Addressing Employee Burnout and the Top 3 Signs To Recognize It

Posted on November 15, 2023
Addressing Employee Burnout and the Top 3 Signs To Recognize It

Employee burnout has become a crippling issue in today’s workplaces, affecting approximately 35% of the Canadian workforce today. The consequences of burnout are far-reaching, leading to high turnover rates, decreased productivity, and ultimately, poor customer experiences. To create a thriving and sustainable work environment, it is critical to get to the root causes of employee burnout and take proactive measures to address them effectively. Breaking toxic cycles of burnout often involve small but impactful changes that build confidence and appreciation from your team. 

Over my 15-year career, which has seen me assume various roles, including clinician, clinic director, business owner, and entrepreneur, I’ve encountered a shared challenge that binds these roles together: burnout. What I’ve come to realize is that burnout often has common roots across most organizations. It is the leader’s ability to recognize and effectively address these telltale signs that can be the linchpin for success in any people-centric business. 

In my exploration of burnout, particularly within the high-stress domain of healthcare, I delve deeply into three surprising signs that have emerged. Alongside these observations, I provide valuable strategies to raise awareness of these signs, offer guidance on how to address them and outline a path to rebuilding a healthier, more resilient team. At the core of this approach lies a set of fundamental principles that leaders should embrace: Never stop asking “Why?”, delve into “The How,” and continually inquire, “Is there a Better way?” These principles not only guide a business but also play a pivotal role in resolving many of the challenges faced when working with people. 

Let’s dive into the top 3 Signs of Burnout:

  1. Disengagement and Evidence of Emotional Detachment

Burnout doesn’t manifest overnight; it’s a gradual process of employees becoming emotionally detached from their work and the company. Engagement is the cornerstone of a motivated and committed workforce. When employees feel disengaged, it can lead to burnout and reduced overall job satisfaction. Re-engaging burnt-out employees is a process that requires time and commitment. Understanding the root causes of disengagement and addressing them promptly is essential. 

  1. Increased Employee Turnover

High turnover rates can be a significant indicator of burnout within a company. If you notice a sudden increase in employees leaving their positions, especially if they are experienced and valued team members, it could be a sign of burnout. Employees may leave in search of better work-life balance, reduced stress, or a healthier work environment. The loss of experienced personnel can disrupt workflow, increase recruitment costs, and harm team morale, making it crucial for employers to take proactive measures. 

  1. Decreased Productivity and Performance / Increased Absenteeism

Workplace burnout takes a toll on even the most talented and motivated professionals. As burnout sets in, employees can experience a profound loss of purpose in their work, leading to a noticeable decline in their productivity and performance. The once dedicated and driven individuals may no longer feel motivated to give their best to their tasks. 

Simultaneously, burnout often leads to employees taking more sick days or arriving late to work. They may use these absences as a way to cope with physical and emotional exhaustion or to avoid a workplace that has become overwhelming. Consistent patterns of absenteeism or tardiness, particularly among typically punctual employees, should raise concerns. 

By addressing the root causes of burnout and implementing some strategies, employers can reduce employee turnover, create a healthier work environment, and ultimately improve productivity and employee satisfaction. 

Addressing burnout: 

1. Identify the Root Causes: Start by identifying the specific causes of burnout leading to increased turnover in your organization. This could involve conducting employee surveys, holding exit interviews, and engaging in open and honest conversations with departing employees. Understanding the underlying reasons is essential for implementing effective solutions.

2. Promote Work-Life Balance: Encourage a healthy work-life balance by setting clear expectations for working hours and avoid overloading employees with excessive work demands. Promote the use of paid time off (PTO) and ensure employees feel comfortable taking time off without fearing a heavy workload upon their return. Offering flexible work arrangements, such as telecommuting options or flexible hours, to accommodate employees’ needs can improve their work-life balance and help reduce the strain of a rigid work schedule.

3. Manage Workloads and Expectations: Review employee workloads and responsibilities regularly. Distribute tasks evenly, set realistic deadlines, and provide the necessary resources and support to complete assignments. Adjust workload expectations as needed to prevent burnout.

4. Training and Skills Development: Invest in training and skills development programs to help employees improve their efficiency and productivity. When employees feel they are growing in their roles and gaining valuable skills, they are less likely to experience burnout.

5. Mental Health Support: Promote mental health awareness and provide access to resources like mental health programs and workshops or counseling services. Encourage open discussions about mental health to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help.

6. Promote a Supportive Workplace Culture: Foster a workplace culture that values and supports employees. Recognize and appreciate their contributions, celebrate achievements, and provide regular feedback and recognition for their efforts.

7. Leadership Training: Provide leadership and management training to supervisors and managers to help them recognize signs of burnout, empathize with employees, and implement effective strategies for managing workload and stress.

Employee burnout is a complex issue with far-reaching consequences for organizations. By addressing the top three causes of burnout—bad management, limited upward mobility, and lack of engagement—promptly and effectively, companies can create a healthier and more sustainable work environment. Investing in better management practices, providing opportunities for career growth, and nurturing employee engagement are essential steps in mitigating burnout and building a thriving workplace culture. 

It is essential to remember that addressing burnout is an ongoing process that requires commitment and continuous improvement. Organizations that prioritize the well-being and development of their employees will not only reduce burnout but also reap the benefits of increased productivity, higher retention rates, and a more engaged workforce. By taking these proactive measures, companies can position themselves for long-term growth and success in today’s competitive business landscape. 

As a commitment to improve wellness initiatives for workplaces across Canada, Schulich ExecEd, a leader in professional development, is proud to announce a strategic partnership with Integra Health, a renowned provider of health and wellness solutions to provide comprehensive health and wellness training among corporate clients in Canada.  For organizations seeking holistic business solutions that prioritize employee well-being, Schulich ExecEd and Integra Health are poised to deliver transformative results. Together, they will empower organizations to thrive in an ever-evolving corporate landscape with confidence and competence. Learn more about this partnership here or speak to our expert advisor team on the right program for your needs.  

Sapna Sriram is also the Program Director for the Schulich Mini-MBA: Clinical Professional Entrepreneurship Program. To learn more about this program, visit the program page 

Written By

Sapna Sriram

Sapna Sriram is a leading Canadian chiropractor and registered acupuncturist with a focus on sports injuries, pre- and post-natal care, and chronic pain. She is also the Program Director for the Schulich Mini-MBA: Clinical Professional Entrepreneurship Program.

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