How To Tell If Your Team Is Burnt Out (and What To Do About It)

Isabel Morris

We’ve all had the odd sluggish day at work, when the minutes tick by incredibly slowly and nothing’s getting done.

It’s completely normal for this to happen from time to time, but it’s a serious problem when someone who’s usually super engaged and productive falls into this rut for weeks or months at a time.

What is burnout?

Employee burnout is a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion in employees. Burnout commonly stems from high levels of stress and overwork, insufficient training, lack of job security or even workplace bullying. It can have disastrous effects for employees and businesses, sabotaging everything from productivity to workforce retention.

As an employer, it’s important to recognise that the onus shouldn’t be on your team to make sure they’re not stressed or overworked. As their boss, you have a duty of care to ensure your employees are happy and healthy, not burnt out by their jobs.

What are the symptoms?

Signs that someone on your team might be burnt out include uncharacteristic disengagement, decreased productivity or quality of work, increased cynicism and complaining and other distracted behaviours. Burnt out employees may also experience headaches and sleep problems, as well as anxiety and depression.

High turnover rates or absenteeism can be symptomatic of systematic burnout within your organisation. Clearly, burnout is a grueling experience for everyone involved – so it’s important to act fast and address burnout before your employees quit!

What can I do about it?

As an employer, there are a lot of things you can do to address burnout in your team. We highly recommend taking the following steps:

  • Check in with your burnt out employee. Before doing anything major, it’s important to sit down with your burnt out employee to find out what they’re experiencing and how you can support them in the short term. In this informal and relaxed meeting, you should also remind them that they are valued.
  • Evaluate your workplace. It’s important to get to the root cause of employee burnout, whether it’s specific to a particular employee or systemic to your entire company. Try to deduce the underlying cause of the problem, so you can address it properly.
  • Make an action plan. Devise a solution to the root cause of burnout in your company, and act on it. If the problem is that your employees don’t feel challenged anymore, perhaps you should switching things up by giving your team different assignments and changing their day-to-day routine. If the problem is that your employees are overworking, perhaps you should consider hiring more staff.

How can I prevent burnout in the first place?

Burnout, like most things, can be prevented – and prevention is far better than a cure. Here are a few things you can do to prevent burnout in your team:

  • Check in with your employees regularly. This can be as simple as sending out an online survey every week to monitor your team’s stress levels.
  • Educate your team. From managers to entry-level employees, educate your team on common symptoms and causes of burnout, so they can take action if they feel themselves or a colleague experiencing early stages of burnout.
  • Focus on wellness at work. Foster a positive and supportive workplace culture by creating mandatory time off (e.g. preventing your employees from coming to work on the weekends or responding to emails on holiday), hosting regular team socials and providing other perks. Your employees are sure to feel more satisfied at work and more attached to your company and its values.
  • Conduct independent exit interviews. Allow employees leaving your company to give their honest opinion on your business – they’re likely to flag issues relating to burnout and employee dissatisfaction.

In short, when it comes to employee burnout, prevention is key. It’s also important to address the root cause of burnout in your team as directly and as quickly as possible, to ensure employee wellness and protect your business.

As an employer, remember that you’re also a leader – setting a good example and being a source of optimism for your team, as well as cultivating a sense of community within your company, can go a long way in establishing a healthy work environment for your team.