Look out for the tell-tale signs: How to prevent your team from burning out

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I’ve been working with Geraldine for quite some time now and we usually meet at her office in the CBD. A few weeks ago, she asked me if I would be able to meet her at one of her company’s large warehouse facilities. I’d always wanted to see ‘behind the scenes’ of this particular organisation and was excited to witness the supply chain process in action. 

When I arrived on site, I could see that she didn’t look quite as animated and upbeat as she typically does when we catch up, and her hi-vis attire also portrayed a different Geraldine to the one I had become accustomed to meeting. 

She asked if I would be keen on a quick tour of the facility and when I said yes, she found a hi-vis vest for me before taking me around the warehouse and distribution centre. 

We then went up to her office on the mezzanine level overlooking the main warehouse floor. 

Geraldine looked at me from across her desk and asked, “So what did you think? Is it what you expected given that you’ve probably only ever experienced what we do as a customer?” 

“It was fascinating”, I replied. “But to be honest, I expected it to be a lot busier. More activity. Just more people, I suppose”. 

“Tell me about it”, she said. “That’s exactly why I’m spending so much time out here, and why I wanted you to see it for yourself”. 

To be honest I had been quite shocked at just how quiet it was. Of course, I was impressed by all the warehouse technology and had expected to see automated distribution processes, but I just figured there would be more staff on site. More hi-vis attire! 

Geraldine sighed before telling me that the warehouse and distribution centre team was experiencing record absenteeism; others were then having to step up and cover shifts and other duties; and everyone at the site was being stretched beyond their capacity. 

“Everyone’s burnt out”, she said shaking her head. “And we’re not even three months into the year. I’ve never known it to be so bad”. 

Whilst she was certainly worried about the skyrocketing overtime costs (and rightly so), I could sense that she was genuinely more concerned about the well-being of her team. 

Burnout is a growing concern in many workplaces (whether it’s a fast-paced, intense production environment or a corporate office), with more and more employees experiencing high levels of stress and exhaustion.  

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to create a healthy and positive work environment that supports your team members’ well-being and productivity.  

How can you identify signs of burnout, prevent burnout in your team, and support your team members who may be feeling burnt out? 

Burnout is far more than a buzzword. In fact, the World Health Organisation recognises it as a medical condition – a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, reducing productivity, leaving you feeling cynical and resentful. 

Researchers have cited that “burnout represents an erosion of the human soul that spreads over time, putting people into a downward spiral from which it’s hard to recover”.  

Burnout isn’t good for anyone, and the symptoms of burnout can vary depending on the individual and the work environment.

Some of the most common symptoms of burnout in today’s workplaces include: 

  • Exhaustion and fatigue: Employees experiencing burnout may feel constantly tired and have trouble maintaining their energy levels throughout the day. This feeling of exhaustion can be physical, emotional, or both. 
  • Decreased productivity: Burnout can also lead to a decrease in productivity and performance. Employees may find it difficult to focus on tasks, miss deadlines, and produce work that is of lower quality than usual. 
  • Lack of motivation: Burnout can lead to a decrease in motivation, making it difficult for employees to get excited about their work or take initiative in their projects. 
  • Cynicism and negativity: Burnout can also cause employees to become cynical and negative towards their work, colleagues, or the organisation as a whole. This can lead to a toxic work environment and affect team dynamics. 

Burnout can also cause employees to feel disengaged and detached from their work, leading to decreased job satisfaction and even the desire to leave the organisation. 

Geraldine had clearly been noticing many of these symptoms of burnout in her team members, and now needed to take immediate action to prevent the burnout from worsening. However, burnout doesn’t just impact warehouse teams where excessive physical labour can take its toll.  

In corporate workplaces, burnout can often lead to depression, while in a remote environment, burnout can be exacerbated by factors such as isolation, lack of boundaries between work and home life, and increased screen time. Remote workers may also feel a sense of disconnect from their colleagues and the organisation’s culture, leading to feelings of disengagement and cynicism. 

In a hybrid workplace, employees may experience additional stressors such as the pressure to maintain a balance between in-person and remote work, increased commuting time, and the need to navigate different communication channels and technologies. These factors can contribute to burnout and increase the risk of employees feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. 

As a leader, if you sense that one of your team members could potentially be experiencing burnout, it’s crucial to address the issue immediately.  

Initiate a conversation with the team member to understand their concerns and offer support. It’s important to approach the conversation with empathy and active listening to create a safe space for the team member to open up. Make sure your offer solutions to help alleviate the team member’s burnout symptoms. This could include adjusting their workload, providing additional resources, or offering support through an Employee Assistance Program. 

Check-in regularly with the team member to monitor their progress and offer ongoing support. This can help prevent burnout from worsening and demonstrate to the team member that their well-being is a priority. 

From personal experience, it’s also important to lead by example and prioritise your own self-care to demonstrate the importance of well-being to your team members. This will help create a culture of well-being within the team and hopefully prevent burnout from occurring in the future. 

Preventing team burnout starts with you. 

Look after your team. Promote and support work-life balance. You certainly don’t want your team members to feel guilty about booking or taking annual leave. Without you even realising it, this will create a culture of anxiety, stress, and fear – all precursors to team burnout. And when a team member is on leave, don’t interrupt them, and don’t set the expectation that they should ‘check in’ while away. Time off is time off.  

Remember hellomonday provides coaching and support to every leader, prioritising development initiatives that result in long-term sustained learning and change, reinforcing habits through curated learning and impactful coaching, and ideally preventing burnout. 

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