How Managers Can Combat Burnout In The Workplace

Woman looking stressed at computer due to high levels of burnout in the workplace

As many as 76% of employees experience burnout in the workplace, making it a common issue in most businesses and organisations.

Data from AXA UK and CEBR found that stress, burnout, and mental ill health cost the economy £28bn in 2022, largely due to the loss of working days (23.3m). Currently, many businesses are experiencing an increasing number of issues associated with employee wellbeing, due to growing pressures associated with economic uncertainties and the cost-of-living crisis.

Combatting stress and burnout in the workplace has never been more vital for supporting functioning business operations, development and growth.

What is burnout in the workplace?

Burnout in employees is an “occupational phenomenon” in which high levels of stress result in physical and emotional exhaustion. Often burnout is caused by prolonged and excessive mental, emotional, and physical stress.

Whilst such incidences mainly refer to the condition of burnout in the workplace, increased stress levels in someone’s personal life, such as moving homes, divorce, bereavement, or money troubles can also contribute to a decline in their wellbeing.

Why should employers act to avoid burnout in employees?

Managers need to prioritise reducing burnout in the workplace for many key business reasons, not just as a measure to improve employee wellbeing.

Employee burnout leads to:

  • Increased sick leave (51% of work-related illnesses are due to poor mental health)
  • High employee turnover (employees who are burnt out are 2.6x more likely to resign)

The physical and mental exhaustion, which is common with burnout, also leads to lower productivity at work. Chronic burnout in a company can bring businesses to a standstill.

What are the signs of burnout in employees?

Individuals feeling drained, helpless, trapped, or detached from others can all be symptoms of burnout. However, burnout can manifest itself in several ways and may not be easily spotted by management. For managers, these signs of burnout in employees might be visible:

  • Higher than normal levels of mistakes
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of participation in the workplace
  • Negative or apathetic attitude towards work
  • Physical signs of overtiredness
  • Slower pace and inability to deliver on promises and deadlines

How to prevent employee burnout

Avoiding burnout in the workplace is not easy, with stress and anxiety often very common among employees. Some might think that managing stress is an individual’s problem to be addressed. However, there are steps and actions managers can take to mitigate an environment that unnecessarily adds stress to their employees.

  • Encourage employees to take regular breaks

Firstly, burnout in employees can happen when they feel that they do not have time to rest. Time away from work can be encouraged by managers ensuring their employees take their full holiday allowance and refrain from working extensively long hours or during holidays / weekends.

Employees who have sufficient breaks from work, will be able to manage their stress levels easier and have better work-life balance.

  • Expand wellness programmes

Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) can help support employees through issues they may be facing. Many offer free short-term counselling or provide helplines and charities employees can go to for support. Consequently, companies that have Employee Assistance Programmes within their benefits arsenal can signpost it to employees who may be struggling. This could help individuals avoid burnout in the workplace. Additionally, it is a great preventative measure to stop issues from spiralling.

  • Create a culture of prioritising mental health

Company culture is often created at the top. Particularly unhealthy work practices can be easily repeated and set deeply within the company culture. This can make it difficult to correct. However, if management leads from the top, making a point of taking their full annual leave, utilising sick and family leave when appropriate, not evidently working outside of working hours (by sending internal emails), it can help to encourage employees throughout a business’s structure to do the same.

According to a Deloitte study, 40% of respondents would feel more comfortable taking leave if their managers did too. Too often junior employees copy management behaviour to prove themselves as good employees. However, having a culture of high stress with no breaks or work-life balance can perpetuate burnout in the workplace.

  • Have regular 1:1 meetings

Often burnout in employees is the result of prolonged and unmanaged stress. With regular meetings, it can be easier for managers to spot signs of increased stress in their employees. Doing this makes it possible to offer preventative support, either through reassessing workloads or signposting support through EAPs to employees before stress turns to burnout.

For businesses that have hybrid or remote workforces, this can be particularly important as there are less points of contact between employees and managers. Regular meetings also gives employees opportunities to let their managers know if they need additional support.

  • Review company structure

Ensuring the company is well structured and streamlined is key to combatting burnout in the workplace. Consistently reviewing and managing a workforce to make sure no department is overstretched due to a personnel shortage, will limit inordinate amounts of stress (something which can be helped by an RPO provider or MSP). Companies that are consistently lacking in personnel to cover the work needed, will find their employees experiencing high levels of stress and burnout as they have too many responsibilities and pressures.

  • Provide training for all line managers

For any attempt to prevent or combat burnout in the workplace, it is crucial to make sure that all line managers know the signs and symptoms to look out for. Due to line managers spending the most time with their employees, they are in the best position to spot any changes in behaviour. This way support can be tailored to each individual employee.


VIQU is an IT recruitment agency that can help you hire great technical professionals for the skills you need in your business. Contact us for help and advice in improving your talent acquisition processes.

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