Employee Engagement

Getting Ahead of Employee Burnout

Learn how to identify, prevent, and combat employee burnout in your team to maintain productivity and morale.

If you've ever found yourself staring blankly at your computer screen, feeling drained, and wondering where your passion went, you're not alone. Employee burnout is the silent productivity killer that creeps up on the best of us. It can take high-powered teams and break them down into unmotivated, uncollaborative individuals. And we all know when team health suffers, the impact can be felt throughout the company in terms of quality of work, missed deadlines, and diminishing culture. If you’re a manager that wants to stay ahead of the curve, how can you identify burnout and better yet, help your employees avoid the ill effects?

What exactly is employee burnout?

First, let's get on the same page about what burnout is so you can better notice it in your team. Burnout isn't just feeling tired after a long week or having the occasional bad day at work. It's a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion that typically goes hand-in-hand with cynicism and a sense of reduced accomplishment. Imagine running on fumes for weeks or even months – that's burnout. And once the cycle has started, it can be very hard to turn the tide. Indeed, burnout often leads to turnover or quiet quitting as employees throttle back their efforts – a dangerous trend for any company.

The telltale signs the process has begun

So, how do you know if you're employees are on the brink of burnout? Here are some red flags to keep an eye on:

  • Constant fatigue: Are you or your people complaining of feeling tired no matter how much sleep you get? A common symptom is a lack of energy or excitement about work-related tasks.

  • Lack of motivation: Employees in the grips of burnout struggle to find enthusiasm for tasks they once enjoyed. Everyone likes aspects of their work more than others, but this is a more systemic, pervasive feeling that nothing really matters.

  • Irritability: Are little things starting to bother people more than they did before? Burnout can lead to feelings that small annoyances really get under your skin perhaps even to the point of ruminating over them outside of work.

  • Decreased performance: If you see a strong employee start to slow down or decrease the quality of the work they are handing in, burnout could be a factor. Often employees burning out find it harder to concentrate and be productive. They are more easily distracted by outside influences like chatter in the workplace, surfing the net, or dealing with personal matters during working hours.

  • Detachment: A common aspect of burnout is feeling disconnected from your work and your colleagues. These employees may stop participating in group discussions or team-building activities as much as they once did.

If you start to notice these signs in your team (or in yourself!) it’s time to take a step back and look at the system in place to support employees. Are there small changes you can implement that might make a big difference?


Read More: Don’t let turnover be a drain on your company


Why burnout happens

When considering what you might be able to change, a good place to start is with a solid understanding of why employees burn out so you can identify if the factors are present on your team. Burnout can happen for a myriad of reasons, but here are some common culprits:

  • Overwork: Too much work and too little time can lead to chronic stress.

  • Lack of control: Feeling like you have no say in your workload or how you do your job can decrease motivation.

  • Insufficient rewards: Not feeling recognized or rewarded for hard work.

  • Lack of community: Feeling isolated or unsupported by the people around you.

  • Unfair treatment: Perceived injustices or favoritism can erode morale.

  • Lack of direction: Feeling like you’re stagnant and not working towards something can drive down energy.

Do any of these ideas sound familiar? If so, you may need to introduce strategies to help your team members overcome these obstacles and see the light at the end of the tunnel

How can you help your team get ahead of burnout?

Now that we've painted a pretty grim picture of what can happen to the best teams when burnout strikes, let's turn it around and focus on prevention. Here are some actionable steps to help you and your team dodge the burnout bullet.

  1. Encourage Open Communication

 Creating an environment where team members feel comfortable speaking up about their workload and stress levels is crucial. Regular check-ins and an open-door policy can help catch burnout early. Ever heard of psychological safety? It’s the idea that teams feel safe enough to voice their opinions without fear of reprisal. Prioritizing this concept on your team is a good way to inoculate them from burnout.

  1. Promote Work-Life Balance

Encourage employees to take their breaks, use their vacation days, and disconnect after work hours. Remember, a well-rested team is a productive team. Try not to send after-hours emails or if you do, make it clear you don’t expect a response until the employee is back on the clock. Ask about an employee’s life and hobbies outside of work during team sync-ups and give your team time to share. And lead by example. Turn off your phone when on vacation. Use those massage benefits. Take your personal days. If your employees see you investing in self-care, it sends a signal that it’s ok for them to do it too.

  1. Recognize and Reward Efforts

Who doesn’t love getting kudos now and then? A little appreciation can go a long way. When managing a team, it’s important to recognize hard work and celebrate achievements, no matter how small. This can be through formal awards or just a simple shout-out during a team meeting. Even a personal, heartfelt email message can help an employee feel seen.


Read More: Optimize your team dynamics with McQuaig’s new TeamSync


  1. Foster a Positive Work Environment

People stay in places they feel safe and secure. Create a supportive and inclusive workplace culture where everyone feels valued and connected. This can be done with the help of team-building activities, social events, and even a friendly chat to strengthen team bonds.

  1. Manage Workloads Effectively

Take some time to look at what’s on your team’s docket and what’s coming down the pipe. Do your best to ensure that workloads are manageable and evenly distributed. Regularly review tasks and priorities to prevent any one team member from becoming overwhelmed. In busy times of the year, consider using the promise of a future reward (team lunch, social event, maybe even a small gift like an Uber Eats gift card) to motivate behaviour and acknowledge that what is happening right now isn’t the norm and you appreciate their commitment.

  1. Invest in your people

One way to stop people from stalling is to ensure they are always moving forward. Try to encourage continuous learning and career development. When employees feel they are growing and advancing, they are more likely to stay motivated and engaged. They’re also more likely to stay at a company that is teaching them ongoing skills. In fact, this point is so important let’s explore it a little further.

Stop burnout with employee development

It can be hard to know how best to support your people in their learning and development goals. That’s where assessments can help. The McQuaig Self-Development Survey® is designed to help you align your employees’ individual aspirations with your organization's forward momentum. Best of all, it allows your employees to take charge of their own growth process with easy, actionable recommendations.

The self-assessment can be completed in minutes, providing personal insights about an employee’s strengths and areas of growth, how to focus on their path forward and what skills they’d like to improve, and how to tie those goals to the overarching direction of the company. From there, you can work with your employees to develop action plans with clear, achievable goals. These goals can then be worked on with a manager during one-on-one meetings or they can be directed by the employee themselves allowing them to own the process.

Best of all, this process can help boost team performance by fostering a culture of continuous learning, improvement, and engagement. Helping your employees strengthen their abilities individually increases the resources available to the whole team.

Wrapping It Up

Burnout is a real and pressing issue, but it doesn't have to be inevitable. By fostering a supportive work environment, encouraging open communication, and promoting employee development, we can get ahead of employee burnout and keep our teams healthy. Remember, it's all about balance and recognizing that sometimes, the best way to move forward is to take a step back and reset.



Interested in learning more about the McQuaig Self-Development Survey? We’d love to help! Click here to request a free demo and learn how you can empower your employees to take charge of their development journey.

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