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Can you spot the 7 Signs of Employee Burnout?

£45 billion a year.

That is the annual financial cost of employee burnout.

£45 billion ANNUALLY.

In addition to the catastrophic financial implications, employee burnout is so serious and detrimental to public health, that in 2019 the World Health Organisation officially classified it as a diagnosable syndrome. Companies with moderate-to-severe burnout are a staggering 376% less likely to have a highly engaged workforce.

Employee burnout is defined as the complete exhaustion of a person’s psychological, emotional and physical resources as a result of workplace stress and job dissatisfaction. Often mistaken as just a ‘badly behaved’ employee, burnout symptoms can be akin to preconceived notions of ‘laziness’. Burnout affects anyone and 57% of people in the UK have already experienced it.

Along with the financial cost, there is also the mental health and talent economy cost.  Companies with high rates of burnout shell out exorbitant amounts of money a year in sick days and recruitment due to higher turnover. With half a million people in the UK dealing with work related stress, burnout is an insidious epidemic that is about the workplace, not the individual. The main causes are, but not limited to, work-life balance, unmanageable workload, poor management and lack of adequate compensation.

No workplace is perfect, which is why employers need to be in tune with their workforce. Identifying burnout early could save you £1000s so here are seven signs to look out for.

  1. Exhaustion

We aren’t talking a few yawns throughout the day – more like crippling and constant fatigue with the inability to get ‘in the zone’. Employees suffering from burnout tend to sleep poorly and may suffer from insomnia resulting in having to drag themselves to their desks. Exhausted employees are less motivated, less innovative, and less productive.

  • Isolation and Detachment

These aren’t the isolated ‘off’ days that everyone experiences. This is a sustained and conscious act of isolation and detachment. Whilst this may be harder to spot amongst introverted co-workers, those who are easily identifiable as extroverts suddenly shying away from tasks, social occasions or even eating lunch alone should send alarm bells ringing.

  • Frequent Sickness

Over half of all recorded sickness days are related to workplace stress and mental health. Those suffering from burnout are 63% more likely to be off work and a total of 11 million working days are lost each year because of stress at work.

These are excruciatingly painful statistics that should make everyone in any business take stock of their own work environments. These figures indicate that employers cannot be complacent when it comes to their employees, as stress and work related sick days are fiscally and emotionally lurid.

  • Cynicism

There is a difference between being having a rubbish day and being increasingly cynical. Employees are allowed to feel negatively towards work and feel dissatisfied from time to time. Pervasive and incessant cynicism, however, is usually a sign that the previous passion for work has dissipated. This cynicism is contagious and can infect other employees.

  • Never taking time off

Other than forced time off due to sickness, many employees suffering or on the verge of burnout, never take annual leave. A predominant factor for this is the fear of being behind upon return.

  • Constant Errors

Consistent errors as a result of chronic fatigue and lack of energy are a telltale sign of burnout. When an employee is not able to concentrate on tasks, produce work of quality and falls below their own standards, it is time to intervene. The stress of making errors feeds into a person’s burnout. Ensuring an appropriate form of communication when raising these issues is critical as you could be further compounding the person’s lack of self-belief and worthlessness. Knowing your workforce and their ability is key.

  • Heightened Emotional Responses

Again, knowing your employees will allow you to pick up on these nuanced signs of burnout. Those in the midst of a burnout may take criticism personally and feel victimised, resulting in a greater emotional response. During this time, employees feel as though they are not good enough and neither is their work. As such, a perceived personal attack could evoke an emotive reaction that might be viewed as erratic and not appropriate for the workplace.

The nature of remote working means some of these signs will be hard to spot as people are working in their own environment. It is, therefore, even more crucial that you check in with your team and colleagues on a one to one basis to make certain they feel happy and confident in the workplace.

On Key

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