Five ways leaders can help prevent workplace burnout 

With burnout rising dramatically, a new challenge that leaders now face is how to prevent burnout in their workers. In this post, we look at the ways leaders can develop strategies and supports to help prevent workplace burnout. 

While we’re all prone to the occasional bouts of stress at work, burnout is more than that. Recognised by the World Health Organisation as an occupational phenomenon, burnout is defined as a chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Burnout can occur at any time, to anyone in any position. However, it doesn’t just affect a worker’s wellbeing; it also impacts their productivity, personal relationships, and work performance too.  

Furthermore, the effects of workplace burnout can be felt throughout the organisation both in terms of financial losses and job resignations. In fact, researchers at Stanford in 2019 found when studying workplace stress US workers who experience stressors, such as long hours and high demands have caused $190 billion worth of health care costs. On top of that, a new report, Performance Management 2022, found that half of UK based employees would leave their jobs in favour of organisations that can offer better support for stress and burnout

While the topic of burnout is not new to organisations, the number of workers experiencing workplace burnout is now at record levels. In fact, twenty-seven percent of 18 to 39-year-olds have quit or resigned from a job in the last year due to burnout and wanting a better work/life balance. Stressors such as multiple lockdowns, isolation, grief, covid illness and their work and personal lives being blurred have put pressure on individuals leading to stress, fatigue and poorer mental health.  

So how can leaders help ensure their workforce doesn’t suffer from burnout? 

Over the last two years, businesses have recognised how important it is to prioritise their workers wellbeing and mental health while working from home. As mental health issues become more common in the workplace, it’s vital that leaders understand the causes and ensure they develop strategies and support to help prevent workplace burnout.  

Below we look at the ways leaders can develop strategies and supports to help prevent workplace burnout.  

1. Encourage Open Communication  

One of the best ways to recognise the early signs of burnout and fatigue is to have regular communication with the workers. Leaders who have built open communication and have regular meetings with their workers are able to notice quite quickly if something is wrong.  

The symptoms of burnout develop slowly which is why leaders need to proactively watch for the warning signs and take action to prevent it. Workers who feel comfortable with their manager are more likely to express how they are coping. Therefore, once a leader knows that there is a problem, they can help their worker to deal with it.  

2. Provide Mental Health Supports 

People who experience burnout generally become disinterested in work, have lower productivity and are less engaged in their work. One way for leaders to prevent the early signs of burnout is to ensure that they have a robust mental health support programme in place.  

Organisations are now making sure that they have developed an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) that provides access to mental health supports such as counselling or online health programmes. Burnout can be an extreme physical and mental exhaustion if left unmanaged, so it’s important for leaders to ensure that their workers are looking after their full health and have access to a programme that incorporates physical and mental wellbeing.  

3. Set work expectations  

Working remotely brings lots of benefits, but if not managed correctly a remote worker can also feel isolated, stressed, and overworked. As their personal and professional lives become blurred, it can be easy for workers to end up working longer hours. In fact, studies show that over the last two years, remote workers have worked longer hours. Therefore, it’s important for managers to set work expectations to prevent workplace exhaustion.  

Ideally, remote workers should create their own boundaries. Setting aside time to answer emails, complete tasks and when the working day has ended, turn off all notifications. In fact, several EU countries introduced legislation in the last two years to prevent workers from answering emails after work hours to help achieve work-life balance. 

4. Boost Team Spirit  

We’ve mentioned in previous posts how developing a team culture not only improves the workers mental health, but also creates a happy workforce that is productive, confident, and communicative. 

Working remotely can feel isolating at times and when employees feel overworked and burned out, it’s vital for management to build an engaging team culture to help boost staff morale. Organising some fun virtual events such as a virtual party, quiz, or an exercise class can be a nice change of pace for workers and an opportunity to engage and do something fun with their colleagues.  

5. Ensure holiday leave is taken 

Finally, it’s important that leaders monitor how much annual/holiday leave their workers have taken.  Remote workers can be so dedicated and engaged in their work that they may overlook using their statutory holiday leave or feel nervous about taking time away from work. Studies show that employees who take their full entitlement are happier, more productive, more focused, and less likely to take sick days. During the pandemic people were less likely to take their holidays leading to more absenteeism. Therefore, it’s vital that leaders do all they can to encourage their workers to take a well-earned break to refresh and revitalize.  

Final Thoughts  

Over the last two years, burnout has become very common. Therefore, it’s vital that leaders develop strategies and supports to help prevent workplace burnout. Recognising the early signs is key to preventing burnout. The effects on burnout can be felt everywhere in the organisation, so it is important during stressful times for managers to continue monitoring the health of their workers by providing mental supports, maintaining engagement, and having regular check-ins. Encouraging a culture of wellbeing and open communication can also help improve a better work life balance leading to reduced burnout and higher engagement and productivity.  


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