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Can you spot the signs of burnout in your team? Burnout is a response to chronic workplace stress, and it’s becoming ever more prevalent. Many cite a lack of separation between work and life as the cause. People are more connected than ever in modern workplaces, with work technologies increasingly creeping onto personal devices, and home offices blurring the line between work and life even further. 

As an employer, it’s important to understand the many and varied causes of burnout, and work to reduce them in your workplace. It’s even more important that you can spot signs of burnout in individuals and plan to negate them. Here are the top ways to tell if your workforce are heading for burnout – and what to do about them.

1. Productivity is plummeting

A company or team-wide drop in productivity is a huge red flag for burnout. This could manifest as consistently missed sales targets, a lack of new ideas, or a growing culture of unmet deadlines. Whatever it looks like, when productivity drops, it’s a good indication people are less engaged and motivated than previously, and it’s likely that chronic stress or lack of direction are the cause.

Ensure you’re setting meaningful SMART objectives across all teams. Clear communication of expectations appropriately manages workloads and gives better visibility on resourcing. 

Regular one to ones encourage open dialogue with management, so your people can communicate their concerns and highlight any blockers to success they’re facing. Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions: Are you feeling engaged and motivated? Is your role appropriately resourced? The answers may throw up problems and concerns that take additional workload to solve, but the alternative is a continued erosion of productivity and a rise in undesirable churn.

2. Sentiment is poor, and teamwork is out the window

Negative behavioural changes and shifting dynamics are a strong indicator that people are struggling. It may be that they simply no longer have the desire to foster workplace relationships. It could be that exhaustion is leading to frayed nerves and an absence of patience. If you’re noticing more friction and cynicism in your team, examine whether burnout is the cause.

The best way to understand the issues facing your team is to ask them. Run anonymous employee surveys, encourage open questions at town hall meetings, and task managers with understanding team sentiment. Importantly: act on the feedback. 

Transparency is key. Acknowledging where you’ve been getting things wrong – and how you’re going to rectify them – is crucial to avoiding long-term damage from burnout. You’ll see critical team interactions improve too!

3. Absenteeism is high

Lost productivity through work related stress costs the global economy $47.6 billion annually. Those absences might not always be logged as stress. Not only do people falsify the reason to avoid the stigma or potential fallout of taking time for burnout, exhaustion also manifests in other illnesses, like migraines and gut problems. If your sickness absence has shot up, consider if your culture is encouraging burnout. 

Developing self-aware, resilient teams significantly reduces the chance of absence from burnout. Working with coaches to focus on resilience, your people become empowered to understand their stress triggers. They’ll begin to overcome adversity in a less emotional, all-consuming way. Investing in your people is an investment in your business; building teams with healthy stress responses will benefit the overall health of your business and boost productivity.

It’s impossible to avoid all potential causes of burnout in the workplace; shifting priorities and pressures of growth will always create stressors. As an employer, your job is to minimize their impact on your people and spot the signs of burnout. Taking measures to protect your teams is what differentiates you as an employer, and keeps your people at their best, driving your success..

Find out more about how to spot the signs of burnout, and how developing a coaching culture in your organization reduces burnout. Or get in touch to discuss your people strategy today.

Only 4% of working people never feel burnt out. It sounds shocking, but considering burnout costs global businesses $322 billion annually, an impact on 96% of people at least sometimes makes sense.  

It’s a huge topic right now, but what actually is burnout?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO):

“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.”

Burnout is so much deeper than feeling exhausted or stressed at the end of a project or a long week. Chronic workplace stress is often institutional, becoming widespread in organizations that promote ‘hustle culture’, unnecessarily long hours, and presenteeism. 

There’s a huge gap between working to get the job done and ‘working’ to be seen. If you want to avoid the burnout epidemic, the first thing that needs to go is inflexibility. 

How can you ensure you’re not promoting presenteeism?

Practice what you preach

A major cause of burnout is a perceived lack of time to do everything; the impossibility of working a full time job and managing your personal life. Too many CEOs talk about work/life balance in their company values, citing ‘flexible’ working in job ads, yet visibly work late nights and weekends, subconsciously applying pressure to their teams to do the same. 

Senior leaders should embed a culture of flexibility by loudly leaving the office early once in a while, talking about attending your kids’ sports day, and scheduling any non-urgent emails written out of hours to send the next morning. That way, when your people next have a personal errand, they know they’re allowed to run it without judgment. 

Encourage taking leave (and sick days!)

Taking breaks is a good thing, and needs to be encouraged. When people don’t take vacation days, stress levels rise and innovation and productivity drop.  It’s another huge cause of burnout. 

The same goes for sick days. It’s one thing carrying on with a cold, but when a major illness hits, rest and recuperation is necessary to recover. Encouraging your team to take sick days isn’t just ‘the right thing to do’, it actually gets them back to full health – and full productivity – far quicker than if they try and power through.

People avoid taking time off for a number of reasons, most of them cultural. Feeling you’ll fall behind, not trusting colleagues to pick up the slack, or expecting a poor reception from your manager. There must be a shift to both sickness and vacation days as the norm, and not villainized.

Again, this starts from the top. Put policies in place that encourage people to take their vacation days, coach management on encouraging their teams to look after themselves when they need to, and make sure leaders take leave too. Change the narrative on time off. You won’t lose productivity, you’ll lose presenteeism. 

Develop confident, self-aware teams

When your people are confident, competent, and comfortable in their ability to perform, they find setting boundaries and organizing their time easier. And with boundaries comes the confidence to take a break when you’re feeling overwhelmed, log off early to make that last minute appointment, and communicate when you’re overstretched. All of which make businesses more efficient and effective. 

Self-awareness is a challenging skill to hone. A great place to start is in developing a coaching culture. By making coaching available to everyone in your business, you’re giving your people the best opportunity to understand what they need to thrive, and to articulate their needs when facing a challenge. 

Coaching also develops resilience; your people will become significantly more adept at bouncing back from tough situations, again boosting productivity and engagement.

High engagement leads to high-performance

Coaching enhances performance and development by establishing tools and frameworks to overcome challenges. Coaches work with your people to unlock their potential, and drive performance by focusing on specific individual and business goals. And when your people are successful, your business thrives.

Ready to supercharge your teams? Get in touch today.