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How to Identify and Prevent Burnout at Your Company


You may have heard of the Great Resignation: a 2021 phenomenon of employees quitting jobs en masse across almost all industries, nationwide. Sure, workers have been quitting businesses since the beginning of time, but in August 2021 alone, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs. That’s unprecedented. So, what exactly is going on with the Great Resignation? And how can you save your business from it—and help prevent your employees from burnout?

To understand burnout better, you can read our first article in this series: What is Burnout, and 4 Tips to Combat It. Essentially, people who are burned out feel chronically drained and exhausted: mentally, emotionally, and physically. With the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on both personal lives and the economy, articles like those in The Atlantic and The Washington Post shed light on why workers are finally reaching the end of their ropes.

According to the World Health Organization, there are three dimensions to the burnout that your employees may be feeling: feelings of energy depletion, increased mental distance from and negativity related to their job, and reduced professional productivity. 

On the flipside, it pays (literally!) to ensure your company has a pleasant work environment. One extensive Oxford study found that workers are 13% more productive when happy, and this Harvard Business Review article makes the case that “the single greatest advantage in the modern economy is a happy and engaged workforce: raising sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and accuracy on tasks by 19%.” 

It may feel daunting to navigate the post-pandemic economy alongside the Great Resignation, but protecting your company from the worst of it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Sure, it will take some time and effort to figure out what works best for you and your employees, but if you don’t know where to start, we can help! Focus first on identifying symptoms of employee burnout, and then on mitigating the causes to keep your workers happy.

To begin with, here are 3 signs an employee may be feeling burned out:

1. They seem to be emotionally, mentally, and/or physically exhausted.

This fatigue may have begun more recently, or it may have been affecting them for a much longer period of time. Chronic fatigue is extremely common in burned-out workers. This may show as the person appearing less engaged and more distracted, as well as tired more frequently than not. You may notice that they lack energy, or seem listless and zoned out.

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2. They show increased absenteeism at work.

When an employee begins burning out, they also have to deal with other health issues like insomnia, headaches, and depression. As they approach burnout, these health concerns may grow worse, leading them to take more time off (particularly sick days) in order to try and recover. You may notice that this absenteeism isn’t an isolated incident: rarely does short-term recovery significantly address burnout, so it’s likely that this is a more long-term phenomenon.

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3. Their productivity has noticeably and consistently decreased.

It may be tempting to chalk this up to laziness, but that’s generally not the case—especially if this employee usually does great work. Unfortunately, people who are burning out are unable to perform at 100%, even if it frustrates them. You may notice a pattern of their work quality or work quantity decreasing, beyond just one bad day or week. In combination with other signs, this could be a significant indication of burnout. It’s difficult to work effectively when experiencing the emotional, mental, and physical obstacles that come with burnout. 

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(For more reading about potential burnout signs to look out for, start with this WellRight blogpost and this Well-Being Index article.)

Now that you have an idea on how to identify burnout, what can you do to address it (and prevent it from happening in the future)?

The most important thing to understand is what factors typically cause employee burnout, and then you can address and remove potential causes of burnout in your specific company. 

Some of the most commonly cited reasons for workplace burnout are unclear expectations, unmanageable workload, poor communication, and lack of appreciation and support (for a more extensive list, you can start with this Gallup survey and this ITA Group list). Creating a happy, productive work environment takes a lot of time and intentional effort, so here are a few immediate actions you can take to start protecting your business and employees from burnout:

1. Communicate clearly.

Make sure to clarify existing roles and expectations. Uncertainty over job responsibilities can be mentally taxing, especially if an employee has gotten conflicting answers from different sources. Make sure communication lines are clear, so no details are lost through a game of telephone.

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2. Be flexible and understanding of your employees’ workload management whenever possible.

Having a kind manager can go a long way! As we mentioned earlier, happy workers are more productive; work with your employees to find the sweet spot between slacking off and becoming burned out.

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3. And last, but most definitely not least: make sure your employees feel supported and appreciated.

This can be as simple as acknowledging great work or complimenting an employee on a particularly productive day. At Hylite, we make it easy for customers to give positive feedback about frontline employees—all it takes is a text! Hylite helps boost employee morale, leading to decreased burnout, increased employee retention, and more positive workplaces.

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Now, you’re well on your way to building and maintaining a happy, burnout-free workplace! The Great Resignation and post-pandemic economy may not go away overnight, but with this article as a starting point, you can start planning ways to protect your company from the brunt of it. Active appreciation is low-effort, high-reward action. At Hylite, we strongly believe that happy employees lead to loyal customers and brighter workplaces.

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