Have you seen a change in your staff’s behavior lately?  Do they seem less engaged?  Are your top performers no longer meeting your expectations?  Have you seen an uptick in sick days or requests for time off?  If so, your staff may be feeling the effects of burnout.

What is employee burnout?  It’s defined as a response to prolonged exposure to emotional, physical, and interpersonal stressors (like a pandemic or staffing shortages) that cause staff to feel constantly tired, fed up, annoyed, and as if nothing they do makes a difference.  Sound familiar?

Burnout can negatively impact your entire team or one staff member.  No matter if it’s one person or many people, it can negatively impact your business.  The first step to combat burnout is for supervisors and managers to understand the signs of burnout.  Here are just a few.

Physical symptoms of burnout

  • Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Loss of productivity
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite or change in eating habits
  • Lack of sleep

Mental symptoms of burnout

  • Constant worry and anxiety
  • Inability to focus clearly
  • Increased mental distance or apathy

Emotional symptoms of burnout

  • Feelings of negativity or cynicism
  • Irritability
  • Emotional fragility or heightened sensitivity
  • An increased tendency to start arguments or make harsh comments

Once you understand the signs, the next step is to help staff deal with burnout.  There are a few things supervisors and managers can do to help their staff through these tough times.

Get to know your staff one-on-one.  Even though your entire staff maybe experiencing burnout, it is important to have individual conversations and try to get to know your staff individually.  Schedule a one-on-one with every staff member, ask them questions about their life, ask them how things are going at work, what is causing them frustration, and how you can help them.

Be an advocate for your staff. One of the most important roles a supervisor or manager has is to serve as an advocate for their team.  This means your focus is to ensure your team is taken care of and supported.  So, if you can, offer flexibility with their schedules, grant their time off, manage their workloads, and be open to new ideas.

Provide access to resources.  One easy way to help staff is to provide access to resources.  This can be as complicated as providing your own wellness programs and guides or as simple as pointing them in the direction of those who can help.  Keep in mind you are not expected to be a mental health professional; instead identify creditable resources.  A great resource is the South Dakota division of National Alliance on Mental Illness (namisouthdakota.org).

Demonstrate compassion and empathy.  It’s not only staff who deal with burnout, supervisors and managers do as well.  There are bound to be times you feel frustrated with your team or the outcome of a situation.  In these situations, remind yourself to view the situation through the lens of compassion and empathy.  Ask yourself, what is truly the root cause of the situation and how best can I approach my team?  What’s best for the team? Remember, the answer may vary by individual.

Take care of yourself!  As I mentioned above, staff aren’t the only ones experiencing burnout.  You do too.  So, prioritize taking care of yourself; set boundaries, take time off, and ask for help.

Dealing with staff member burnout is challenging. However, supervisors and managers can do things to identify the signs early and be proactive about addressing them. By taking action you’ll hopefully be able to minimize the negative impact burnout can have on your team and business.