By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Burnout is often thought to be a personal problem, one that can be solved by yoga and learning to say ‘no’. While the self-help list to prevent burnout is quite long, there is now mounting evidence that applying self-help band-aid solutions to this evolving workplace phenomenon is only making it worse. 

The World Health Organization now recognizes ‘burnout’ officially as an occupational phenomenon, not a medical condition. With this, the onus of building a burnout strategy now rests entirely with the organization, not only on the individual.

But to create a burnout strategy, organizations have to tune in and turn towards their employees with greater empathy and first learn to recognize the signs of burnout. After all, prevention is always better than the cure. 

Burnout can manifest differently with different people. While certain markers can be generalized such as decreased productivity, lower quality of work, sometimes uncharacteristic disengagement can also signal employee burnout. 

Here are some of the signs that employee burnout is round the bend 

Downhill productivity

One of the biggest markers of burnout for all employees across the board is a productivity southward-moving productivity graph. Decreased productivity at work, missed deadlines, or increasing client complaints can be seen as laziness at work that might just need a swift kick in the pants. However, typically the issue runs deeper. 

In today’s work environment, employees are unduly stressed due to the uncertainty brought about by the pandemic. The lines dividing work and life are blurring and most employees are still conflicted on identifying how to show that they are delivering value. Fears about professional progress worry every employee. The new employees can especially struggle to navigate the challenges of the new hybrid workplace with the dexterity of others. All these factors can lead employees to feel overwhelmed and stressed and manifest as burnout at work.

So, what’s the solution? Employees need greater clarity on work expectations and behaviors to overcome feelings of uncertainty. The organization has to respond to employee behaviors with more empathy so that employees can approach their managers without fear. They also can seek the help of peer coaches to navigate the challenges impeding productivity and causing them to feel overwhelmed and make sure that they address issues before they become bigger and lead to burnout.  

Obvious exhaustion

While employees will feel tired from time to time but when fatigue sets in and becomes obvious, it means that burnout is cooking on the stove. 

If you find your employees perennially tired and taking more sick leaves than usual, and worn-out expressions, moodiness, and irritability become visible emotions, then these are dead giveaway signs of burnout at work. Missing team spirit can also be a warning sign of employee burnout.

So, what’s the solution? Organizations need to help managers, team members, and leaders build their emotional quotient to identify signs of exhaustion that manifest physically and emotionally. This needs people to become more focused on driving mental health in the workplace, removing biases associated with exhaustion, and developing an environment where employees can reach out to peer coaches to help them with overwhelming situations.  

Low levels of engagement 

When employees, especially high-performing employees, stop taking an active interest in work, do not pay attention to the quality of work, and are sitting under a mountain of unfinished assignments and tasks it is time to pay heed. All is not well. 

All these attributes signal a lack of engagement that can lead to employee burnout. Organizations need to thereby have their identifiers in place to point out burnout before the smoldering embers become a raging fire. It is important to pay attention to the star performers and their behaviors since they are under more pressure to perform and retain their rock-star status in the hybrid work environment. 

So, what’s the solution? Engaging with high potential employees to identify their challenges proactively, roping them into the decision-making process, giving them more responsibilities or more challenging projects, or helping them become more visible by helping them develop better collaboration skills can contribute to greater engagement and consequently prevent burnout.  

Don’t ignore manager and leadership burnout 

While missed deadlines and pending assignments are signs of employee burnout at work, cynicism, criticism, and anger, dejection, and disinterest in managers show that burnout has dug in its claws there as well. 

Managers and leaders are the people who must inspire others, complement idealism with innovation, and be resilient in the face of challenges. When they find it challenging to inspire, remain future-focused, and do not find the enthusiasm to marry innovation with consistency, then there is a concern of burnout. Sudden withdrawal from conversations and a lack of interest in fostering work relationships can also signal burnout in managers and leaders.   These times are intensely challenging as managers can experience a lack of autonomy and agency. The feelings of lacking control, managing teams remotely, and being solely responsible for their teams’ performance and mental health can cause managers to feel overwhelmed as well. Additionally, the social conditioning and unconscious biases make them feel that talking about mental health in the workplace makes them weak, adding to burnout. 

So, what’s the solution? It is important to identify signs of stress and dysregulation amongst managers and leaders. Behaviors such as intolerance and angry outbursts, unreasonable deadlines for team members, unhappy team members, and lack of motivation in everyday activities indicate managers and leaders need to pay attention to their mental health at work and seek help on how to manage burnout. Peer coaching provides the avenue for managers and organizational leaders to discuss and address their challenges. It gives them a non-judgmental space to work out their difficulties and helps them identify ways to navigate issues that can impact their personal and professional well-being.

In Conclusion 

Organizations have to now focus on driving good mental health in the workplace by removing archaic biases that prevent employees from seeking help on how to manage burnout. It is essential to have the right mechanisms in place such as a strong peer coaching network that can help employees figure out that they are experiencing burnout and identify ways of how not to burn out at work. 

Peer coaches can provide immense support to new employees as well as established leaders. It can help them move ahead in their professional careers with peace of mind and resilience. A healthy peer coaching network helps in driving mental health in the workplace. It is an effective strategy to remove unconscious bias associated with help-seeking behaviors and increase empathy and emotional resilience. 

Connect with us to see how to design, plan and implement a peer coaching program powered by AI to identify and cull burnout in your organization today.