Striking a healthy work-life balance can be difficult. Helping your employees to manage this could improve their overall wellbeing and prevent burnout, maintaining higher levels of productivity. Spotting burnout isn’t always easy. Here are some signs to look out for, ways to support your employees who may be experiencing it, and steps you can take to prevent it.

5 signs of employee burnout 

There are various signs of burnout you should look out for, some of which might be very subtle. The NHS has a large list of stress and burnout symptoms that you can find on their website – but here are some common ones to look out for.

1. Your employee often seems exhausted 

Physical exhaustion can be one of the easiest signs to spot and can present itself in obvious ways such as yawning or unusually heavy coffee consumption. But it’s worth bearing in mind that your employee could be experiencing emotional and mental exhaustion too, which may be less obvious to spot and show up in different ways.

2. They don’t seem themselves 

If someone is usually chatty and enthusiastic, but they’ve become withdrawn or aren’t as engaged, it may be a sign that something is wrong. It might be very subtle, like a change in their usual habits.

3. They’re becoming less productive 

Mental and physical exhaustion can both lead to poor concentration and attention to detail, which can in turn lead to mistakes. In a similar vein, they may also appear to be constantly distracted.

4. They call in sick more than usual 

Burnout can affect physical health and could cause an increase in illness. If your employee is calling in sick more than usual and there isn’t an underlying problem, it may be time to check in with them.

5. Your employee is confrontational or easy to anger 

Someone feeling constantly stressed may lose their patience easily, or unnecessarily escalate a problem. This can happen when dealing with colleagues or with customers, which can affect the overall work environment as well as the performance of your business.

If you’ve picked up that an employee is showing any of these signs, then you should consider what you can do to help their situation. 

Factors that can lead to employee burnout, and how to help

Many of the reasons why employees face burnout come down to stress and anxiety, inside or outside of work. As an employer, there are several ways you can help and these will depend on the cause. Here are some factors that might lead to burnout and how you can prevent or reduce them. 

1. Overworking to impress can create anxiety

Whether the target is a pay rise or a promotion, it’s easy to overwork when you want to impress your boss. To reduce any unnecessary pressure, it’s good to make sure your employees know that you value them, especially if you can’t give them a pay rise. This might be as simple as celebrating any achievements, such as sharing good news across the company, or recognising them for their work.  

Additional perks, such as private medical insurance and a good workplace pension, could also be a way to show your employees they are valued in the company, if this fits your budget. 

2. Financial issues outside of work can add to stress 

The problem may not be work-related at all – it could be a financial issue your employee is struggling with outside of work, such as a high level of debt, or a partner losing their job. Our financial wellbeing research conducted with 10,021 UK respondents in August and September 2021, found that 1 in 3 of us have less than £50 left to spend at the end of each month.1 And 38% said they had experienced some sort of financial issues in the two years prior to completing our survey.1

You can help employees improve their financial wellbeing and feel more in control of their finances by sharing hints and tips from our Financial Wellbeing Index. You can also ask your workplace scheme adviser (or invite a financial adviser or debt charity) to host regular workshops, webinars or meetings with your employees to help educate them about money management. 

Creating a safe space for your employee lets them know that they can talk to you about their personal or financial struggles without any form of judgement. It also helps you understand their situation and hopefully enables you to work with them to find a solution. 

Bear in mind that every employee’s situation will be different and it’s unlikely that a one-size approach will be suitable for all. Listening to and addressing each of their can help you to kick-start a plan of action to create some peace of mind and reduce the risk of burnout.  

You should also let them talk in their own time and at their own pace. Any pressure to divulge information could again be counterproductive.

3. The costs of working from home can mount up 

If working from home some or all of the time has become the norm in your business, there may be additional costs for your employees such as higher electricity bills or equipment for a home office. 

They may also worry about things like not being able to afford the fastest internet service, leading to dropped calls due to poor connection. This could add to their stress levels and cause them to work extra hours to overcompensate for time lost when the internet is playing up. 

To help address these issues as an employer, you could offer financial support towards the related costs of home working. By doing this, you could help to take away some of that stress and it will help your employees to work more productively. 

Your employees may also be eligible to claim tax relief for additional household costs if they work from home on a regular basis (either for all, or part of the week). Tax relief can be claimed for gas and electricity, metered water and business phone calls – but only for the part that relates to their work, and not for personal reasons. They may not be aware of this benefit so it’s worth checking in with them. 

4. Less socialising might lead to less breaks

One thing most of us miss when working from home is the conversations we have with colleagues in the office over a cup of tea or coffee. It’s those conversations that help break up the day. Even quick chats across the desk can help to create a better bond between your employees and relieve daily stresses about work and finances. 

To solve this, encourage your employees to put time in their diary to catch up for 5-10 minutes with colleagues, set-up virtual fitness classes, and encourage group coffee breaks every so often. This can help reduce burnout as your employees find more balance in their daily workload and are able to have some down time with colleagues.

5. Your work schedule can impact your employees 

Many people work flexibly, and sometimes sending emails outside of normal working hours is unavoidable. But doing this regularly – or without managing expectations first – might give your employees the impression that they need to be replying or working at these hours too. Keeping work conversations to work hours as much as possible could help to lower your employees’ stress levels. It also creates a better work-life balance for yourself, which prevents your own burnout too. 

If you do prefer to work flexibly, adding a note at the bottom of your email signature will let employees know that’s the case and that you don’t expect them to reply outside of their own working hours. This could help prevent employees feeling any pressure to work unsociable hours. 

Communication is key

The more support you can give your employees, whether they’re in the office or working from home, the less likely they’ll be to suffer from burnout. Understanding their workload, working environment and any external factors that might have an impact on their work, as well as when you expect them to take time for themselves, is vital. And that’s down to communication.   

Even if some of these conversations are slightly uncomfortable, they can be helpful in demonstrating your support for your employees. 

  1. Our insight into the nation’s financial wellbeing, page 23. Data source, Aegon, Financial Wellbeing research carried out in August to September 2021 with 10,021 respondents.


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