Employee Burnout Feature

3 Ways to Prevent Employee Burnout (And Why it Happens)

3 Ways to Prevent Employee Burnout (And Why it Happens)

According to Gallup, only 4% of employees have never experienced burnout at work. Scary, huh? Well in this blog, we’re going to share three things you can do to make sure your people are kept well away from the employee burnout red zone..

What is employee burnout?

Employee burnout isn’t just feeling overwhelmed at work; it occurs when someone experiences prolonged periods of chronic stress, which can be detrimental to their whole self in so many different ways—both physically and cognitively. This can appear as just a few symptoms, or full-blown emotional, mental and physical exhaustion.

Physiologically, when we get stressed, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. Then, after the stressful stimulus has passed, our cortisol levels return to normal. But when someone suffers from chronic stress, their body isn’t able to return to its ‘normal’ state, so they have heightened levels of cortisol. This can result in high blood pressure and blood sugar levels, a decrease in digestive function, fatigue, and other not-so-fun stuff for the individual.

The organisational impact is pretty bleak as well; Gallup reports that burned-out employees are far more likely to take a sick day, look for a new job and lack confidence in their performance.


Why is employee burnout so common?

The internet—and particularly social media—can be a source of incredible inspiration, bursting with success stories and the perfect lives they can fuel. But while the good is constantly paraded, the bad (and the ugly) is usually hidden away. So it’s easy to end up comparing yourself to unrealistic ideals and living in a perpetual state of FOMO (fear of missing out). 

But what does that have to do with employee burnout?

Well, many of us end up stretching ourselves too far in an attempt to live up to these outrageous standards of what we believe our lives should be like.

And that’s compounded by the all-round VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world we’re living in at the moment—which can add stress to every aspect of our lives—alongside technological advances and the rise of remote working—which have led to today’s ‘always-on’ culture that adds pressure to stay logged in later and never turn off email notifications.


How do you recognise the signs of employee burnout?

It’s not always as easy as you might think; our instinct is often to hide our stress and anxiety, and many of the hallmarks of employee burnout could also be confused as that person just being fully engaged and motivated by their work.

So if you’re not sure, a great model to use to better understand engagement and employee burnout is Bakker & Demerouti’s Jobs Demand-Resource (JD-R) Model. The JD-R Model is a fairly simple concept: there needs to be a balance between the demands of our jobs and the resources (both personal and work-related) we have available.

Demands Resources Model

When the demands begin to outweigh the resources, the scale becomes unbalanced and starts to tip. That’s when stress levels rise, which can lead to burnout if it isn’t rectified soon enough or it happens too often.

If that happens, you need to rebalance the scale by either lightening the demand load or adding more resources.

How can you prevent employee burnout?

There are plenty of things you can do to make sure your people maintain their equilibrium and keep employee burnout at bay. Here are three of the biggies to get you started…

1. Make employee health and wellbeing a top priority

Senior Leadership Wellbeing

It all starts at the top. Having leaders promote work-life balance in even the simplest of ways—like introducing a flexible working policy—can have a huge impact on employee wellbeing and advocacy. In fact, a study by the Society of Human Resource Management found that 89% of HR professionals reported an increase in employee retention when they introduced flexible work arrangements.

Mental health is another key factor in our ability to manage stress. And on top of that, Mind reported that 60% of employees said they feel more motivated and more likely to recommend their organisation as a good place to work if their employer took action to support mental wellbeing. 

Try running a health and wellbeing survey so you can better understand what support your people want and need.

2. Make sure everyone feels comfortable speaking up if they feel overwhelmed

Speak up

Some of us find it embarrassing, or maybe see it as an admission of weakness, or even think it’ll count against us in our next appraisal (also known as a lack of psychological safety). So it’s really important to dispel those potentially toxic concerns by addressing them head on in comms and supporting psychological safety across the business. The crux of it is that nobody benefits if we suffer in silence and desperately try to keep the plates spinning; it’s much better to ask for help and prevent any crockery from smashing.

People also need to know how to raise those worries. It might be as simple as going straight to their line manager, but it could be something they aren’t comfortable raising with them, or something they don’t want to speak openly about. That’s where an identity-protected feedback channel—like Hive Open Door—comes in, allowing them to speak freely without revealing who they are.

3. Make sure everyone has the support they need to do their jobs


Support can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and every role will require something slightly different. That’s why managers are key to making sure their teams have what they need to thrive. The key element of that is for people to know they have back-up—so that, if it really hits the fan, their manager and coworkers can pitch in. 

Regular check-ins are another crucial component—something our data has backed up as employees who have regular conversations with their manager tend to respond more positively in other areas. For the employee, each check-in reinforces the fact that they’re not alone in this and provides validation for the work they’re doing. Check-ins also give the manager plenty of opportunity to spot any red flags that might lead to stress-inducing situations down the line so they can be proactive to prevent it getting that far.

So… give those a go and let us know how you get on!

If you’re ready to go all in on preventing employee burnout, you need to know exactly what support your workforce needs. Download our free health and wellbeing survey guide and question set to find out.

And if you want to know more about how Hive can help your people avoid employee burnout, just give us a shout!

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