Addressing workplace burnout
In our recent blog about the major occupational health trends for 2019, we highlighted the need for businesses to address the growing concern of workplace burnout.
As the desire to find a healthy work/life balance continues and more pressure, whether real or perceived, is being experienced by employees across the UK, we think that addressing burnout in the workplace will become an important focus for organisations.
This is especially important, given that the World Health Organisation has now added workplace burnout to its International Classification of Diseases.
As part of our Choices for Wellbeing series, we take a look at how businesses can identify and overcome workplace burnout, allowing managers to support the health and wellbeing of staff more effectively and reduce the risk of staff absence.
What is workplace burnout?
Workplace burnout is a feeling of emotional and physical exhaustion due to work.
While it’s not considered a mental illness, it’s certainly a mental health issue and should be taken seriously.
It can happen when someone works in an emotionally or physically draining job for a long time, or because they are experiencing long-term stress in the workplace.
What causes workplace burnout?
The root cause of workplace burnout can be found in any number of factors.
It could be due to an employee expecting too much of themselves or feeling disappointed with the work they are doing.
This can make them feel inadequate, incompetent or underappreciated. They might think that unreasonable demands are being expected from them or the role they are in does not fit their skills and talents.
What are the symptoms of workplace burnout?
It’s important to be able to recognise the symptoms of workplace burnout before they become too serious.
An employee experiencing burnout is likely to:
- Feel that every day at work is a bad day
- Feel exhausted constantly
- Have no interest in work or feel down as a result of it
- Have less patience with others
- Be negative and sarcastic with work colleagues
- Feel hopeless about their life at work
- Have lower levels of motivation
- Be less efficient in the workplace
- Experience headaches
In extreme cases, people might also engage in unhealthy behaviours, such as excessive drinking or other addictive behaviours.
The majority of people experiencing burnout will remain at work. This means that managers should be able to identify any changes in attitude and personality.
However, employees may not realise that they are dealing with burnout and could attribute their feelings to some other factor or put it down to ‘feeling stressed’.
It’s important to define the distinction between feeling stressful and experiencing burnout.
Stress usually manifests itself as feelings of anxiousness, while burnout is more commonly associated with feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or apathy.
Preventing workplace burnout
Here are a few strategies that management can implement to prevent employees from experiencing burnout:
- Set reasonable and realistic expectations for all employees and confirm that they understand those expectations
- Ensure employees have the necessary resources to meet these expectations
- Provide ongoing training for managers to recognise the symptoms of burnout
- Offer workplace counselling services to staff
- Help employees understand their value to the organisation
- Implement reasonable work hours
- Assess the workload of those who remain working beyond normal business hours
- Encourage social support and respect amongst staff
- Support physical activity throughout the working day
- Encourage regular breaks away from the work environment
Supporting recovery from workplace burnout
If a member of staff is already experiencing the symptoms of workplace burnout, it’s important to address the causes and offer support.
Burnout won’t go away on its own. In fact, unless someone addresses the issues that are causing it, the symptoms will only get worse.
If both the employer and employee ignore workplace burnout, it will only cause more harm further down the line.
It’s really important that an employee suffering from burnout identifies why they are experiencing it.
In some situations, this will be obvious. Other times, it can take more time to uncover the specific reasons behind it.
The support of occupational health and workplace counselling specialists can help to identify any issues they might be facing and offer potential solutions or changes that could be made.
Those experiencing burnout may have neglected some of the basics of good health and wellbeing. They’ll need help to improve their physical as well as mental health.
Encouraging healthy eating in the workplace and plenty of exercise is vital. You should also advise them about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.