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Employee Burnout: Strategies for Prevention

By Jeanette Coleman, SPHR & SHRM-SCP on Dec 02, 2022
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“Burnout” is classified in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an “occupational phenomenon.” Defined by the ICD-11 as a “syndrome,” it results from chronic, unsuccessfully managed workplace stress.

Employee burnout is the topic du jour for managers everywhere and for good reason. Eliminating burnout in our workplaces helps managers attract and retain the best talent. But is employee burnout even preventable? 

In this post, which is part three of a four-part series, I explain strategies for preventing employee burnout. After familiarizing yourself with this content, be sure to check out Burnout 101 (part one), Causes & Burnout Signs (part two) and our downloadable guide, “The Checklist for Preventing Employee Burnout.”

Employee Burnout 101

Is Employee Burnout Preventable? 

This million-dollar question, "Is Employee Burnout Preventable?" The Harvard Business Review reports that, yes, employee burnout is preventable. With better “organizational hygiene, better data” and “wellness offerings,” HBR finds that “organizations have a chance” to nip the problem in the bud. Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Develop a Culture of Mental Wellness 

Developing a culture of mental wellness starts by normalizing conversations surrounding mental health. During performance reviews, make it a practice to ask employees how they’re feeling. How do they feel about their workload and pace of work? Have they lost a measure of work-life balance? Oftentimes, asking is a great start in showing you care. 

After asking for feedback and determining the causes of stressors, take employees’ specific needs into account. If they report low work-life balance as a problem, encourage them to switch off after a long day at work. Hold off on after-hours and weekend requests for a few weeks until they show improvement. 

Now is also the perfect time to assess your mental health coverage. If your benefits offerings don’t include comprehensive coverage for mental health, such as therapist visits, group therapy and emergency mental healthcare, you can change that. While plenty of plans cover these kinds of services, most still involve deductibles, copays and coinsurance.

If you’d like to remove all barriers to access for your employees to receive mental health care, you might consider adding a Health Savings Account to your benefits offerings to help employees save pre-tax for copays and deductibles. 

RELATED:Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace in 2022 >> 

  1. Build Employee Social Connections 

It’s obvious that making your employees feel included, validated and cared for is a sure way to help them feel connected and engaged at work. While a sense of comradery absolutely can and should be supported by management, true employee social connections cannot only be top-down.

Encouraging employees to build social connections amongst each other is a great way to bolster work-life balance and make employees feel more excited about their workplace. As an added benefit, employees who work together and support each other will find their workload lighter when they have coworkers to turn to in the face of challenges – another key to reducing burnout.

Employers can design their working environments to support engagement and social connections through team-building activities or the creation of employee resource groups. Employee resource groups (“ERGs”) are funded by employers but led by employees. Larger companies may have several ERGs, focused on groups, such as women in the workplace, caregivers or veterans – but small to mid-sized firms can start with just one.

According to 2022 metrics from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 90% of Fortune 500 companies support employee resource groups, “but organizations of all sizes can benefit” from implementing the practice. 

SHRM reports, “these groups create a sense of belonging and togetherness,” which, in turn, provides employees with empathy and support, increases performance levels and reduces turnover and absenteeism.

RELATED:Dealing with Burnout at Work? Check Out These Burnout Busters >> 

  1. Structure Resources for Support (and Breaks!) 

According to Gallup, “the root causes of burnout are within the span of control of managers.” The way we structure our workplaces, from working hours to performance reviews, all give us insights into whether the environments we’ve created are ones that will lead to burnout or bliss. Do managers at your company encourage employees to take small breaks throughout the day or do they micromanage employees and check in habitually when they appear to be offline for short periods? 

The most productive employees are often the ones who are able to take breaks and refocus, instead of plowing on incessantly. Remind employees that stretching, walks and yoga are all great ways to get up and moving for ten or fifteen minutes during the workday. If you’d like to enhance your benefit offerings to support efficient breaks, you can start by providing resources for productive wellness practices, such as subscriptions to at-home workout classes, access to telehealth therapy and more.

You may also consider implementing an employee assistance program, which provides employees with free, confidential help to help them work through personal issues. Axcet HR Solutions is proud to offer free EAPs to our client employees, with access to programs such as smoking cessation and weight control support. 

RELATED:EAP - The Many Benefits of an Employee Assistance Program >> 

employee burnout causes and signs

Axcet HR Solutions: Your Employee Relations Expert

Interested in shifting your workplace culture to address and prevent employee burnout, but unsure of where to start? Axcet HR Solutions is here to help. Our employee relations experts will work with your organization to help you identify pitfalls, pain points, and strategies for future success. Schedule a time to speak with our experienced team today >>

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