76% of employees experience burnout at work at least sometimes, with 28% of employees feeling burned out at work “very often” or “always”. Employee burnout is a product of the modern workplace and is so prevalent that the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared it as an occupational phenomenon. Burnout can no longer be ignored by organisations, but what are the best strategies to prevent burnout in the workplace? 

What is burnout? 

The WHO defines burnout as a “syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. It is categorised by three key features: 

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion  
  • Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job 
  • Reduced professional efficacy  

The impact of burnout on employees can be detrimental to the wellbeing of the individual as well as the organisation. Employees who are burnt-out often are 63% more likely to take a sick day, 23% more likely to visit the emergency room and 2.6x more likely to be actively looking for another role. 

Causes of Employee Burnout 

Recent studies have highlighted several factors contributing to employee burnout. According to Gallup, excessive workload, unrealistic deadlines, lack of control or autonomy, poor communication from managers and inadequate social support within the workplace are commonly identified stressors. Furthermore, organisational culture, leadership style, and a poor work-life balance, particularly a lack of exercise or ‘recovery’ outside of work, can significantly impact employee wellbeing. 

The Signs of Burnout 

It is essential for organisations to understand and identify the signs of burnout in their employees.  

Download our guide – Recognising Employee Burnout – A Guide For Leaders and Managers. 

Common symptoms include persistent fatigue, reduced productivity, increased absenteeism, irritability, and a negative attitude or cynicism towards work. By paying attention to these signals, mangers and leaders can intervene early and prevent burnout from escalating.  

Strategies for Preventing Burnout 

Foster a Supportive Work Environment: Encourage open communication, empathy, and mutual support between leaders and team members. Implement regular check-ins and be aware of the signs so potential issues can be identified and address before they intensify. Research by Deloitte indicates that organisations with a strong sense of belonging and inclusive culture experience a 56% increase in employee wellbeing and a 75% reduction in burnout. 

Upskill The Leaders and Managers of Your Organisation: Invest in leadership development programs that focus on effective communication and stress management techniques. Equipping leaders with the knowledge and tools to recognise and address burnout can make a significant impact on employee wellbeing. Research conducted by Gallup indicates that employees who feel supported by their managers are 70% less likely to experience burnout. 

Set Realistic Expectations: Clearly define job roles and responsibilities, ensuring they align with the employee’s skills and capabilities. Establish achievable goals and realistic deadlines, avoiding the trap of overloading employees with excessive work. Research from Stanford University shows that employees who perceive their workload as more manageable experience less burnout and higher job satisfaction. 

Encourage Regular Breaks: Short breaks, especially those involving physical movement or relaxation techniques, can help alleviate stress and improve focus. According to a study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, brief regular breaks during work hours have been associated with reduced fatigue and increased productivity. 

Promote Health and Wellbeing Initiatives: Implement wellbeing programs that prioritise physical fitness, mental health, and stress management. Encourage employees to engage in activities such as yoga, meditation, or mindfulness exercises to enhance resilience and reduce stress levels.  

The Role of Movement and Mindset in Preventing Burnout 

Did you know that as little as 10 minutes of walking increases focus and productivity? Encourage employees to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines such as a short walk during their lunch break, participating in fitness challenges, or joining a local community sporting team. Not only will this improve their physical health, but it will also improve their mood and resilience to stress.  

Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, can also help employees manage stress and cultivate resilience. A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that mindfulness interventions significantly reduce burnout and improve psychological wellbeing. Encourage employees to practice mindfulness techniques by providing resources, training or workshops. 

Employee burnout poses significant challenges for organisations, impacting productivity, engagement, and employee wellbeing. By taking a proactive approach and implementing the right strategies for your organisation, leaders and managers can effectively prevent and address burnout in their workplaces.  

Ready to implement a wellbeing program with tangible benefits for everyone involved?