Workforce Health + Benefits

Know the Signs of Burnout in Employees: How to Help Prevent Stress

Employee burnout is always lurking, and no organization or individual is immune to it. But, for as common as the phenomenon of burnout is, it’s even more common for the telltale signs of burnout to be overlooked or – worse – flat out ignored.

When it comes to burnout in the workplace, it doesn’t matter if you’re an employee, manager, organizational leader or HR professional. To keep your culture and people productive, healthy and engaged, everyone must be aware of how detrimental burnout is, know the signs and symptoms, and purposefully work to avoid or remedy burnout within themselves and help at-risk coworkers.

The Cost of Employee Burnout

Employee burnout – including both psychological and physical problems that are heavily associated with this issue – cost an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending in the U.S.1

But the actual cost to an organization can be much more than those figures if the issue is not acknowledged, confronted and actively managed moving forward.

Employee burnout can cost organizations an incredible amount in lost productivity, dissatisfaction in company culture and procedures and high turnover.

We’re breaking down this topic and delivering a proven solution that will elevate your workforce and strengthen your culture:

10 Signs of Burnout in Employees

Stress doesn’t necessarily equal burnout. In the right amount and context, stress can be vital fuel needed to push people to perform at their best.

Prolonged, uncontrolled and unmonitored stress and anxiety is an entirely different story.

When stress manifests into a persistent norm, the person can quickly become overwhelmed, feel drained entirely and emit a void-like demeanor and performance.

Vital, must-know signs of burnout in employees include:

  1. Visible or expressed exhaustion.
  2. Disengagement.
  3. More trouble than usual concentrating.
  4. Avoidance of work-related tasks.
  5. Finding little to no meaning or purpose in work-related tasks.
  6. Declining work performance.
  7. Decreasing work efficiency.
  8. Loss of confidence in work-related responsibilities and/or goals.
  9. Increased negative attitude and sensitivity.
  10. Increased absenteeism and accidents.

Because burnout has the power to derail the individual, it also has the muscle to disrupt the organizational flow and slowly creep into the lives of other employees.

Luckily, burnout isn’t unmanageable. There are steps individuals and organizations as a whole can take to reverse or avoid burning out in the workplace:

How to Avoid Burnout in the Workplace

It’s important to know that burnout will look different from job to job and work environment to work environment. For example, a caregiver will experience different job-related challenges and stressors than a marketer or IT developer. But understanding how to reverse or prevent burnout in the workforce can be quite universal.

Do Your Employees Check In With Themselves Regularly?

Usually, avoiding burnout or catching it before it can completely drain you or an employee is a simple matter of checking in with yourself and encouraging all employees to take the time to do the same.

Remaining in tune with emotions is critical when it comes to avoiding burnout. To decipher between a rough string of days or a free fall into burnout, ask these questions honestly and often:

  • Do you feel that your motivation is declining?
  • Are you finding it hard to perform work-related problem-solving?
  • Do you feel yourself becoming easily frustrated and angry at work – whether at tasks and/or colleagues?
  • Are interpersonal worries and problems at work finding their way into your home life?
  • Do you feel cynical or negative about work?
  • Are your negative feelings intensifying?
  • Do you feel your work-related stress transforming into anxiety?
  • Do you feel depressed because of the work-related stress you’ve been experiencing?

Preventing Caregiver Burnout 

Caregivers often are so busy caring for others that they tend to neglect their own emotional and physical health. And we’re not just talking about doctors and nurses in the medical field. There are 43.5 million informal caregivers in the U.S.—defined as a spouse, partner, family member, friend or neighbor involved in assisting others with activities of daily living and/or medical tasks.2

Add other work demands and personal responsibilities, and this pressure and worry can quickly escalate into unhealthy, long-term stress and burnout.

Even if you work in the medical field and you know an incredible amount about the care and keeping of mental and physical health, it never hurts to routinely check-in with yourself and talk with a doctor about your stress levels.

As a caregiver, you must take care of yourself to better take care of others.

Practical Takeaways for Leaders

No matter the job or the industry you work in, jobs can become incredibly stressful. With so much on your plate, deadlines to meet, meetings to attend, and your entire personal life to upkeep, burnout is ready to knock at the door if you don’t know the signs and aren’t prepared to take the necessary steps to level everything out.

Here are some practical ways to help your employee workforce prevent burnout:

Communicate with your employees by holding regular group and one-on-one meetings. Dig deep to understand how the team and individuals are doing on multiple levels, including how their workload is fairing, how they’re feeling, and what support they need in the coming week and month.

If they are feeling burned out or worse, encourage them to talk with their doctor about how they're feeling to devise a plan to get back on track, find appropriate support and return to a healthy mental and physical state.

Be sure to also address the topic of burnout and balance regularly and emphasize how nothing is more important than their physical and mental health – so if they are struggling in any capacity and need help, they will receive it.

Motivate your employees by empowering them to get their work done in a manner that best suits them. You can also stimulate your employees by encouraging stress relievers, getting fresh air multiple times a day, taking periodic breaks during the workday to focus on their physical and mental health, and taking vacation days.

Lead your employees by assigning tasks accordingly, setting healthy limits by discouraging unnecessary overtime, encouraging good self-care, participation in an employee wellness program and utilization of your EAP.

What are you doing to prevent employee burnout in your organization?

Your workplace is meant for great things. Don’t let burnout get in the way.

Once you can identify what creates the workplace stress that leads to burnout, you can confront those issues on multiple organizational levels and implement effective organizational measures to address and prevent it.

It’s time to create a thriving and sustainable culture of wellness within your organization.

Your workplace wellness program will play an integral role in helping every member of your workforce manage stress and forge a healthier, more productive career within your organization.

To help target employees’ stress and improve their overall resiliency, consider Stress Free Now, a proven, internet-based stress management program developed by Cleveland Clinic that effectively reduces stress over the long term.

Learn more about Stress Free Now by watching the video below, or schedule a demo to learn more about the Cleveland Clinic | Bravo wellness program.



1Harvard Business Review. Employee Burnout Is a Problem with the Company, Not the Person. Accessed September 10, 2019.

2Family Caregiver Alliance. Caregiver Statistics: Demographics. Accessed November 27, 2019.

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