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5 Signs of employee burnout and how to avoid it

Employee burnout is a problem that affects organizations of all sizes and can be misinterpreted as disinterested, entitled or lazy employees. If overlooked, burnout can lower your team productivity, create interpersonal conflicts, and sometimes even cause valuable employees to quit.  To protect your employees and keep your business running smoothly, keep a look out for these symptoms of burnout in your workplace.

1. Difficulty sleeping

If you notice employees yawning and saying they are feeling exhausted all the time, they could be experiencing burnout. Stress at work can make it challenging for employees to relax at the end of the day or sleep well, which leads to a constant state of fatigue.

2. Inability to concentrate

One of the symptoms of burnout is the inability to concentrate or remember important things. If your employees are continually making mistakes or forgetting about important meetings or deadlines, it would be wise for you to investigate the reasons behind their lack of attention.

3. Recurring sickness

Stress can lower the immune system making a person more likely to be vulnerable to colds and other viruses. Employees who tend to catch “whatever is going around,” may be suffering from burnout. Pay attention to the number of sick days employees are taking and check-in with them to see if they are feeling overwhelmed.

4. Easily upset or angered

Conflict in the workplace is going to happen, but if an employee is suddenly unable to get along with anyone, it could be a sign that they are burned out.  When an employee feels ineffective, unimportant, or less efficient than they once were, they can become irritable or develop a short temper because they feel overwhelmed. If left unaddressed, irritability can ruin co-worker relationships or even a career.

5. Negative attitude

Negative attitudes in the workplace are toxic and is a key sign of employee burnout. Negativity suggests that an employee has lost their passion for their job and respect for your company. A cynical employee can cause productivity levels to drop and their perception about the faults in the company to travel quickly.   

Burnout can occur for other reasons besides employees being overwhelmed by their workload or an overzealous manager.  Sometimes it is because the employee expects too much of themselves, or feels inadequate or incompetent because they applied and was hired for a job that’s not a good fit for them. Recognizing when employees are starting to experience burnout is essential but more importantly, is avoiding it in the first place.

Ways to avoid employee burnout

10-minute rest breaks

10-minute rest breaks may not seem like enough time to do anything, and you’re not supposed to because you’re supposed to rest.  A 10-minute cat nap gives the nervous system a break from thinking or 10 minutes of stretching can help your back and arms recover from sitting at a desk all day.  Making sure employees take their rest breaks is a step toward avoiding burnout. Designating a room with dim lighting, beanbag chairs, yoga mats, eye pillows, and a sign that says “no talking,” is a wonderful incentive for your employees to rest and rejuvenate. 

Employee recognition

Show your employees appreciation with regular comments and affirmation about their work.  Occasionally provide lunch, afternoon snacks and other little pick-me-ups that can change up the monotony in the workplace.

Open communication

Reassure your employees that they won’t be reprimanded if they express feelings of overwhelm or burnout. If employees are worried they may be written up or fired for discussing the challenges they are having with their job, then how are they ever supposed to find a solution?

Limit overtime

Working excessive hours is not what employees are living their life for.  People work to live — not live to work, and asking them to work overtime is taking away from their personal life. Thinking that overtime pay will deactivate any symptoms of burnout is a huge mistake that will not only affect your business but your employee’s well being.


Noticing when an employee is displaying signs of burnout and having a conversation with them to check-in can help to build employee trust and improve loyalty for your organization. Taking a supportive approach and offering to help solve the problem, such as changing the employee’s work routine to reduce burnout can help to reignite that person’s enthusiasm for their job.

In conclusion, employee burnout costs not only your business but the employees mental health as well.  Symptoms of employee burn out should be taken seriously and addressed with the utmost sensitivity. Creating a supportive and understanding culture where employees are encouraged to express their thoughts, feelings, and concern will keep the productivity high, your employees happy, and your business thriving.

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