Blog Wellbeing

Signs of burnout – and how to help managers spot them

Over 70% of employees are experiencing burnout. Mental and physical exhaustion; low productivity; and general risk to health. So businesses must take it seriously. But with more people working remotely, it's harder to spot the signs of burnout. So HR teams must give managers tools to be proactive. And prevent burnout causing organisational chaos.

Burnout doesn’t just happen. It develops over time. And it isn’t always obvious. But its impact on both businesses and individuals is huge. As more organisations adopt hybrid working, non-verbal cues and casual observations disappear. So managers need help seeing the symptoms before they can take action. As their HR partner, you're best placed to aid their learning. So here’s what you need to know:

  • Signs of burnout and how to spot them
  • Consequences of ignoring the signs of burnout
  • How weekly check-ins help prevent burnout

Signs of burnout – what they are and how to spot them

Burnout's a syndrome caused by failure to manage chronic workplace stress. People who experience burnout are exhausted, overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands. But for hybrid workers, hiding the signs of burnout is relatively easy.

With more people working from home, at least sometimes, headaches and stomach aches go unnoticed. Presenteeism means attendance on team calls. But no-one sees you curled on the sofa immediately after. Yet there are symptoms managers can spot, even from a distance:

Exhaustion

Your once-reliable employee is now regularly running late. In the office, to online meetings. Everything seems a chore. When you’re mentally and physically exhausted, even getting out of bed is a challenge. Get managers to look less for lateness. But instead focus on excuses. Awkward jokes about lack of sleep. Dodgy wi-fi connections and laptop updates that stop on-time access to video calls. They're all signs something's wrong. So talk about it now before they go off sick.

Cynicism

Easy to hide in the hybrid world. Just switch off the video to roll your eyes. And shout at the screen when you’re home alone. But negative Nigel will start to show through. Dismissing ideas and distancing himself from the team. Emails are shorter. And responses border on rude as patience and energy wane. You might even get a minor complaint. From him or his co-workers. So don't ignore it. Address the concerns and understand the causes.

Feeling a lack of accomplishment

Accuracy slips. Concentration reduces. And taking pride in delivery vanishes. But long hours can hide these. So managers should check time stamps on emails. Late-night deliveries scream struggling to cope. You’ll see signs of forgetfulness and repeated choruses of ‘sorry, I meant to send that’. As creative ideas drop and performance falls, get managers looking for unusual slips in delivery. Tell-tale signs that someone's struggling.

Consequences of ignoring the signs of burnout

Burnout isn’t unique to a person. It’s an organisational issue. And its effects care far-reaching (Gartner):

  • Higher employee turnover – when experiencing burnout, employees are 2.6 times more likely to job hunt (Gallup). Spot the signs early. Save yourself the recruitment and training costs.
  • Lower productivity – lack of concentration, satisfaction and sleep all contribute to less getting done. The global pandemic's made it all too easy to blame conflicts with home-life for dropping performance. But burnout causes this to be more consistent. Stop accepting excuses and instead look to the underlying reasons.
  • Lower employee engagement – or in many cases active disengagement. Burnout impacts company culture, focus and creativity. Bringing them all down and limiting innovation. If teams are starting to clock watch and bicker, look for other signs of burnout. Chances are they're all feeling the pressure.
  • Increased absenteeism – with regular headaches and feelings of stress, employees start to take time off. Before that, presenteeism is king, at least for video calls. For many, absence is the final symptom. So i's essential you look for the warning signs long before this happens.

Of course, there is another risk. That you’re reading the list and nodding along. And you won’t be alone.

Many of your managers will too. More people are experiencing uncertainty and anxiety in the workplace. It's what's contributing to such high reports of burnout symptoms. But that’s exactly why companies can’t be complacent. Managers must identify the signs of burnout for themselves and their teams. And organisations need support processes to make that happen at all levels.

How Weekly check-ins help prevent burnout

Many organisations use check-in meetings. Initially designed to replace formal annual appraisals. Now they often also support employee well-being. And they're far more effective when managers have great relationships with their teams.

Use your check-ins well and they help prevent burnout. Having a regular connection allows managers to spot signs of burnout before they escalate. Trend reports help managers and HR identify when things are starting to slip. You can then create action plans to provide support and relieve the pressure.

But you can't just rely on managers. Issues of burnout come from the top. Stress and anxiety must stop being taboo. As HR, it's your job to drive a transparent culture and encourage senior leadership to be open. People must feel able to freely discuss factors contributing to burnout. Then you can supplement this. Not just with Employee Assistance Programmes, but with genuine action. Goals must be realistic. Change well communicated. And appropriate support offered at all stages.

Once you reach reports of increased absence, burnout's already gone too far. Instead, review your check-ins. Make sure they’re happening. Provide guidance and encouragement where they're not. After all, great conversations are the best tools to identify signs of burnout and stop them from damaging your teams.

If you're thinking about introducing weekly check-ins, sign up for a demo today.  We'll show you how Weekly10 can drive the right behaviours. And help managers keep on top of early warning signs of burnout. For themselves, their teams, and the business.