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Employee Burnout: More Than Bad Attitude


Employee burnout is a real problem that impacts productivity and employee satisfaction. It is not something that can be overlooked as a "bad attitude."

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes burnout as "a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed," and lists these burnout symptoms as:

  • Feelings of exhaustion or energy depletion.
  • Negative or cynical feelings related to one's job.
  • Decreased professional efficacy.

Burnout is more common than you might think. A recent survey found 58% of employees have feelings of burnout. The respondents attributed their reasons for burnout as follows:

  • 47% workload.
  • 39% work/life balance.
  • 37% lack of communication, feedback and support.
  • 30% time pressure and lack of clarity around expectations.
  • 28% performance expectations.

This survey gives business owners an idea of how they can help employees feel less stressed. Evaluating where work processes, policies and procedures can be adjusted to ease bottlenecks can help employees overcome burnout. However, it is worth keeping in mind that all the reasons in the survey are related.

For example, the survey lists workload as the most frequently given reason for burnout. A manager can cause a heavy workload in several ways. He or she can assign work inequitably, fail to allow a worker time to learn a new skill or software, or set unreasonable deadlines. So the same worker might reasonably complain about lack of support, time pressure and unreasonable expectations. But it is within the manager's power to address all these complaints by reassigning tasks, ensuring tasks are appropriately delegated, stretching deadlines or hiring additional staff. Here are five steps a manager can take right away when employee burnout threatens his or her workplace:

  1. Unmanageable workloads are a primary cause of stress and burnout. By taking a close look at each team member's to-do list, team leaders can make needed adjustments. Project management software can help with this by identifying problems.
  2. With technology taking on a bigger role in many areas, employees may need training in new software.
  3. There are times when deadlines are immutable, such as tax season in the accounting department. Trying to make a heavy workload easier during those periods can entail things like sending dinner to remote staff or hosting a fun event like a virtual wine tasting when all the deadlines have passed.
  4. Let employees know their mental health is important.
    1. Talk about burnout and mental health issues.
    2. Provide access to stress-relieving resources, such as online yoga courses and sleep, meditation and nutritional apps.
    3. Offer free employee assistance programs (often referred to as EAS or EAP) that provide mental health services for employees and their family members who are experiencing personal problems.
    4. Financial health is connected to mental health. You can help by providing financial wellness resources and training so employees understand how they can save for an emergency and what types of assistance are available to them.

Offering employees the professional and personal support they need to get through difficult times will help them avoid burnout. The benefits to your company in terms of greater engagement and productivity will far outweigh any financial costs.

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McCullough Rossi & Company, Ltd.
McCullough Rossi & Company, Ltd.
Trusted Accountants. Confident Advisors.
2300 Barrington Road, Suite 260
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169-2034
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