Emerging from the pandemic and adjusting to new ways of living has made many of us reevaluate our lives. In some situations, it may have also caused people to spend more time working and less time relaxing, since working from home can make it hard to switch off. As you can imagine, this is a quick way to wind up with a burned out employee on your team.
Work isn’t the only cause of burnout, of course, but it is one of the main causes. So, in this post, I want to share with you some advice on how to support a burned out employee.
But first, let’s look at what the signs of burnout are…
The signs of burnout
If one of your previously top-performing employees is acting differently lately, and you’re concerned they might be burnt out (or at risk of burning out), here’s what to look for:
- Feeling exhausted
- Difficulty sleeping
- Brain fog
- Disinterest in things that they previously found interesting
- Social withdrawal
- Physical health problems (joint pain, getting sick more often, etc.)
This isn’t an exhaustive list. And it’s important to remember that burnout looks different for everyone.
But if someone has been doing too much and racing toward the finish line, or they have personal problems that are draining, they could well be burnt out already.
When someone is burning out, or burnt out, one wrong turn could be all it takes to push them over the edge and mean they can’t get back up.
So, if you think there’s a burned out employee on your team—or you know there is—here’s what to do:
I know I say this in a lot of my posts, but it’s because most people aren’t very good at listening. And most of the people who are terrible listeners don’t realize how bad they are at it.
Thing is, we’re not taught how to listen. Nobody actively tells us when we’re growing up that to listen, we need to stop talking and consider not just what someone says, but how they say it.
It’s also worth remembering that listening isn’t about finding solutions. It’s usually more about giving someone an outlet for how they feel than trying to solve anything. After all, you can’t fix burnout. The only way is through.
If you have a burned out employee, consider how you can make their life easier.
Can you split a big project up so they’re not the only person dealing with it? How about allowing them to work remotely a few days per week (if they don’t already)? Can you reduce the number of meetings they have to attend?
For some people, having too many things to do can make them feel worse. For others, it’s being around people too much. Even video calls can be challenging sometimes.
So, be willing to make accommodations. Burnout isn’t permanent, but it will last a lot longer if an employee feels like their employer isn’t supporting them. That’s because they’ll be spending most of their time somewhere that doesn’t understand or empathize with what they’re experiencing.
Be sure to ask them what they need, but keep in mind that they may not know.
Get them to do some research on things that might help, and also do some research yourself so that you can suggest accommodations that may help.
Unless, of course, you want to lose the burned out employee who’s already struggling, or add to their stress levels so that their burnout lasts longer. I’m going to assume you don’t want to be that kind of employer.
Not using your vacation days isn’t a badge of honor. It’s a one-way ticket to burnout city.
Work work work work work isn’t a healthy way to live. And the longer someone works 24/7, the closer they’ll get to crashing into a wall.
If you’re working all the time, you have no time to spend with your loved ones, cook a healthy meal, go for a walk, or even just chill in front of the TV. Those things, while small, are important to maintaining our physical and mental health.
That’s why it’s important to encourage employees to take regular breaks throughout the day. This could come in the form of getting up out of their chair to get a hot drink or make a healthy lunch. Or even just go for a quick walk to stretch their legs.
We all know how unhealthy sitting at a desk all day can be for our minds and bodies, but how many of us actively work to change that, not just through routine workouts, but from regularly getting up out of our chairs?
Don’t draw attention to their situation
What a burned out employee is experiencing isn’t your story to share. They may not even know that they’re burnt out.
Or they may not feel comfortable talking about it, especially not to their employer.
I certainly wasn’t ready to talk about my burnout until I came out on the other side of it. And to be honest, I’m still not comfortable talking about it to some people. But I think it’s important to share my story because it shows people that there is a way out. It just takes time.
Regardless of whether a burned out employee is ready to talk to you about what they’re experiencing, don’t draw attention to it. Either take them aside and ask them how they’re doing, or suggest accommodations you could make to ease their stress levels, such as working from home.
The more you can show your employees that you really do support their physical and mental health, the faster their recovery will be and the happier they’ll feel in their role.
Knowing they have a supportive employer in their corner is great, but support from colleagues can also go a long way towards helping a burned out employee. If you want to build thriving employee communities that encourage team members to bring their whole selves to work, check out Workrowd.
Bonding with peers around shared identities and interests can make the difference between prolonged burnout and a quick recovery. Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.