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The 10 Warning Signs of Employee Burnout and How to Handle It

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There’s been ongoing talk in the market over whether employees who left their jobs at the height of The Great Resignation will soon be returning to their previous employers as economists suggest that a could be around the corner.

The sudden economic downturn has done little to push employees back into the labor market, even as recent reports revealed that the U.S. economy contracted for a second consecutive quarter. The soaring , and sky-high consumer prices have only hurt business owners even more, as labor shortages, inflation and supply chain constraints add to the many headaches some owners are currently experiencing.

It will take more than raising wages to attract and retain staff. Employers should start looking for potential signs of employee burnout to help staffers cope with increased levels of stress and workloads.

In 1974, psychologist Herbert Freudenberger characterized burnout based on three main symptoms:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Displeasure in a job
  • A sense of inefficacy

It’s common for workers to feel either demotivated, ineffective or displeasure in their job, what are other warning signs employers can look out for?

Related: How to Identify, Prevent and Avoid Burnout at Work

1. Toxic workplace culture

Even in a time when employers are in a tight spot, having to attract talent with higher pay, medical aid benefits, or other job-specific benefits, employees are still not happy with their workplace environment.

Recent statistics showed that roughly 15% of job seekers declined a job offer due to a company’s lack of positive culture and overall work environment. A further 46% of job seekers mentioned that work culture is one of the most important deciding factors in their application process, while research shows that employees who don’t feel appreciated are twice as likely to quit their job in the next year.

2. Workers are exhausted

Being tired from working all the time is common, but when there’s a shared sense of exhaustion among a majority of staff, it’s time for employers and hiring managers to step in.

Employees who deal with high levels of stress on the job tend to feel more tired most of the time. Some jobs are also becoming increasingly taxing, as employers struggle to retain staff, placing more work and stress on existing employees, only having this take a toll on their wellness.

Related: 3 Important Signs of Entrepreneurial Burnout and How to Overcome It

3. Low levels of concentration

Staffers who are exhausted, anxious and stressed will have lower levels of concentration at work. In the traditional office, this is easy to spot, as employers will be able to pick up on those who are struggling to concentrate while on the job.

On the other hand, keeping track of employee concentration only becomes increasingly difficult for those businesses that are either fully remote or have some hybrid scheme in place.

4. Lack of motivation

A sudden drop in motivation may mean that some workers are having difficulty enjoying their job, or finding interest in the work they are doing.

If employees struggle to complete projects on time, or you notice a decrease in the quality of their work it could be that they are not motivated enough to apply themselves to the job.

5. Employees are easily irritable

While it’s common for some employees to clash with their colleagues due to their differing opinions or personalities, some employees might even be more irritable due to feeling ineffective, undervalued or unappreciated. Common traits of irritability are excessive anger, being short-fused or underlying anger towards other colleagues.

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Prevent Burnout Among Their Teams

6. Lower levels of productivity

Issues with individual or team productivity can cause a major strain on a business. Employees who are feeling burnt out will be unable to cope with their current deadlines.

When this becomes a regular occurrence, it’s time for employers to start taking note of these issues and address them as soon as possible.

7. Decrease in quality of work

When employees start completing projects just for the sake of getting them done, the overall quality thereof tends to be lower than expected. Secondly, if minor mistakes are becoming an occurring problem, then it’s clear that employees have lost motivation in the work they are doing.

8. A feeling of cynicism

A cynical attitude can stem from several things, most importantly when employees feel that they are not being appreciated, employers don’t notice the work they do, or when they start losing passion for their job. A cynical attitude can quickly spread amongst other employees who might not have noticed their work or feelings being unappreciated.

Related: 5 Fantastic Ways to Beat Burnout

9. Decreased personal health

Low levels of personal health are perhaps the most striking signs that employees are exhausted or not as energized as they used to be.

High levels of stress and anxiety can take a toll on employees’ physical well-being and health. If there’s an employee who can’t seem to shake off a cold, or flu, or who is experiencing severe health conditions, it could be a sign that it’s related to their job.

10. Occurring workplace disputes

It’s not completely uncommon to witness some form of an employee dispute, it’s almost certain that somewhere down the line there will be an employee or two who crosses a line, whether it’s with another colleague or perhaps with a manager.

Employers shouldn’t be walking on eggshells around their workers, but it’s advised to address any occurring workplace politics and ongoing disputes immediately. Resolving the issue will give a clear indication of what may be causing the problems, whether it is employees feeling demotivated or even expressing signs of exhaustion.

The bottom line

Employees who are satisfied with their jobs, tend to remain loyal to their employers for longer. The bottom line is, that without employees, the organization is set up for failure. As more workers start feeling burnt out, they’ll become more motivated to resign or leave without using the correct protocols. If you take care of your employees and value their efforts, then they will take care of you.

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