What causes employee burnout and how to control it?

by Liam Martin
employee burnout

Employee productivity is crucial to provide quality services and grow your business. 

However, employee burnout can often be a barrier to that.

Employee burnout results from chronic workplace stress and has led to a loss of billions of dollars for businesses across the globe.

Fortunately, there are several methods you can use to prevent, or at least reduce, employee burnout in the workplace.

In this article, we’ll talk about employee burnout and explore its seven major causes. We’ll also discuss seven ways to control burnout.

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Let’s dive in.

What is employee burnout?

Burnout is a psychological condition in which the employee experiences physical and emotional exhaustion due to chronic stress. Burnout has become so prominent that WHO (World Health Organization) categorized it as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ in 2019.

Usually, sales workers, remote workers, warehouse workers, and people working in other time-sensitive roles are more susceptible to burnout.

But irrespective of the job, employees show the same warning signs for burnout. 

Some of the typical employee burnout signs are:

  • Fatigue.
  • Insomnia.
  • Sadness.
  • Anger or irritability.
  • Loss of motivation and enthusiasm for their job.
  • Decreased productivity.
  • Increased negative outlook.
  • Increased time off and absenteeism.

According to a survey conducted by Flexjobs, 75% of workers have experienced burnout, with 40% saying they’ve experienced burnout specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Such high burnout rates can certainly impact your bottom line, and that’s why no employer should take the severity of burnout symptoms lightly. 

Now, the best way to control the employee burnout crisis is by eliminating or minimizing the factors that cause it. 

Let’s identify some of them.

7 major causes of employee burnout

Let’s look at seven common factors that contribute to burnout in workplaces:

1. Unmanageable workload

Sometimes managers tend to overburden employees, causing excessive stress and, consequently, burnout.

A Statista survey reported that heavy workloads alone lead to 39% of workplace stress, making it a significant cause of burnout. 

The prominent causes of heavy workload are:

  • Fewer employees: Having fewer employees can increase the workload for the team, leading to stress. 
  • Overburdening skilled employees: You may tend to overload skilled employees to increase the quality of work. However, this can cause burnout and reduce their productivity.
  • Overestimating the ability of software: You may have high expectations from your company’s software without considering its limitations. If it doesn’t do its job, your employees may end up doing additional work.

2. High expectations

You may set high targets for employees who are yet to develop the capabilities required to achieve them. Even though this can prompt them to work harder, they may feel demotivated by their inability to meet those expectations. 

Such thoughts can reduce job satisfaction and increase stress levels. 

Additionally, unclear or frequently changing targets and unreasonable deadlines can confuse employees about which tasks have higher priority. 

3. Unfair treatment

Unfair treatment is another cause of staff burnout. It can strain their relationship with managers and colleagues,  decreasing employee engagement. 

Some common unfair treatments in the office may include:

  • Bias: Favoring a particular employee or a group.
  • Mistreatment: Treating an employee cruelly, poorly, or unfairly.
  • Unjust policies: Having policies that discriminate against some employees.
  • Low compensation: Giving poor remuneration for the work employees do.

These factors can decrease employee satisfaction and gradually increase employee turnover rate due to burnout.

4. Strict attendance policies

An attendance policy that doesn’t consider the varying situations in an employee’s life could prompt burnout.

For example, let’s say your attendance policy emphasizes reaching the office on time. 

If you enforce it without any exceptions, it can force an employee to rush to get to work on time, risking their safety at times. 

Similarly, if your attendance policy makes it difficult for a worker to get a sick day, it may affect their health adversely, increasing the chances of burnout.

Overall, inconsiderate attendance policies can also decrease employee loyalty and cause a high turnover rate.

Want to learn how to create an employee attendance policy?

Read our in-depth guide on how to create an employee attendance policy.

5. Unsupportive work environment

Employees with supportive managers and coworkers are more likely to open up about the causes of their unproductivity. 

On the other hand, employees that have confrontational managers may keep to themselves. It can make employees feel unsafe, increasing stress and chances of workplace burnout.

However, even stressful environments can become bearable with the help of friends and co-workers. But the absence of such social support can make it difficult for anyone to flourish. 

6. Poor management of activities

Other than work, an office can also host training, meetings, team gatherings, and similar events. 

However, you must ensure that these activities don’t affect employee productivity. 

For example, let’s say your office is conducting a workshop on client interaction — which is essential for the growth of your business. To avoid disturbing employees at peak working hours, you can schedule the event at the end of the day.

Lost productivity can also be the result of working in inconvenient and inflexible shifts. Some degree of freedom to work when they need can empower employees, thereby preventing feelings of helplessness.

7. Multiple decision-makers

When an organization has too many decision-making points, employees have to engage in unimportant meetings and conference calls — leaving less time to work. 

This type of interdependence can cause time mismanagement and stress them out as they near deadlines, causing burnout.

For example, a team leader may forward leave applications to the HR professionals for approval, even though it’s a task that needs only their supervision and consent. Such workflows can distract the HR professional who could already be neck-deep in work.

7 simple ways to control employee burnout

It’s almost impossible to completely eradicate burnout as it’s the consequence of both personal and professional factors. 

However, you can control its impact and prevent it from causing long-term damage to employee productivity or job satisfaction.

Let’s look at seven ways you can manage job burnout:

1. Recognize performance issues

You can easily recognize burned-out employees by monitoring their performance

A burnt out employee will usually show a sudden dip in their performance levels. 

Once you identify a burnt out employee, you could schedule a one-on-one meeting with them to discuss its causes. Let them know how you can support them in improving their performance. Make an earnest attempt to address their work-related stressors. 

2. Provide autonomy

Employees who have some freedom are more likely to enjoy their work. With a little autonomy, they can manage tasks in ways that maximize their productivity.

For example, you can set deadlines for tasks after consulting your employees. This autonomy can reduce burnout due to impractical deadlines.

That’s why you should give your employees the freedom to work the way they want within some broad guidelines. 

3. Show appreciation

Make appreciation a part of your company culture. Your acknowledgment and appreciation can make employees feel valued and increase the retention rate.

You can show your appreciation by offering perks like:

  • Awards and bonuses.
  • Free lunch coupons.
  • Discounted vacation coupons.
  • More paid leaves.
  • More days of remote work.
  • Verbal acknowledgment of their performance.

Additionally, appreciated employees will have the emotional strength to handle work and time pressures better than unappreciated employees.

4. Leverage the power of workflow management software

The right software can undoubtedly optimize your business processes. 

However, you should also consider how it can simplify tasks and improve employee productivity before investing in the tool.

The different types of software you can use are:

  • Workforce Management Software (WFM): Manage employees’ schedules and workload.
  • Payroll software: Handle payroll services like payroll taxes, compensation, salaries, etc.
  • Accounting software: Manage your finances and automates reporting tasks.

Investing in the right software can help your employees complete tasks quicker with accuracy, enabling them to submit work before deadlines with minimum errors. 

This way, using appropriate software can reduce anxiety and prevent employee burnout.

5. Encourage non-work activities

Engaging in non-work activities like walking, watching TV, napping, etc., can help your employees take a break from work and feel rejuvenated.

You can also conduct an informal gathering, office trip, or night out to help employees relax and de-stress as a team, decreasing burnout risk. 

Additionally, you can motivate them to practice breathing exercises, yoga, or other relaxing activities to ensure employee well-being.

6. Foster a mental health friendly atmosphere

Your workplace culture should prioritize your employees’ mental health and ensure employee wellness

It’ll help cultivate a mental health friendly atmosphere so that employees suffering from emotional issues feel accepted and understood. Assimilating positive mental health practices at the workplace can reduce stress and prevent worker burnout.

Here are some ways to incorporate mental health care into your work system:

  • Develop a wellness program like EAP (Employee Assistance Program).
  • Motivate employees to talk about stress in their professional and personal life.
  • Educate employees on the signs of burnout and discuss the cause of stress.
  • Make changes in workplace policies like absence policy, mobile phone policy, etc., to increase flexibility for employees.
  • Encourage employees to go on vacations to maintain work life balance.
  • Redistribute overwhelming workload to prevent working for long hours.

Other than this, you should develop a culture where your employees feel free to talk about their emotional health without the fear of judgment.

7. Use productivity management Software 

One of the easiest methods to detect if employees are overworked and on the path to burnout is to use productivity management tools. 

A productivity management software like Time Doctor can help you guide your employees to work efficiently. This way, they won’t have to deal with piled-up tasks under time pressure.

What’s Time Doctor?

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.  

The tool has an interactive timer that helps track the time employees spend on their tasks. This way, both managers and employees can gain accurate insights into how they manage time.  

Additionally, the tool can track and show employee breaks times. Managers can schedule breaks into the timetables of employees who overwork to maintain their well-being.

Moreover, Time Doctor has a Work-Life Balance Widget that can help managers and employers detect and prevent employee burnout before it actually happens.

Using the widget, managers will be able to find out which employees are working:

  • Too many hours a day.
  • Extra shifts frequently.
  • Late hours.
  • On weekends.

If you want to try out the widget for yourself, here is a walkthrough of the Work-Life Balance Widget.

You can also use Time Doctor to track the performance of employees who are working from home due to the pandemic. Remote employees are at more risk of burnout as remote work necessitates them to handle domestic chores and office work simultaneously.

With Time Doctor, you can:

What to learn more about how to avoid employee burnout

Here are 10 additional effective burnout controlling strategies.

Wrapping up

Your employees can be vulnerable to stress due to factors like heavy workload, strict policies, harsh work environment, etc., that may be a part of some jobs. 

That’s why you need to keep an eye on them to ensure that they don’t experience burnout. 

Once you understand the causes of burnout, you can easily take the appropriate measures for burnout prevention. Use the tips we covered here to determine how you can tackle employee burnout. 

As a first measure, you can use an employee-friendly tool like Time Doctor to accurately track your employees’ time and ensure they don’t overwork themselves.

To get started, why not sign-up for Time Doctor’s 14-day free trial and experience its powers today?

View a free demo of Time Doctor

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