Warning Signs of Employee Burnout: Don’t Miss Them

Posted on

January 18th, 2022


Employees may quip about burnout, but true burnout goes beyond a brief dip in energy after completing a challenging project. Employees can rebound from short-term stressors after taking a break. Chronic workplace stress has farther-reaching effects. A long weekend away from work can’t overcome the exhaustion, frustration, and disengagement caused by burnout.

Burnout happens for several reasons. Employees may have a poor work-life balance, a toxic manager, problems at home, a dysfunctional team, or unrealistic productivity expectations put upon them. The ongoing pandemic adds another layer of constant stress, and employees are struggling with burnout more than ever.

Employee burnout isn’t abrupt, and employers can take steps to prevent it from worsening. Many employers are familiar with the common signs of burnout. These include emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion; disengagement; loss of productivity; cynicism toward their work; and increased sensitivity to critique. Burnout can also cause physical symptoms, such as panic attacks, nausea, and headaches.

However, burnout can start with subtle symptoms that management may not recognize. Employers that know these signs can take proactive steps to address them and prevent them from worsening. Some lesser-known indicators of burnout include:

  1. More frequent illnesses. The physical manifestations can go beyond headaches and stomach troubles. Excess stress increases employees’ susceptibility to illnesses. Burnt-out employees may also use sick leave because they can’t handle the stress of going to work. Regardless, a sudden uptick in absences due to illness can be an early indicator of burnout.
  2. Behavioral changes. Sudden behavioral changes can take several forms. A once punctual employee may start to arrive late or duck out early. A bubbly employee may become withdrawn and surly. A shift in grooming and wardrobe can also be a red flag, as it indicates the employee no longer cares about their appearance.
  3. Workplace socialization changes. Once outgoing employees may abruptly become distant if they’re struggling with burnout. Social employees may isolate themselves or snap at coworkers who attempt conversation. The pandemic has made this symptom harder to spot, as many employees are working from home.
  4. Working harder. Left unchecked, burnout will eventually result in disengagement and lost productivity. However, an employee that abruptly doubles down on work is a subtle early symptom of burnout. Employees struggling with burnout often experience a loss of confidence in their work. Some feel compelled to prove themselves to their employer, which manifests as working through lunch or consistently working overtime.
  5. In the initial stages of burnout, an employee’s quality of work may begin to suffer. These changes aren’t dramatic and can present as a lack of attention to detail, barely meeting deadlines, or turning work in late. These employees often don’t seem to care about turning in sloppy work, either.

Burnout is on the rise as a result of the public health crisis and subsequent labor shortages, but also because many corporate environments have become complacent or inattentive. Of particular relevance is that it can be harder to recognize the signs with a remote workforce. Web meetings are a part of the solutions, with increased visibility and communication. But absence tracking software makes it easier to identify attendance trends, such as absenteeism or an uptick in sick leave. Actec’s absence tracking mobile app is a self-service tool that centralizes all your attendance data. Contact us to discuss your absence management needs.