• Leah Norman

Avoiding Employee Burnout

What to do when your employees are working themselves sick

If you think burnout is a joke, think again.

When people push themselves too hard, it can lead to a number of very real mental and physical symptoms, any one of which can have a serious effect on your business. Those who appear to be going above and beyond by come in early or working late. or over weekends are most likely operating at half-capacity the rest of the time to make up for it. They may also be moodier, less likely to cooperate with their teammates and short-tempered.

Its a fact that often the top performing employees in any organisation are most at risk from burnout. Every job can be stressful in its own way, but burnout takes that stress to an unhealthy, extreme level. In some cases, overworked individuals may suffer from flu-like ailments such as fatigue and headaches. It’s also not uncommon for them to call in “sick” just to get a break.

Many employees who are highly engaged in their work are also exhausted and ready to leave their job. Normally, a lack of engagement is commonly seen as leading to employee turnover, but, in fact, many businesses risk losing some of their most motivated and hard-working employees due to high stress and burnout – ‘a symptom of the darker side of workplace engagement’ where anything that isn’t contributing directly to higher output and profitability is seen as wasteful and unnecessary. Although the impulse to be more successful is a good one, many employers can be short-sighted.

In the effort to become leaner, faster and more productive, they may be putting too much strain on their employees. A corporate culture that pushes people too hard is working against itself.

Think of it this way: A car’s engine can only run for so long before the lubricants break down and the metal components begin to grind against each other. It’s necessary to ease off the gas and provide the necessary fuel before you redline and cause serious damage to the motor.

The same is true for your employees. Overworking and demanding 110% effort all the time will only hurt them.

On the other hand, people who have a normal work-life balance are generally more beneficial to their employers. Even though they’re not “on” 24/7, healthy team members tend to deliver a higher level of performance during their 40 hours a week. They’re able to handle details more effectively, collaborate well with others, communicate honestly and seek out new challenges. This is because they’re rested, relaxed and in a better mood overall.

Take Action:

  • Make managers responsible for addressing burnout.

  • Set role expectations and structure jobs to make work more manageable and engaging. Ensure that workload and time pressures are reasonable.

  • Encourage teamwork and shared accountability. When people work together and support one another, the workload gets lighter and challenges seem smaller.

  • Design work environments to be as comfortable and inviting as possible. Employees need spaces for both gathering and getting away from the buzz.

  • Make wellbeing part of your culture. Incorporate the five elements of wellbeing into regular conversations and work practices.

If you want to create a positive environment in your offices and facilities, take the necessary steps to prevent overwhelming your people. Although the most obvious response would be to decrease workload, there are other ways to mitigate the effects of feeling overworked. For example, establishing flex hours and offering more vacation time could give your staff the opportunity to take a breather when they need one. Just knowing they have the option can be reassuring for many.

A little recognition can go a long way, as well.

Providing positive feedback and asking team members to add their own input will encourage an open flow of communication, which can greatly lift morale.

If you’re truly worried about your staff’s productivity, pressuring them to work harder and faster isn’t the answer. Instead, think about how you can support your team with a healthier work-life balance.


This article, and any information contained on our website is necessarily brief and general in nature, and should not be substituted for professional advice. You should always seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters addressed.