HR Management & Compliance

Can Your Employees Come Back from Burnout?

Employee burnout is a dreaded phenomenon—it can make even the best employees more likely to look for a new job, and, even if they’re not looking, productivity can suffer. Employees suffering from burnout are more likely to call out sick and are less likely to be satisfied with their job.


Burnout can happen for a lot of different reasons. Here are just a few:

  • Unrealistic job expectations leading to ever-increasing hours required to keep up;
  • Lack of attention by HR and managers, leading employees to take on responsibilities that perhaps could better be handled by someone else or by a better process if only someone were evaluating it;
  • Expectations that employees work at all hours and respond quickly no matter the time of day, day of the week, or whether the employee is on vacation;
  • Too much overtime without enough time to rest; and
  • Lack of appreciation or recognition shown to employees.

Ways Employers Can Work to Reduce Employee Burnout

While some employees are overworked through their own sense of duty and personal drive, many are burnt out from factors that are within the employer’s control. Here are a few of the ways that employers can try to reduce burnout:

  • Train managers to proactively assess whether individual workloads make sense or whether responsibilities should be moved as positions evolve.
  • Consider encouraging employees not to respond to calls or e-mails that come in after normal working hours until the next business day. (This is easier said than done, of course, as it requires a cultural mindset in which employees will not fear being penalized for not responding immediately.)
  • Encourage employees to take their accrued time off to recharge. Don’t encourage work during days off.
  • Make sure that employees are able to take breaks throughout the workday.
  • Ensure that the organization takes steps to proactively assess whether employee compensation and benefit packages are competitive. With the number of resources employees now have to determine the market value of their position, simply discovering that they may be underpaid can lead to an increased level of frustration with the work.
  • Give employees the tools they need to be efficient. Most of the time, job responsibilities continually grow, but employees aren’t always given ways to perform at peak efficiency. Sometimes, investing in better software or newer tools involves an upfront cost, but the cost is often recouped in productivity gains and improved employee morale.
  • Give employees the training they need to do their job well. Not only does this result in better productivity for you but it also means the employees will be more efficient and satisfied with their increased responsibilities if they feel confident in their ability to meet their goals.
  • Pay attention to overall employee morale. As general morale is dampened, otherwise satisfied employees can feel the effects of others’ frustration, leading to increased problems across the board. Keep a finger on the pulse of the workforce, and try to resolve problems before they negatively impact morale.
  • Ensure employees are getting feedback all year, not just during performance reviews, and ensure that they get ample positive reinforcement, not just critiques. Burnout can happen simply when someone feels unappreciated for all of the hard work he or she is putting in.
  • Show appreciation for employees. This can be through simple things like allowing people to go home early occasionally or providing a paid-for lunch for everyone—or through bigger things, like bonuses, pay raises, and promotions.
  • Pay attention to discrepancies in how different managers or different departments interpret and administer workplace policies. A feeling of unfairness or favoritism can lead to intense frustration among employees.
  • Consider allowing flexible working arrangements to let employees have more control over their work hours and meet personal demands on their time, which can alleviate some stresses.
  • Be careful to not create a work environment that is overly restrictive. For example, many employers seek to minimize time spent on personal tasks like personal phone calls, socializing, time spent online for nonwork activities, etc. While that makes sense, it’s easy to go too far and make employees feel as though they have no autonomy and are being micromanaged.
  • Get employee feedback on how the working environment can be improved, and take that feedback to heart. Whenever possible, implement some of the employee feedback to improve the work environment or processes. Not only could this make the team more efficient, but it also gives employees a sense of ownership over the working environment.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg. What other steps have you utilized in your organization to address employee burnout? What has been successful for you?