Richard Holmes from Westfield Health outlines how employers can recognise the signs of burnout and what they can do to prevent it.
Research shows that employee burnout has steadily risen by 17% since 2020. People no longer want the archaic working model, and they’re actively looking for roles where workplace wellbeing is prioritised and more flexibility exists because they’re putting their mental health first. Research from Deloitte has revealed the cost of poor mental health to UK employers has increased to a staggering £56 billion. A significant part of the business cost is due to reduced productivity caused by employees who are unwell but still come to work, known as presenteeism.
Burnout goes way beyond a buzzword. It is impacting businesses on an unprecedented level. Especially financially, absence due to poor mental health costs employers twice as much as that relating to physical health. A recent report from Westfield Health found that 59% of respondents said their mental health was driving them to find a new role. Striking the balance between a healthy, happy workplace and lifestyle for employees has never been more important for businesses.
People who are finding their work and the workplace difficult to manage may be at a higher risk of burnout. Burnout can leave them feeling empty, worn out and unable to handle the weight of life’s obligations. While burnout is not deemed a psychological disorder, it should still be taken seriously.
1. Cynical disposition
No one loves their job 100% of the time, and some cynicism is natural. However, if someone is displaying an increased negative outlook both in terms of the work itself and towards their colleagues, this could be a sign of burnout, especially if their normal disposition is usually upbeat. It could be that they’re displaying signs of more irritability than usual or are unable to accept feedback.
2. Performance and productivity
Employees suffering from burnout may have been less engaged with their work than normal. They may feel as though they can’t get anything right and show signs of frustration. Many people feel unable to manage their frustration and stress levels at work, leading to decreased productivity and, in turn, a poorer quality of work.
When an employee is experiencing burnout, it can be very difficult for them to feel as though they are part of a team, especially if their workload is unmanageable. Isolation may set in, and they may feel as though they cannot participate in company activities because that will impact their work, leaving them experiencing more stress and anxiety. The longer this is the case, the more detached from the business they will feel.
Knowing which work-related pressures trigger burnout and what to avoid as a manager can be most helpful.
Here are some of the key causes of burnout:
– Lack of support from their manager and team
– Uncertain or excessive expectations
– A toxic environment
– Feeling unvalued
– Pressure to be online/available constantly
– Being micromanaged
The first thing you should do is be aware and acknowledge that your employee is struggling. Start the conversation – they may well feel too stressed or anxious to ask for help, so it’s up to you to look out for the signs and to offer help and support. Be empathetic, as feeling understood at work is crucial in their recovery. Don’t vilify them for not being able to cope; instead, listen to what they need and recognise the areas where you can help immediately alleviate some of the pressure.
Here are some of the practical ways to offer support:
1. Check in with them, but not in a ‘monitoring’ sense, as that will only add to their stress. Drop them a line to see how they are and if they can manage their workload daily.
2. If your company has mental health support services, ensure they know how to access them and that they are available to help as well.
3. Encourage them to take some time off to relax and reset. Be flexible with their working hours to allow for their current needs.
4. Delegate their workload across the team to take some of the pressure off. Avoid overwhelming them with projects you know will be highly stressful.
5. Be human. Yes, it’s work but remember we can all experience burnout at any level. They need to feel like a person, not a number.
Naturally, avoiding the causes and circumstances that could lead to burnout is the greatest way to safeguard employees’ mental health. Although doing so might necessitate a total change in your business’ culture, it is vital to foster a nurturing and supportive workplace for your team.
Investing in your people is paramount to your company’s success and profitability. Research shows that on average, every £1 you invest in employee well-being, sees a £5.30 return. A team who feels valued and supported with a work-life and wellbeing balance is a happier team and, in return, will be far less likely to leave. So, if you’ve noticed burnout amongst your colleagues, maybe it’s time for a culture shift.
*Richard Holmes is Director of Wellbeing at Westfield Health.