Why burnout is increasing in your team – and 3 ways to stop it in its tracks
“Burnout” is a word that already exists in many people’s vocabulary in 2023 – despite it only being used commonly in the last few years. It describes a feeling of lifelessness, particularly when it comes to work.
Burnout can affect anyone in any role and might present its symptoms in different ways. Mental Health UK says signs of burnout can include feeling:
- Cynical about life and work.
As an employer, you might have wondered: “why is burnout so common these days, and what can I do to prevent it in my team?”
Read on to learn our personal insights into burnout in a post-pandemic world, plus essential tips for employers to combat this increasingly problematic issue.
An insight into burnout from Mark Bingham, Partner at Secondsight
As a partner with more than two decades’ experience in Employee Benefits, I have met my fair share of stressed individuals. Sometimes work-related stress is unavoidable, although HR departments and business owners should work to minimise this where possible.
Only weeks into 2023, I noticed a common theme across many of the meetings I attended: burnout is everywhere.
In previous years employers and employees typically reported a reduction of symptoms during quiet periods before and after Christmas – but by the time they get to the end of January those quieter times then seem like a “distant memory” due to the onslaught of work stress that followed. This year so many people were ‘flat out’ right up until Christmas and then straight back into work with a crash in the New Year!
Reflecting on comments from those I’ve met, it struck me that the post-pandemic world is not designed to reduce burnout.
While working from home can help decrease stress in some ways, including saving time and money on a commute, those pockets of “me time” throughout the day – commuting, a coffee and a chat in the office, or simply leaving work behind at 5 pm – have disappeared for many.
Even in my experience, as someone without mental health issues in my past, I noticed a difference in my enthusiasm for work when the world opened back up after Covid-19. I love my job, but those moments of downtime – even travelling to and from clients or the office for work, which gave me the opportunity to process the day – really helped, but are now largely absent. Working from home full-time became challenging, so I can truly empathise with those struggling with burnout in today’s world.
I hope this piece can help business owners, HR teams, and any other individual reading it, to take burnout seriously and provide support to those who need it.
Workplace burnout cases hit a record high in the year to July 2022
If you’re also hearing more and more people discuss burnout, this is no surprise. A study by recruitment site Glassdoor, published by HR News, found that burnout cases increased by 48% in the year to July 2022 – a record high.
According to the study, there are two key reasons for burnout experienced by employees in today’s world, not taking enough leave and never being fully ‘out of the office’
Although all employees are entitled to annual leave, only 3 in 5 of those polled used all their annual leave in that year, with 13% saying they felt their workload was too heavy to take time off.
Sadly, 50% of participants said working from home meant they often forgot to book annual leave. Remote workers need to ensure they are taking the leave they are offered, while employers should encourage those who hesitate to take the holiday they deserve.
Especially since the rise of working from home, being fully “switched off” from work can be challenging. While those who work on site can leave the building (and the job) behind, working from home can mean employees are tempted to work longer than their allotted hours.
Indeed, 16% of participants said their work and home lives were too intertwined to fully relax when they weren’t at work, and 1 in 4 admitted to checking work emails when on leave.
3 simple ways to stop burnout in its tracks
It’s clear to see that burnout has become an issue in many modern workplaces. If you wish to be part of the solution, it is crucial to understand the early signs of burnout, and to implement prevention tactics as soon as you can.
Here are three simple, actionable ways to prevent burnout, and whilst we cannot necessarily fix things overnight, there is always some progress we can make with a little imagination.
- Set clear time boundaries with work
If you’re struggling to set boundaries, it’s time to work on this.
Whether you’re an employee, manager, or company director, especially if you work from home, setting clear time boundaries is necessary to prevent burnout. Boundary-setting could include:
- Having a designated workspace at home that you arrive at, and leave, during allotted working hours
- Completing non-work tasks over your lunch hour to ensure the full hour is met, such as reading, going for a walk, or cooking a meal
- Saying “no” if you’re asked to complete a task outside of working hours.
Creating this space for yourself can ensure you aren’t over-stretching yourself for work and help you keep fuel in the tank for future projects.
If you work from home, using notifications on Teams or Slack can help with boundary setting, so others know you won’t be available during your “off” time. I’m really lucky to live with someone who loves me enough to tell me off and so sharing the decisions I have made with them and asking them to help me keep on track has been an amazing blessing.
- Take short breaks throughout your working day
Although your contracted hours might dictate you work from 9 am until 5 pm, it’s crucial to spend short bursts of your day away from your workstation to prevent burnout.
Whether you spend these short, 10-minute breaks drinking a cup of tea away from your laptop screen, stretching on a yoga mat, chatting with a family member, or simply sitting quietly by yourself, they can help lower your stress levels throughout the day.
- Be open about burnout with friends, family, and colleagues
I’ve already touched on this but it’s easier to be resilient in the face of stress when others have your back. It’s as simple as that.
If you are already feeling burned out and don’t know where to turn, speaking with friends, family, and colleagues could make you feel less alone. The chances are, they’ve experienced something similar.
If you’re an employee, reaching out to a trusted manager or HR professional can be a useful step. If you’re on the other side of things as an employer, manager, or HR representative, listening closely to those reporting burnout – and talking to others about your own – might help bring cases down across the board.
Get in touch to discuss financial wellbeing in your team
Creating space to talk about burnout, and combat its effects, can be challenging. Financial stress could be a contributing factor to your team’s overall stress, particularly in the cost of living crisis.
If your workplace is seeing increasing cases of burnout, talking to us about financial wellbeing support could be beneficial. Email email@example.com or call us on 0330 332 7143.
This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice.