Chronic fatigue, disengagement, low motivation and poor performance are some telltale signs of employee burnout that companies need to pay close attention to. If your best employees suddenly aren’t completing projects, are falling short on goals or have gone quiet, you may be dealing with a staff that’s burned out.
It’s critical to recognize these red flags early because employee burnout affects not only your bottom line but your team’s overall well-being. Burnout can cause lower confidence levels, decreased engagement and loyalty and lackluster customer service. It can also affect your ability to scale your business quickly. This article examines why you should worry about employee burnout, its potential causes and how to address it.
Why you need to worry about employee burnout
A company’s workforce is its No. 1 resource. If employees’ health and well-being are given utmost importance, motivation, engagement and productivity increase. However, when these priorities fall by the wayside, staffers may start to feel burnt out. As a result, your business is likely to experience the following worrisome issues.
1. Decreased productivity
A mounting body of research demonstrates a positive correlation between an employee’s health and well-being and their productivity at work. Simply put, an employee who is healthy and well-rested is more likely to deliver high-quality output than an employee struggling with a demanding workload.
According to a FlexJobs survey, 56 percent of workers want flexibility in their workday to ward off burnout. They also want to see their workplaces encourage them to take time off and offer mental health days (both 43 percent). These benefits can boost work-life balance and lessen the likelihood of decreasing productivity.
2. High turnover rate
Most managers tend to overwork their best employees without considering their well-being. As a result, top-performing team members may start falling short of expectations and, eventually, quit.
According to Gallup, employees who are burnt out are 2.6 times more likely to be searching for a new job. Meanwhile, Limeade found that 40 percent of workers leave their jobs due to burnout — and many of them do so without even having another role lined up.
What are the implications of these findings? For starters, low employee retention and turnover contagion with an equally high price. Replacing departed workers can cost an organization thousands of dollars. Aside from the financial impact, companies may have to grapple with the operational consequences of losing top talent.
Burnout not only comes with a hefty price tag, but it also drains valuable talent from an organization.
3. Low employee engagement
Engagement pertains to an employee’s commitment to the business’ goals and involvement in company culture. An engaged employee is more likely to work hard and exert more effort because they value the organization’s success.
Unfortunately but not unsurprisingly, employee burnout significantly affects engagement rates. The 2022-2023 Aflac WorkForces Report says over half of American workers are experiencing at least a moderate level of burnout, with stats nearly the same as they were during the height of the pandemic in 2020. Consequently, employee engagement has plummeted.
Disengagement translates to significant losses in revenue because of its adverse impacts on employee productivity and motivation. Therefore, a highly engaged workforce is crucial to the growth and longevity of the organization while widespread burnout can torpedo a company’s future. [Find out how to improve employee engagement.]
4. Negative health impacts
Even long before the pandemic, a study by Harvard and Stanford professors found that burnout can cause $125 billion to $190 billion in healthcare costs related to psychological and physical problems. The research also found that work-related stress was contributing to 120,000 deaths annually.
Perhaps needless to say, overworking can be taxing to both one’s mental and physical well-being. The stress induced by working long hours may lead to mental illness, anxiety and other severe health conditions like heart disease. Moreover, a stressed-out employee is more likely to develop unhealthy behaviors like binge drinking and overeating.
Working too much can make a person sick and, with today’s high healthcare costs, this can translate into thousands of dollars in medical and insurance expenses for employers and employees. On top of that, when an employee is ill, they are more likely to take more sick days. Consequently, the rest of the team is forced to take on a larger portion of the workload — possibly fueling their own burnout and then the cycle continues.
Causes of employee burnout
Employee burnout can occur within any organization. Although there is a range of causes, many are directly related to the employee’s role within the company.
Tasks outside of job scope
Managers who saddle their employees with responsibilities beyond the scope of what they were hired for are setting those team members up for exhaustion and inefficiency. Adding unrelated assignments can disrupt workflow, increase frustration and lead to more hours on the job. Workers can get overwhelmed, focus on the wrong tasks and, ultimately, burn out.
Another cause of employee burnout is unclear expectations for each employee. If the employee is unsure of their place in the organization due to miscommunication, burnout is more likely to occur. Each employee should have an assigned role with duties that are not open to interpretation. Frequently communicate updates and changes so that managers and employees are on the same page.
Tension between colleagues
Issues between colleagues also commonly fuel burnout. For instance, if one of your employees is known as the office bully, co-workers may feel stressed and burned out from constantly dealing with that negative personality.
Ineffective or micromanaging bosses can also contribute to employee burnout. Consider adding team-building activities to the work calendar not only to give staff a break from their typical work but also so everyone can get to know each other on a deeper level. This can go a long way toward improving manager and employee relations. [Learn how bad bosses can drive employees away.]
Personal issues could also be at the root of employee burnout. For instance, a team member may be socially isolated and not have a support system outside of work to rely on. The employee could also be not making work-life balance a priority. Encouraging employees to reach out if they are experiencing mental, physical or social health issues that may be impeding productivity could help mitigate problems before they worsen.
How to address employee burnout
Lose the bias.
As a business leader, it can be easy to have favorites among your staff. Workers who are a cohesive fit for company culture or always perfect paperwork can set themselves apart. But both open and unconscious bias can lead to favoritism that negatively impacts employee productivity and loyalty — those who don’t feel “chosen” are more likely to be frustrated with their work. Endeavor to treat every single team member with the same level of respect and ensure your benefits are equitable across the company.