The 10 Warning Signs of Employee Burnout and How to Handle It

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There has been ongoing talk in the job market about whether employees who left their jobs at the height of The Great Quit will soon return to their previous employers, as economists suggest a recession could be just around the corner.

The sudden economic downturn has done little to push employees back into the job market, even as recent reports revealed that the US economy shrank for the second quarter in a row. The skyrocketing cost of living and skyrocketing consumer prices have only hurt business owners further, as labor shortages, inflation, and supply chain constraints add to the many headaches that some owners are currently experimenting.

It will take more than raising salaries to attract and retain staff. Employers should start looking for potential signs of employee burnout to help employees cope with increased levels of stress and workloads.

In 1974, psychologist Herbert Freudenberger characterized burnout based on three main symptoms:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Dislike in a job
  • A feeling of ineffectiveness

It’s common for workers to feel unmotivated, ineffective or disgusted at their jobs, what are other warning signs employers can look out for?

Related: How to Identify, Prevent, and Avoid Burnout at Work

1. Toxic work culture

Even at a time when employers are in a tough spot, having to attract talent with higher wages, health care benefits, remote work, or other job-specific perks, employees are still unhappy with their work environment.

Recent statistics showed that approximately 15% of job seekers turned down a job offer due to a lack of a positive company culture and overall work environment. Another 46% of job seekers cited work culture as one of the biggest deciding factors in their application process, while research shows employees who feel unappreciated are twice as likely to quit their job in the next year.

2. Workers are exhausted

It’s common to be tired from working all the time, but when there’s a shared sense of burnout among most staff, it’s time for employers and hiring managers to step in.

Employees dealing with high levels of stress at work tend to feel more tired most of the time. Some jobs are also becoming increasingly demanding, as employers struggle to retain staff, placing more work and stress on existing employees, only to take a toll on their well-being.

Related: 3 Major Signs of Business Burnout and How to Get Over It

3. Low concentration levels

Employees who are exhausted, anxious, and stressed will have lower levels of concentration at work. In the traditional office, this is easy to spot, as employers will be able to spot those who are having a hard time concentrating at work.

On the other hand, keeping track of employee concentration only becomes increasingly difficult for those companies that are fully remote or have some hybrid scheme in place.

4. Lack of motivation

A sudden drop in motivation can mean that some workers find it difficult to enjoy their work or find interest in the work they are doing.

If employees are having a hard time completing projects on time, or you notice a drop in the quality of their work, they may not be motivated enough to get on with the job.

5. Employees are easily irritated

While it’s common for some employees to clash with colleagues because of their different opinions or personalities, some employees may be even more irritable because they feel ineffective, undervalued, or unappreciated. Common features of irritability are excessive anger, hidden or underlying anger towards other colleagues.

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Prevent Burnout Among Their Teams

6. Lower productivity levels

Problems with individual or team productivity can cause great stress in a company. Employees who feel burned out will not be able to meet their current deadlines.

When this becomes commonplace, it’s time for employers to start taking note of these issues and address them as soon as possible.

7. Decreased quality of work

When employees start completing projects just for the heck of it, the overall quality of those projects tends to be lower than expected. Second, if minor errors are becoming a problem, then it is clear that employees have lost motivation in the work they are doing.

8. A feeling of cynicism

A cynical attitude can be caused by a number of things, especially when employees feel unappreciated, employers don’t notice the work they do, or when they start to lose passion for their work. A cynical attitude can quickly spread among other employees who might not have noticed that their work or their feelings are not appreciated.

Related: 5 Fantastic Ways to Beat Burnout

9. Decline in personal health

Low levels of personal health are perhaps the most striking signs that employees are burned out or don’t have the energy they used to have.

High levels of stress and anxiety can affect the physical well-being and health of employees. If there’s an employee who can’t seem to get rid of a cold or flu, or is experiencing serious health conditions, it could be a sign that it’s related to her job.

10. Workplace disputes that occur

It’s not entirely uncommon to witness some kind of dispute between employees, it’s almost certain that at some point there will be one or two employees who cross the line, either with another colleague or perhaps with a manager.

Employers should not tread lightly with their workers, but it is recommended that you immediately address any emerging workplace politics and ongoing disputes. Solving the problem will give a clear indication of what may be causing the problems, whether employees are feeling demotivated or even expressing signs of burnout.

The bottom line

Employees who are satisfied with their jobs tend to stay loyal to their employers longer. The bottom line is that without employees, the organization is set up for failure. As more workers begin to feel burned out, they will be more motivated to quit or leave without using the correct protocols. If you take care of your employees and appreciate their efforts, then they will take care of you.

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