Employee burnout is not so much an employee problem as it is an indication of workplace dysfunction, whether in the culture, systems, or processes. HR plays a critical role throughout the employee journey by advocating for structural changes that prevent, recognize, and address employee burnout.

What is employee burnout?

Employee burnout is a state of physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion paired with job dissatisfaction. Symptoms of burnout in the workplace include:

  • Increased anxiety, irritability, and illness
  • Higher absenteeism
  • Reduced performance and productivity
  • Disengagement

When employee burnout goes unrecognized and unaddressed, it has serious consequences for their physical and mental health, productivity, job satisfaction, and retention. All of these lead to greater costs to the company in terms of employee turnover, lost revenue, and lost customers.

How to prevent employee burnout

HR can help identify symptoms of employee burnout and make meaningful changes by:

  • Prioritizing employee wellness.
  • Training middle managers.
  • Leveraging time-tracking software.
  • Clarifying employee roles.
  • Utilizing performance management software.
  • Using employee feedback to inform future planning.

Prioritize employees’ physical and mental wellness

No matter the cause of burnout, promoting work-life balance and offering benefits to support employees go a long way to encourage employees to stay healthy. 

Company leaders set the tone for cultural expectations around healthy work boundaries. They should not only encourage employees to disconnect at a certain time each day or while on vacation but also model that behavior themselves. This has a trickle-down effect on how managers interact with their employees and helps promote work-life balance in the organization. 

An attractive benefits package also helps keep employees happy and healthy. Health and wellness benefits include:

  • Gym membership perks
  • Company-wide virtual and/or in-person workouts
  • Meditation and mindfulness app subscriptions
  • Subsidies for therapeutic treatments
  • Educational resources about recognizing and remediating burnout

To make the most of the benefits and to make sure the current package is effective in combating employee burnout, companies can integrate wellness benefits into a corporate wellness platform. Wellable, for example, includes analytics to help HR assess and improve the effectiveness of wellness benefits. Wellness 360 helps boost awareness and engagement among employees via social and gamification elements as well as rewards.

Educate and train managers

Preventing and addressing employee burnout is about more than offering benefits and perks that employees may or may not know about, let alone use. 

Managers need proper training on how to prevent, recognize, and combat employee burnout. This starts with consistent communication with direct reports and a clear understanding of what an employee’s role entails. HR can offer training on the topic of burnout to help managers not only model work-life balance for their employees but also collaboratively come up with strategies to handle burnout once it starts.

Detect burnout with time-tracking software

Beyond manager training, software tools help managers detect signs of employee burnout. Reviewing time-tracking and time-off request data can reveal patterns that point to employee burnout. 

For example, when an employee logs excessive work hours, time-tracking software can alert HR to inform the employee’s manager of the potential risk for burnout. Alternatively, when an employee starts requesting more time off to the point where baseline goals aren’t met, the manager should discuss the situation with the employee and find ways they or the team can best support that employee. 

Clarify employee roles

Excessive workloads and unrealistic due dates place an employee under unsustainable stress. This leads to rushed task completion, more errors, and missed deadlines.

HR and management should have a clear understanding of a role’s core responsibilities, ideally before even filling that role, to gauge whether the role is manageable for one person to perform in a timely manner. 

As an ad hoc measure, project management software such as monday.com or Clickup helps narrow in on specific pain points in an employee’s role by tracking and visualizing employee workloads in Gantt charts or kanban boards. These visualization tools can help managers ensure that no one team member is overburdened with tasks.

Time-tracking components in project management software such as Wrike also help managers get a realistic idea of how long any one task should take, so they can set more realistic deadlines.

For some roles, there might be a software tool that can automate an employee’s mundane tasks and therefore lighten their workload. For example, a recruiter who’s under pressure to fill roles benefits from a recruiting platform like Zoho Recruit that can automatically review resumes and pull the most qualified applicants.

Finally, if an employee consistently takes on responsibilities outside their role due to a lack of challenge in their current role or to unfair workload distribution, HR should consider adjusting the employee’s title and compensation to reflect their actual duties.

Armed with data about workload, timelines, and time-consuming tasks, HR and management can refine a particular role to make it more realistic and sustainable. Having more realistic expectations in place provides the context for assessing employee performance.

Identify diminished performance with performance management software

After clarifying and perhaps adjusting role responsibilities and expectations, performance management software helps combat burnout by tipping off a manager to an employee who’s at risk.

For example, if an employee’s performance suddenly dips or slips over time to the point where they cannot uphold their core job responsibilities, this might point to burnout and warrants attention.

HR should implement performance management software like Lattice or Leapsome that supports routine check-ins between managers and their employees to have honest discussions about workload and job performance.

Also read: Ways to Reduce Employee Attrition That Have Nothing to Do with Beer

Engage employees through succession planning and feedback tools

Subpar performance closely relates to disengagement, which is one of the hallmark signs of employee burnout. When an employee is overworked or not challenged enough, this can lead to dissatisfaction and disengagement. HR’s best course of action depends on the cause of withdrawal.

A succession strategy offers an employee alternative roles and career paths that are better suited to their skillset and professional goals. Succession planning often takes the form of career pathing for specific roles and offering training to upskill and promote employees. Oracle HCM, for example, helps companies chart out developmental pathways for employees.

Disengagement is also often rooted in a disconnect between a company’s leadership and its workforce. Employee engagement tools, such as the one included in ADP Workforce Now, offer surveys and sentiment analysis to help HR monitor the pulse of how employees are feeling in their jobs and the workplace. HR and company leaders should garner specific feedback from employees, empowering them as co-creators in the company’s culture and direction.

Also read: What Managers Should Know About Quiet Quitting

Prevent employee burnout, starting with the workplace

Preventing, detecting, and handling employee burnout doesn’t just fall on employees’ shoulders. Rather, it requires HR and management’s deeper examination of the workplace culture, processes, and structures that lead to employee burnout. 

Offering a variety of health and wellness benefits helps in part. However, HR can arm managers with tools and tactics to notice risk factors and early signs of employee burnout. 

Browse HR software that includes tools to assist with preventing and addressing employee burnout.

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