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Identifying and addressing employee burnout through support and communication.

Burnout is a reaction to prolonged or chronic job stress, burnout is characterised by exhaustion, cynicism and feelings of reduced professional ability. It is real enough to have a significantly negative effect on one’s physical and mental health. It can also have a negative impact on a company’s bottom line. Workplace burnout was a serious problem before the pandemic, and has grown exponentially, according to a 2021 article on

Employees are burning out for many reasons, but the main cause cited in a recent Gallup poll include not having enough time to complete their work, lack of communication and support from their manager, lack of clarity about their role or job duties and feeling like they are being treated unfairly by their boss. Not surprisingly, employees who feel strongly supported by their manager are 70% less likely to experience burnout.

What it looks like

The signs of burnout are quite similar in private and public sector organisations. You’ll see some of your team becoming more withdrawn, irritable and angry. You will also see decreased morale, apathy, decline in job performance and increased conflict between workers.

More importantly, you will see higher rates of absenteeism due to mental health concerns (anxiety and depression), insomnia and increased misuse of alcohol and other substances. That’s why turnover rates can be so high in the workplace, and why it can be increasingly difficult to recruit and retain quality staff.

What employers can do

If you want to reduce burnout in your workplace, leaders should take the following steps:

  • Have open and honest conversations with your employees about their wellness.
  • Provide clear work expectations and ensure they are understood.
  • Provide ongoing training to maintain competency.
  • Be respectful and empathetic, and acknowledge employee contributions.
  • Enforce reasonable work hours and realistic work expectations.
  • Foster culture of mutual support and respect in the workplace.
  • Support physical activity and taking breaks throughout the workday.

Burnout is a reversible condition. If you want to support employees who may be struggling, be empathetic and understanding, listen to their concerns and take immediate action to support them. This may mean adopting changes to the work environment, providing flexible work schedules and helping employees return to work after being on leave. Employers should also help their teams learn stress management techniques and healthy lifestyle practices that can help them cope and be more resilient in their lives.

Employers tip: Display empathy.

Remember, 58% of workers trust strangers more than their bosses – Harvard Business Review