The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially added “burnout syndrome” to their handbook as a medical condition as of May 2019. This is an important indicator of the state of many workplaces and, although it may come as a shock to some, it is all too familiar to others.
What is employee burnout?
“Burnout is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed,” WHO writes in its most recent version of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. Simply put, employees experience burnout when they undergo too much workplace stress over a prolonged period of time with not enough relief.
Some common signs that employees are experiencing burnout include:
- Lack of energy or exhaustion
- Mentally “checking out” from the job
- Increased negativity or cynicism towards the job and the workplace
- Decrease in efficiency or efficacy
Employee burnout is an extremely serious issue that employers should not take lightly. Not only will burnt out employees not perform their jobs as well, there are physical and mental health ramifications that can happen if this issue is not addressed. High levels of stress sustained over a long period of time can lead to depression or anxiety disorders, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic.
What can employers do to prevent employee burnout?
Since employee burnout stems from workplace stress, employers need to take an active role in alleviating current cases and preventing new ones. The most efficient way to do this is to identify the specific parts of individual workplaces that are causing stress, and correct them
A 2018 Korn Ferry survey found that the largest sources of stress in the workplace include bosses, changes in technology, increased workloads, and interpersonal conflicts. While this may vary from employer to employer, these are good places to start. Here are some steps employers can take to prevent burnout:
- Analyze your workplace and your people. Take the time to look at employee’s workloads and behaviors, looking at whether or not the employee is working above capacity or has had any recent changes in support, feedback, decision-making, and conflicts. Make immediate adjustments to any area that does not seem right. Remember, being overworked is a big contributor to employee burnout, but might not always be the root cause.
- Remain positive at all costs. Employees often mirror the mindset of their management. Be sure to stay positive when discussing the current state of the workplace and approach any challenges with a solution-driven mindset. This can allow managers to better resolve issues before they lead to burnout.
- Provide a supportive environment. Make sure that employees have the social support they need to feel relaxed and better able to speak openly about issues they are having. Encourage employees to engage in social activities with each other and management, to create a more comfortable and relaxed environment.
- Don’t forget the purpose. Employees are far less likely to experience burnout when they feel personally connected to their jobs. Be sure to communicate openly with employees about how their work relates to the overall purpose of your company. Remind each employee that their role is important and valued, and be sure that their experience reflects that.
Employee burnout is a serious matter, serious enough to be classified as a medical condition. Since it stems solely from the workplace, management has a responsibility to make sure their workplace is not causing their employees to catch this disease.