People Management
6 min.

How to Prevent Burnout at Work

Andrée-Anne Blais-Auclair
Last updated on 21 Dec. 2023
Published on 8 Sep. 2021
Employé qui souffre d'épuisement professionnel au travail

Burnout is a leading cause of employee absenteeism and resignation.

Table of contents

It is an issue that gradually builds as stress and fatigue start to add up.

If you’ve ever known someone who burned out, you’re probably aware that it leads people to question things. In fact, burnout often results in people changing careers and even fields.

Many companies suffer from the loss of excellent employees—when they might have been able to prevent the problem.

Here’s an overview of what burnout is and what you can do to prevent it as a manager.

This Post Tackles the Following Questions:

  • What is burnout?
  • How to spot signs of burnout at work?
  • What can managers do to curb burnout?
  • What are the implications of burnout for businesses?

Burnout: a Work-Related Issue

Burnout is a syndrome associated with work overload or chronic stress at work. It is characterized by a feeling of intense fatigue, loss of control and the inability to achieve concrete results at work. It can affect anyone and often results in stopping work.

The Key: Putting Prevention First

Men and women of all age groups are equally affected by burnout. This being said, personal and organizational factors predispose some people to the issue.

Personal Factors

Multiple authors have established that certain types of personalities are especially vulnerable to burnout.

People who are very ambitious, competitive and in need of control are more likely to be sufferers. Other characteristics include a lack of flexibility, high self-demands, emotional instability, and more. There is some logic to this, of course.

I had a boss who struggled terribly with delegating. She would listen to ideas, but at the end of the day, she was always the one to make the decisions. She was involved at every stage of every project in every department of her company. If you’re thinking this must have been exhausting, you are absolutely right—it was exhausting for her as well as for her employees.

She was unable to tolerate things not being done her way, and trusted herself first and foremost. It will come as no surprise that she fell prey to burnout.

Organizational Factors

Beyond personal predispositions, several workplace-related factors can contribute to burnout, including:

  • Work overload;
  • Lack of autonomy;
  • Constant pressure;
  • Stress;
  • Mismatch between the pressure and the internal and external resources available to the person.

Spotting the Warning Signs

An employee’s behaviour is generally a reflection of their inner state. A combination of the following factors should be a red flag:

  • Repeated absences or tardiness;
  • Drop in performance;
  • More mistakes;
  • Loss of motivation;
  • Increase in accidents at work;
  • Lack of concentration and memory;
  • Complaints of fatigue;
  • Dishevelled appearance or lack of personal hygiene;
  • Greater and unusual impatience or irritability;
  • Uncooperativeness;
  • Isolation;
  • Interpersonal problems;
  • Poor ergonomics or work posture;
  • Weight loss or gain or any other unusual noticeable change.

There Are Things You Can Do as a Manager!

When it comes to burnout, there are two facets to your role as a manager. The first is to keep an eye out for the above-mentioned signs and risk factors. The second is to take preventive action by focusing on the quality of the work environment you offer your employees.

Here are our best tips for a healthy work environment.

Set Clear Expectations for Your Team

The expectations you set must always reflect your actual expectations, otherwise your employees will feel they are never doing enough. This feeling of never quite measuring up is exhausting, to say the least.

For example, you might tell an employee that you fully trust him to close up the restaurant. The next day, you meet with him and mention everything that wasn’t done according to your expectations—even though they were never clearly established in the first place. If you repeat this pattern, your employee will end up being discouraged at the mere thought of having to take care of closures. What seemed like a pleasant challenge will quickly become a source of negative emotions.

💡 When giving a new responsibility or task to a member of your team, make a clear list of your expectations. This way they will be crystal clear. You can then discuss what needs to be improved if necessary.

Set Your Limits

When you fail to set limits, you fail to respect your own needs. As a manager, you are the one who establishes how things are done. Please respect your own limits and inspire your employees to do the same.

💡 Be careful not to constantly approve of the word “yes”—this is how team members end up exhausted. Employees who often say “yes” are in fact the ones that you have to watch out for the most, given that this means they are particularly vulnerable to burnout. Show your team that you set limits for yourself and that you’re receptive to them doing the same.

Don’t Overload Your Employees

Never ask employees to perform tasks for which they lack the necessary skills or resources.

💡 If you want to give new tasks in order to stimulate an employee and help them progress, make sure you provide them with sufficient support or training. Always show that they are not on their own.

Don’t Neglect One-On-One Meetings

Frequent regular meetings are a great way to check up on your employees. How are they really doing?

💡 This simple initiative is your ally in prevention, as it shows your employees that you are available and interested in hearing them out, and that you genuinely want to know how they are doing.

Offer as Much Flexibility as Possible

Your employees have a personal life outside of work. Surprise! 😆 Struggling with work-life balance can become a great source of stress.

How can you spare them this pressure? To begin with, you can demonstrate that you understand the importance of work-life balance. You can also give them the flexibility that this requires.

💡 Whether through schedules, wellness or extra sick leave, or in any other way, show your employees your willingness to offer them flexibility.

Give Recognition

Recognition helps with both motivation and validation. Like all humans in all contexts, employees need to feel recognized for their work and effort.

💡 As a manager, give your team as much recognition as possible. Your positive feedback will help make the work so much more meaningful and enjoyable.

Be a Positive Role Model

Wondering why your employees seem uncomfortable taking sick leave? If you hardly ever take sick leave yourself, or if you loudly make it known that you’ll make up the hours on the weekend, you shouldn’t be surprised. Your team will soon understand the standards you set for them by taking their cues from how you manage your own work-life balance.

💡 Never hesitate to be vulnerable in front of your employees. If you’re tired or stressed, allow yourself a break or finish earlier. Show your team that you take care of yourself; they will follow your lead.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Your Actions

Burnout is a personal matter, of course, but it is also very closely linked to well-being at work. It is reassuring to know that as a manager, there is much you can do to address it.

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