Recognizing Employee Burnout

By now, it’s beyond cliché to say that 2020 has been a tough year. From a global pandemic to a tense election season, the year has offered no shortage of wearying headlines. Now, as we head into the final few weeks of the year, many of us are feeling fatigued, frustrated, or simply drained. For HR leaders and team supervisors, it’s critical to realize that your employees are very likely battling with burnout.

Of course, burnout is a very real possibility even under ideal circumstances. The 9-5 grind can take its toll, and sooner or later even the most cheerful and energetic employees may show signs that they’re tired and stressed. Leaders who are attentive to the signs of burnout may be able to help their employees gain a better sense of balance, restoring their mental health and even making necessary changes to the company culture.

But in 2020, it’s especially challenging to notice those signs of burnout. That’s because so many employees are working remotely, which means leaders and managers don’t have as much facetime to gauge their exhaustion. Certainly, there are some telltale signs of burnout, evident even in remote work settings: For example, leaders can look for employees who participate less during virtual meetings, who are slower to respond to emails or texts, or whose quality of work deteriorates. In some cases, employees may even offer direct feedback, making it clear that they’re feeling tired or burned out. Take this feedback seriously!

Managing Workplace Burnout During the COVID Era

Though it may be difficult to see the signs of burnout, it’s crucial to be vigilant: Burnout can sap employee morale, productivity, and work quality, and it can ultimately impoverish your team.

As you look for the signs of employee burnout, there are also a few simple steps you can take to better manage burnout among team members. Consider these suggestions:

  • Give employees meaningful work to do. Nothing exacerbates burnout like busywork. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable: There are tedious tasks that someone on your team has to complete. Whenever possible, though, try to connect team members with projects that actually mean something. Also, take the time to stress to your employees why their work matters. Remind them of the difference it makes in the lives of your clients and customers.
  • Provide some mental health breaks. Whether it’s one day out of every month or just an hour every Friday afternoon, provide employees with some time they can use for self-care, or simply to get away from their computer. This is a great way of demonstrating your commitment to a culture of mental wellbeing.
  • Be mindful of boundaries. Don’t let the remote work environment blur lines between the personal and professional. It’s unreasonable to expect employees to show up to work an hour earlier or stay an hour later, simply because they happen to be working from home. And it’s unhealthy to send emails or assign work after-hours or on the weekends.
  • Stay positive. This may sound simple, even simplistic… but during a stressful or chaotic season, intentional positivity goes a long way. Be extra committed to acknowledging good work when you see it and expressing gratitude to your team members for their important contributions.
  • Seek feedback. The HR team may also use employee surveys to gather feedback and gauge the mood among employees. Not only can this provide some insight into current burnout levels, but it also shows employees that you care about what they’re feeling. That in itself can help stave off feelings of discontentedness.

Get HR Solutions from WhiteWater Consulting

If you have any questions about how your HR team can identify and respond to employee burnout, we’d love to chat with you one-on-one. Contact WhiteWater Consulting at your next opportunity.