How to Mitigate Employee Burnout

Burnt out employee at computer

Employee engagement is a key influencer of your business’ success. There are various approaches you as a business leader can take to ensure your workers are fully connected with your company. Among the most important of these is to demonstrate care for their wellness. Unfortunately, this appears to be a rarity. A recent study found that less than a quarter of U.S. employees feel their employer cares about their wellbeing.

One of the most prevalent consequences of a lack of care for worker wellbeing is burnout. Too many businesses are setting expectations for performance that take higher priority than worker wellness. The result being that workers become physically, psychologically, and emotionally overstretched. Certainly there’s a need to make sure your company’s targets are met. But when this comes at the expense of worker health, you’re likely to experience greater absenteeism, drops in engagement, and high turnover

Let’s dig a little deeper into the subject of burnout. What do you need to know about it and how can your company be most effective in mitigating it?

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a more complex condition than many business leaders realize. It’s not just a simple matter of your workers becoming tired due to the demands of their role. Its primary symptom is an overwhelming sense of genuine exhaustion. On a physical level, your employees may feel varying states of fatigue, though this can also be accompanied by headaches, loss of appetite, and disrupted sleep patterns. Psychologically speaking, the mental exhaustion often appears similarly to severe depression.

However, part of the issue with burnout is that employees can feel trapped in a relentless cycle. From a mental health standpoint, their burnout is tied to the environment and operational processes of your workplace. As such, no matter how much extra sleep or rest they get during evenings and weekends, they’re still returning every shift to the trigger of their burnout symptoms. Indeed, their exhaustion may be compounded by a sense of worthlessness because they aren’t able to perform as well as they used to due to their experience of burnout. 

This is why those living with burnout tend to resign or take long periods of absence. Their employers don’t make changes to the toxic surroundings of the workplace, so they have little choice but to separate from it. It is, therefore, vital you make focused and regular efforts to prevent and mitigate burnout. You’ll also find this has the added benefit of demonstrating to your workers that you care about their wellness, which can bolster overall engagement.

Learn About Burnout in Your Organization

As with any other aspect of your business, you can’t act effectively against burnout without reliable data. The best way to approach this is through utilizing employee surveys. After all, you’re unlikely to be able to determine employees are living with burnout simply by your observations. Indeed, the transition from employees being simply tired to being so exhausted they can’t get out of bed is often very swift. By the time you take action, it may be too late. Not to mention that the early symptoms of burnout can be quite subjective. As such, gaining insights directly from workers is essential. 

However, it can be difficult to know precisely what information can suggest burnout is a feature of your workforce and the extent to which it’s an issue. This is why Workify’s Employee Burnout surveys are designed based on insights from in-depth research into the subject and backed by experienced psychologists. We’ve utilized research, energy, and expertise to build our pulse surveys around gaining the information that provides you with the most relevant and actionable data.

What Do You Need to Measure?

Employee burnout is usually the result of a combination of various factors. As such, the pulse survey you use must capture data on the presence of these elements. The research we’ve conducted into the issue shows that the metrics you need to perform effective analysis are tied to psychological, physical, and organizational aspects of an employee’s role. Alongside this, there is also a need to measure the impact of the demands of the job and availability of sufficient resources on workers.

Therefore, Workify’s Employee Burnout surveys are focused on gaining data in the following categories:

  • Personal Resources

This includes measuring employees’ sense of optimism, self efficacy, resilience, and self-esteem. 

  • Burnout

Factors the surveys are designed to capture in this regard include employees’ experiences of exhaustion, disengagement, overextension, and ineffectiveness. 

  • Job Demands

The areas of focus here include workers’ perspectives on work pressure, mental demands, and physical demands.

  • Job Resources

The elements our research has determined make a difference here include employees’ perspectives on autonomy, performance, development, social support, and career growth.

What Types of Questions Should You Ask?

Due to the subjective nature of burnout, you may think it’s wise to utilize qualitative survey questions that give employees space to describe their experiences. However, this doesn’t lend itself to the swift analysis most businesses need to act quickly and effectively. As such, Workify’s Employee Burnout surveys are populated with quantitative questions that ask employees whether they agree or disagree with a statement. 

You’ll also find that this approach gives workers clarity on the subject that empowers them to answer effectively. There’s no ambiguity about the questions or how they’re supposed to reply. This tends to make the survey less of a burden on employees’ time and energy, too.

Workify Employee Burnout survey questions don’t simply ask questions like “are you experiencing burnout?”, though. There are multiple ways a worker might interpret this and it doesn’t really give useful insights. Rather, the questions are built around the aforementioned elements our research shows you need to measure. 

Some examples of the statement-based questions here include:

Personal Resources

  1. I am proud of the work I do at [COMPANY].
  2. I am excited about my future at [COMPANY].
  3. I believe I can succeed at almost anything I set my mind to.

Burnout

  1. I need to overlook my own personal needs to fulfill work demands.
  2. I feel I am able to perform my best work at [COMPANY].
  3. When I work, I usually feel energized.

Job Demands

  1. I use personal time in order to meet the demands of my job.
  2. I’m satisfied with my current work/life balance.
  3. I enjoy my current working environment.

Job Resources 

  1. My manager takes the time to work with me on my development.
  2. I feel I am a valued member of my team.
  3. [COMPANY] offers me opportunities to grow and develop my skills.

Take Action

The data you acquire from your employee burnout surveys should provide you with clear areas of focus. When you note consistent points of concern, this may mean you need to make changes across the whole company. More sporadic responses could suggest that specific roles or departments experience greater potential for burnout than others.

From here you can work with employees and department heads to take the most relevant action within your company. This could include implementing incentives or better employee development programs where workers are feeling underappreciated or lacking support. It could be adopting a more flexible working approach or more paid time off if responses indicate a poor work/life balance. 

It’s important to be visible in your commitment to take action here. Communicate with your workers about the results of the survey, your intentions for changes, and keep them updated on progress. When employees see that you’re committed to making meaningful changes that improve their well-being, this in itself can impact employee engagement. Indeed, it can encourage them to be forthcoming in making further suggestions for improvements to direct line managers or other feedback channels.

Keep Seeking Feedback

Performing a single employee burnout survey usually isn’t sufficient to mitigate the potential for disruption. It’s important to remember that any changes within the workplace can have an impact on the tendency for burnout to arise. This could be time crunched projects, shifts in the team structure, even new managers that apply more pressure on their teams. As such, you need to make gaining insights a regular part of your calendar.

Alongside issuing surveys, it can also be wise to make burnout conversations a part of one-on-one employee meetings. It can be difficult for employees to talk about their mental and physical health, particularly as many workplaces have a toxic relationship with how health relates to performance. Leadership and human resources (HR) personnel should work to destigmatize this issue as much as possible. By making mental health part of regular workplace conversations and even leaders sharing their own challenges with workplace stress, there are opportunities for everyone to benefit.

Wrapping Up

Employee burnout has become a prevalent feature of the business landscape. When it is left unaddressed, there is a significant chance for disruption to workers health, engagement, and turnover. Therefore, it’s vital to make efforts to understand the extent to which burnout is a feature in your company. Issuing pulse surveys designed to measure elements that contribute to employee burnout are among the most powerful tools at your disposal. This helps you to swiftly identify areas of concern and take the most relevant and impactful actions. 

If you’d like to learn more about how you can utilize Workify Employee Burnout surveys to address the challenges your business faces, you can download our PDF or book a free 30 minute employee engagement consultation.