7 employee burnout signs: How to spot and deal with them

by Liam Martin
Employee burnout signs

Employee burnout is real and has been on the rise for the past few years. 

In fact, after the pandemic, a Deloitte survey found that 64% of employees feel overly stressed and exhausted while at work – a dominant cause of the Great Resignation in 2021. 

Employee burnout is also an obvious barrier to high productivity and output for many companies.

But how do you spot employee burnout signs

And how do you deal with work burnout as a good manager?

This article will discuss seven signs of burned-out employees and show you a few ways to support them. We’ll also answer a few frequently asked questions about employee burnout. 

Let’s get started.

7 common employee burnout signs

Employee burnout means more than just needing a temporary break from workplace stress. 

The World Health Organization describes it as a workplace condition that can affect every aspect of an employee’s work performance, including energy, motivation, and professional efficacy. 

To keep high employee productivity and enthusiasm for work, you must spot job burnout early.

Here are a few common employee burnout signs: 

1. Disengagement

Employees who no longer find joy in their work show signs of disengagement. This is an early burnout symptom. 

How does low employee engagement look in the workplace?

Employees who feel disengaged during their workday may: 

  • Stop participating in team meetings. 
  • Avoid taking on new projects. 
  • Stop returning emails or phone calls.
  • Display poor feedback retention.

A general lack of enthusiasm for their work shows that employees are disengaged due to burnout. 

2. Reduced productivity and performance

Employees feeling burnt out may experience a loss of purpose for work, resulting in reduced productivity. 

But decreased productivity isn’t the only side effect of burnout, as the quality of the work also takes a hit. If you find an employee producing low-quality work at a slower rate than usual, this may be a warning sign of workplace burnout.  

3. Increased absenteeism

Often all a burnt-out employee wants to do is get away. Such a stressed employee may take extra leave or more than one unnecessary sick day. 

Employees who do this usually hope that short breaks from work may restore their productivity or alleviate their exhaustion and stress levels. 

Unfortunately, job burnout is a more severe condition that can’t simply go away with a day off. 

If you notice an employee taking more than usual time away from work, this is a sign they may be feeling burnt out. 

4. Workplace clashes and cynicism 

Workplace clashes and confrontations are routine and shouldn’t cause alarm.

However, if you notice an employee getting into regular disputes with a co-worker and having an unusually cynical attitude, it could be because of job stress. 

Common traits of a burnt-out employee may include increased irritability, excessive anger, and is easily triggered in the workplace. Watch out for these mental health traits to address burnout before things go downhill. 

HR professionals can have one-on-one interactions with confrontational employees to have an unbiased understanding of the cause of the dispute. 

5. Higher sensitivity to feedback 

Adverse reactions to feedback go hand-in-hand with a cynical attitude. 

Receiving constructive criticism is expected in the workplace and shouldn’t ideally elicit overly sensitive reactions. 

However, a burnt-out employee, who already feels stressed and unmotivated at work, may react negatively when told their work isn’t up to the mark. They may feel they are receiving unfair treatment. 

An employee who reacts defensively (instead of receptively) to constructive criticism may signify job burnout.

Managers who give feedback should speak to such employees to try and identify the reasons for burnout. HR professionals can also help to resolve the employee’s stress.

6. Detachment from the company

A common burnout symptom is when an employee no longer feels valuable to the company and detaches from it as a defense mechanism.

Employees who are burnt out will often feel as though they can’t provide much to their company. 

If you notice that an employee is always unaware of office events, doesn’t care about the company’s performance, and doesn’t give 100% attention to tasks – this may be a sign of job burnout. 

7. Emergence of physical symptoms 

Emotional exhaustion and stress can affect more than just mental well-being. 

So, employees who are under stress from working long hours may start experiencing various physical symptoms

Common physical symptoms of burnout may include:  

  • Exhaustion.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Constant nausea.
  • A loss of appetite.
  • Drastic weight loss.
  • Persistent colds.
  • Headaches. 

And more.

These symptoms threaten more than just the workplace performance of an individual employee. They could also negatively affect the health of your co-worker.

Have you noticed any of these burnout signs

If yes, it’s time to take action. 

Good managers must know how to handle workplace burnout. 

Let’s go through a few ways you can optimize your workplace to help employees deal with burnout. 

3 effective ways to handle employee burnout 

Dealing with burnout isn’t something an individual employee can do independently. They’ll need support to deal with the stressors of a full-time job. 

Try implementing a few of these helpful workplace techniques to ease the burden of burnout and increase employee engagement: 

1. Show appreciation frequently 

Employee burnout often starts to bubble up when employees feel undervalued or feel like their work doesn’t matter. 

As a manager, you should make every employee feel like a vital team member. Employees who feel like their work matters are far less likely to experience job burnout. 

Something as simple as thanking an employee for getting work done on time or commending them for the quality of their work can go a long way in making an employee feel valued. 

2. Give time off to burnt-out employees 

Waking up every day and going through long hours at work is enough to make anyone feel burnt out. 

To overcome that, employees must take time to shut off from work completely. They can use this break to spend time with friends and family members or getaway to reset their minds.

Having free time will engage employees to produce high-quality work when they return. 

Asking an employee who displays signs of burnout if they need some time off or a sick day may help. 

This may improve employee morale and make them value the position they hold. 

3. Implement productivity management software in the workplace 

One of the most important things you can do for a stressed employee is to help them manage their workload and hours.

Productivity management software like Time Doctor can help you with that. It can also boost their productivity and help them spend their time efficiently. 

What is Time Doctor? 

Better for managers

Time Doctor is a powerful employee productivity and performance management software used by small businesses like Thrive Market, as well as large firms like Ericsson. It’s useful for managing both, in-office and remote employees.

The tool has an interactive timer that helps track the time employees spend on their tasks. It enables managers and employees to: 

  • Track how they spend their hours.
  • See which projects take up a lot of time.
  • Ensure employees take adequate breaks.

And more. 

Gaining insights into how employees manage their time might provide valuable information about why they are feeling burnt out. It can help you create workable schedules and prevent employee burnout without losing productivity or quality of work. 

The best part?

Time Doctor provides managers with the Work Life Balance Widget that can help detect and prevent employee burnout before it occurs.

With this widget, managers can find out which employees are working:

  • More hours than necessary every day.
  • Too many extra shifts.
  • Later than other co-workers.
  • Over the weekends.

Understanding these work metrics can help managers understand work trends of employees. They can then intervene and set clear expectations regarding work hours. These steps can greatly reduce the risk of burnout. 

Take a look at this guide of the Work Life Balance Widget to learn more about effectively managing burnout. 

Want to learn more about employee burnout management? Take a look at our guide on what causes employee burnout and how to control it

Now let’s go through frequently asked questions about employee burnout.

2 FAQs about employee burnout 

Here are the answers to some of the most common queries about chronic workplace stress and burnout. 

1. What are some common causes of employee burnout?

Understanding the causes of burnout can help managers take precautionary measures right from the start. 

Some of the leading causes of work burnout include:

  • Unclear expectations. 
  • Heavy workload. 
  • A toxic work environment.
  • Physical and emotional exhaustion.
  • Being micromanaged. 
  • Lack of support from managers and co-workers. 
  • Unfair treatment from higher management. 

As a manager, you should aim to minimize these causes in the workplace to halt unnecessary burnout. 

2. How can managers create a workplace that prevents burnout?

The work environment can easily become a risk factor that creates burnout and chronic stress. 

To prevent that, you should:

  • Create a workplace that acknowledges that burnout can happen. Ask HR leaders to have an open dialogue with employees about work related stress, mental health, and workload to prevent occurrences of burnout.
  • Communicate how employees can deal with chronic stress, such as maintaining a healthy worklife balance, meditation, and self-care in their personal life. Consider setting up a wellness program for employees who are struggling.  
  • Ensure that your employees feel heard by encouraging them to see HR leaders or visit a healthcare professional like a psychologist to maintain good mental health. 

A supportive workplace that openly acknowledges burnout and sets clear expectations will improve employee morale. 

This kind of open and friendly company culture can foster healthy and happy employees. 

Wrapping up

It’s important that managers and leaders pay attention to the behaviors and needs of their employees in the workplace. You should look out for burnout signs like disengagement, increased absenteeism, and low productivity to identify employees who are struggling.

Once you properly understand the signs of burnout you can take action and help your employees get back on their feet. 

Creating a healthy company culture by implementing productivity software like Time Doctor is a good start. 

So, why not try out Time Doctor’s 14-day free trial to experience its benefits yourself?

Time Doctor - Request a Demo

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