In later stages of burnout, insomnia will be a nightly issue. As exhausted as you are, you will not be able to sleep.
Lack of concentration: Burnout can result in a lack of focus or mild forgetfulness, or even an inability to get work done.
Frequent illness: Stress can weaken the immune system, so you may be more vulnerable to colds, infections or other illnesses.
Loss of appetite: In the early stages of burnout, you might skip a few meals when you're not feeling hungry, while later stages may see you losing your appetite altogether and losing weight.
Anxiety: Burnout can cause feelings of tension, worry, and edginess, which can progress to interfere with your production levels and personal life.
Anger: Tension and irritability can progress to angry outbursts and arguments in both your professional and personal life.
Depression: Depression in the early stages of burnout can present as occasional feelings of sadness or hopelessness, while later-stage depression can make you feel trapped and worthless. It is at that point you should seek professional help.
Cynicism and detachment
Loss of enjoyment: This can begin as simply not wanting to go to work, then progress to affect your enthusiasm in all areas of your life.
Pessimism: You may start to view the world and yourself in a negative light.
Isolation: Isolation can begin as just avoiding socializing when you don't feel like it and progress to actively avoiding speaking to others.
Detachment: Detachment is a growing feeling of disconnection from people around you. You might remove yourself from unwanted situations by calling in sick, regularly coming in late, or avoiding calls and emails.
Lack of accomplishment
Indifference or hopelessness: This can manifest as a feeling that nothing matters or goes right, to the point where you feel there is no point in doing anything.
Irritability: Irritability comes from frustration at feeling ineffective, undervalued or like you can't do anything right. Left unchecked, it can seriously affect your relationships.
Lack of productivity: All of these symptoms can lead to a serious drop in productivity, which adds to the burnout by creating a pile of work you feel like you can never climb out of.
How to support burnt-out employees
As a leader in your company, you must be able to recognize the signs and have a plan in place to help and support employees who may be experiencing burnout.
Show your employees you value them.
A major cause of burnout is employees feeling undervalued and unappreciated, so sometimes you need to go the extra mile to show appreciation. You can offer small things like gift cards or a free lunch as a reward at the end of a difficult project, bonus paid time off, extra break time, or acknowledgements of an employee's hard work to others in the company as a sign of your appreciation.
Avoid sudden punishment.
Many employees who are experiencing workplace burnout struggle to come to terms with it, let alone tell their manager. This is an issue when all a manager sees a previously high-performing employee suddenly being unproductive and negative. Without connection, the manager might then take measures, like a performance improvement plan, or lecture the employee, which only accelerate the burnout.
As a manager, you should do your best to know what is going on in your employees' personal lives so you can adjust their workload if needed, and have a basis of understanding if something personal comes up that impacts their work.
Part of your job as a manager is to stay abreast of your company culture and how your employees interact with each other. Workplace culture can play a huge role in burnout, so you should be aware of any conflicts, workload changes and the general morale.