By Brigitta Poulos

After managing lockdowns, restrictions, staff shortages, and increased workloads for almost three long years, it should come as no surprise that employees are burning out at a higher rate than ever before.

So, what can employers do to prevent or minimise burnout?

In this article, we explain how identifying the early warning signs can reduce the effects of burnout and improve employee retention and we share best-practice strategies that can prevent burnout from occurring in the first place.

Spotting symptoms and recognising the signs

The first step towards addressing burnout is knowing how to recognise it. Contrary to popular belief, burnout isn’t just stress or weariness. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines burnout as a syndrome that results from chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully managed. While burnt-out employees may feel stressed and anxious, they will often also feel apathetic, drained, and without the energy to perform their roles.

When it comes to identifying employee burnout, the indicators can differ from person to person but can include the following symptoms:

  • Noticeable lack of motivation and energy.
  • A noticeable change from positivity to negativity.
  • Concentration difficulty.
  • Impatience and irritability.
  • Poor sleep or insomnia.
  • Cynicism towards work and colleagues.
  • Hopelessness, helplessness, or apathy.
  • Sense of failure or self-doubt.
  • Frequent headaches.

How can employers manage burnout?

The next step in understanding burnout is knowing its causes and how to address it properly. Several factors contribute, either individually or cumulatively towards burnout, including:

  • Lack of managerial support;
  • Unreasonable expectations and/or time pressure;
  • Poor communication and role modeling;
  • Unmanageable workloads and under-resourcing; and
  • A mismatch of values or unfair treatment.

To prevent burnout, or if you suspect that an employee is at risk, consider implementing the following strategies:

  • Conduct a well-being check, even if it’s just an informal conversation.
  • Encourage employees and recognise their contribution.
  • Ensure employees are taking breaks and leaving work when they should be.
  • Review and assess employees’ workloads to ensure they are not dealing with excess and unrealistic demands;
  • Encourage employees to switch off notifications when they’re out of the office.
  • Communicate clear and reasonable expectations for employees, and ensure employees have adequate resources, training, and skills to meet those expectations.

How HR Assured can help?

If you’re not currently using HR Assured, why not start with a FREE HR Compliance Health Check – our experts will complete a thorough evaluation of your HR that’ll uncover any hidden risks in your business before they become problems.

If you’re a client and you have a question about workplace compliance, contact HR Assured’s 24/7 Telephone Advisory Service.

Brigitta Poulos is a Workplace Relations Consultant with HR Assured who loves helping clients and businesses achieve excellent workplace compliance with their obligations and duties, by way of interpretation of relevant employment legislation and awards. She particularly enjoys researching and explaining to clients new or ‘hot’ topics in the workplace relations and human resources field.


Citation | How to prevent your people from feeling burned out

Burn-out an “occupational phenomenon”: International Classification of Diseases (