How Leaders Can Help Teams Survive Burnout

Recent years have created a fertile environment for burnout and brought about shifts in working habits that organizations are still navigating. Traditional companies are working harder than ever, while the increase in hybrid or remote-first cultures presents its own challenges.

How Leaders Can Help Teams Survive Burnout

While there are advantages to new ways of working, there are challenges in maintaining work-life balance when working remotely, gaining a true sense of connection and meaningful communication within organizations and managing teams.

While the experience of work varies from one person to another, one thing remains true: those that are overworked are at a risk of burning out. While hybrid or remote-first workers enjoy a reduction in their daily commute, this commute did act as a transition in and out of their ‘work persona’. Now it has become incredibly easy to over work.

Enter burnout.

Every year, burnout costs the US economy $125 to $190 billion and the UK economy upwards of £45 billion. The pandemic has created fertile conditions for burnout which means that team leaders need to be vigilant for its signs, in both themselves and their teams.

8 symptoms of employee burnout

According to the WHO, workplace burnout results from chronic stress that has not been successfully managed. It manifests differently for every person, with symptoms ranging from feelings of exhaustion and negativity to physical health problems such as headaches and heartburn. Burnout can also increase the risk of turning to coping mechanisms such as food, drug or alcohol abuse.

Here are 8 potential symptoms of workplace burnout:

  • feelings of physical and mental exhaustion
  • increased mental distance
  • feelings of negativity
  • reduced professional efficacy
  • increased cynicism and negativity towards work and colleagues
  • reduced wellbeing due to stress and anxiety
  • withdrawal from work-related activities and absenteeism
  • neglecting personal needs that such as self-care, hobbies and relationships
  • physical health issues such as fatigue, headaches, heartburn, and gastrointestinal issues.

Key causes of burnout at work

Burnout can be brought about by a combination of factors and vary from person to person. Some common causes of burnout include:

  • High workload and job demands: Having an excessive workload, unrealistic deadlines, or an overwhelming amount of responsibilities can contribute to burnout. When the demands of the job consistently exceed an individual’s capacity, it can lead to chronic stress and exhaustion.

  • Lack of control and autonomy: Feeling a lack of control over work, decision-making processes, and schedules can contribute to burnout. When employees feel micromanaged or restricted in their ability to make choices and take ownership of their work, it can lead to a sense of frustration and powerlessness.

  • Work-life imbalance: Difficulty in balancing work responsibilities with personal life commitments and priorities can contribute to burnout. When individuals consistently struggle to allocate time and energy to personal relationships, self-care, and leisure activities, it can lead to increased stress and decreased well-being.

  • Limited social support: Feeling isolated or lacking supportive relationships with colleagues and supervisors can contribute to burnout. When individuals do not have access to a strong support network or face interpersonal conflicts in the workplace, it can exacerbate feelings of stress and burnout.

  • Values misalignment: When personal values and the values promoted by the organization are not aligned, it can contribute to burnout. If there is a disconnect between an individual’s core values and the organization’s mission, ethics, or practices, it can lead to a sense of disillusionment and emotional exhaustion

Other causes could include insufficient recognition for employees’ efforts, poor organizational culture, job insecurity and a lack of role clarity.

In understanding how to prevent employee burnout, it is important to discover which of these factors might be at play, and implement personal or organizational changes to combat them.

The consequences of burnout for employees

While there are a lot of articles that talk about burnout, what is often not discussed is the effect burnout has on the surviving team — especially if the burned-out person is the team leader. Humans are naturally good at picking up on the stress of others, and the feelings of burnout can spread quickly through a team as stress levels increase.

It can also create a toxic microculture within organizations which can spread to other microcultures and teams. Burned out teams will feel they aren’t achieving anything because they’re confused about assignments or objectives. They may feel micro-managed or unappreciated, as priorities shift due to erratic behavior. As a result, collaboration decreases, communication breaks down, and team members get more stressed. Creativity effectively vanishes.

The importance of breaks (even 5 minutes)

Taking a break doesn’t have to mean jetting off on vacation - although we do recommend doing that every 3 months if possible - it’s about having the psychological freedom to wander into other things and not your inbox.

Stepping away from work, even temporarily, is a restorative process that is similar to sleep. In the way dreams are a way of processing the day’s activities, taking a break provides mental clarity and the increased capacity to deal with stress down the line.

A change of pace helps boost creativity too — mixing up your routine helps you see things differently and arrive at new solutions.

It can also improve productivity, enhance focus, provide balance and improve relationships.

However, the key to getting these benefits is actually taking time off — unplugging completely without compulsively checking your phone or email.

5 tips for preventing burnout as a manager

  1. Listen to your team
  2. Empower, don’t abandon
  3. Model good behavior and take time out
  4. Protect your team’s time
  5. Provide mental health resources

People that are burned out need time away to recover — it’s not a three-day weekend cure. Follow these key steps to avoid burnout and low employee morale more generally.

Tip #1: Listen to your team

Your team will probably be a little dysfunctional if one of more members are at risk of burnout. They are coping with someone who hasn’t been at their best for some time and they may have mixed feelings — concern for their colleague, frustration at the impact on them, or perhaps relief that the situation is resolving.

It is crucial that you listen to them and get feedback. The goal is to understand their struggles and difficulties: don’t accept a “it’s fine” response. Although it might be a difficult period for them, this is also an opportunity to reset as a team. Helping them do this should be the number one priority.

Tip #2: Empower, don’t abandon

Establishing structure and procedures are some of the best things a leader can do. Determine reporting channels and help figure out new processes to avoid the situation getting worse. Equally, It’s important to step back and give the team a chance to reflect and assess how best to collaborate. If you’re wondering how these efforts are going, you could consider implementing one or more KPIs to measure your team’s engagement levels.

Tip #3: Model good behavior and take time out

It’s one thing to talk about taking time off, yet it’s another to put it into action. Leaders need to model good behavior. When people see leaders practicing self-care and taking care of their mental health, they are more likely to do it as well. So, book time off and trust your colleagues to do just fine in your absence.

Tip #4: Protect your team’s time and introduce flexibility

Work will take everything (and more) from an employee if they’re willing to give it. So, a leader must set clear boundaries about how much work is acceptable, while providing better flexibility to allow employees to control when and how they work.

A good leader needs to protect time off by respecting it. Give people space — if they’re off from work, don’t expect them to respond to emails. The truth is, people will appreciate this and repay you with increased efforts if their holidays are respected.

Flexible work schedules can help employees accommodate personal commitments such as childcare and other obligations which can aid job satisfaction, employee engagement and the quality of delivery.

Tip #5: Provide mental health resources

Today, being a leader is about being human and finding out how your people are really doing beyond the small talk. People tend to override talking about the negative in their lives unless something catastrophic is happening. But, by asking, “How are you really doing?” you can encourage them to share their real thoughts and feelings.

Speak up if you believe that someone is burning out. If they’re being increasingly difficult, the mood change could have its origins in burnout. Take time to find out what isn’t working for them and provide mental health resources that can support their recovery.

If things are getting really bad, you could consider hiring a specialist consultant to assess your situation and provide a tailored action plan.

How to motivate burned-out employees

Motivating burned-out employees requires a thoughtful approach that addresses their specific needs and helps them regain their energy and enthusiasm for work. Here are some strategies you can use.

Show empathy, understanding and support

Demonstrate empathy by acknowledging and understanding the challenges and feelings of your burned-out employees. Create a supportive environment where your employees feel comfortable expressing their concerns and emotions without judgment.

Provide resources and support to help your employees navigate their burnout. This could include access to employee assistance programs (EAPs), counseling services, stress management workshops, or training on resilience and well-being. Ensure your employees are aware of the resources available to them and encourage them to utilize them as needed.

Encourage open communication

Encourage open and honest communication with your employees. Provide opportunities for them to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas about their work situation and potential solutions. Actively listen to their feedback and validate their experiences.

Provide rest and recovery time

Recognize the importance of rest and recovery for your burned-out employees. Particularly in cases where overworking has been a main factor in burnout. Encourage them to take breaks, use vacation time, and recharge. Consider offering additional time off or flexible work schedules to allow for proper rejuvenation.

Foster work-life balance

We’re firm advocates for the benefits of a 4-day work week at Friday Pulse.

But even if you don’t have the power or influence to implement this in your organization, you can still help your employees achieve a healthier work-life balance by supporting their efforts to establish boundaries between work and personal life.

Encourage your staff to prioritize self-care, engage in activities they enjoy outside of work, and spend time with family and friends. If you suspect that an employee is overworking, gently talk to them about it.

Recognize and appreciate their efforts

Recognize and appreciate the contributions of burned-out employees. Regularly acknowledge their hard work, achievements, and progress. Express gratitude for their dedication and efforts, both privately and publicly, to boost their morale and sense of value.

Assign meaningful and achievable goals

Collaborate to improve employee engagement. Set realistic and meaningful goals that align with their abilities and interests. Break down larger goals into smaller milestones, providing a sense of progress and accomplishment. Regularly check in on their progress and provide constructive feedback and support.

Foster a positive work environment

Cultivate a positive and supportive work environment where your employees feel valued, respected, and connected. Encourage teamwork, collaboration, and positive relationships among colleagues. Promote a culture that celebrates accomplishments, encourages work-life balance, and emphasizes their well-being.

How Friday Pulse can help prevent burnout in the workplace

We are committed to helping businesses maintain and improve team morale, and prevent employee burnout.

The Friday Pulse platform allows leaders to keep track of happiness scores across teams and identify the groups that may be approaching burnout. It can also monitor teams that are trying to work with recuperating individuals and help track their progress.

For more information on how everything works, please contact Megan on, or book in a demo for a time that suits you.

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