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< Productivity Glossary

What is burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by exposure to overwhelming and prolonged stress. Often resulting from excessive work demands or a persistent sense of being overburdened, burnout is typically attributed to and aggravated by professional work responsibilities. 

Burnout isn't just feeling tired or temporarily stressed; it represents a significant and prolonged condition that deeply impacts an individual's ability to function, affecting various facets of their life, including work performance, interpersonal relationships, and overall well-being.

What are the symptoms of burnout?

While the symptoms of burnout can vary from person to person, here are some common signs to look out for from burnout:

  • Chronic fatigue: Persistent and overwhelming exhaustion, not alleviated by rest or relaxation.
  • Diminished performance: Decline in productivity, efficiency, and quality of work output.
  • Detachment & negativity: Developing a cynical, negative outlook towards work-related duties, accompanied by feelings of detachment and disengagement.
  • Cognitive impairment: Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or focusing on tasks.
  • Physical manifestations: Physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, gastrointestinal problems, or changes in sleep patterns and appetite.

What causes employee burnout?

There is often no single cause of burnout — rather the issues are multifaceted, and the contributors of burnout are often interrelated. However, some notables stand out:

  1. Lack of time for focused work: 63.4% of employee burnout comes from a lack of time for focused work, caused by too many meetings or distractions in the workplace. Excessive workload and unrealistic deadlines exacerbate the pressure of working without enough time to get everything done.
  2. Notification & distraction fatigue: 59.9% of employee burnout comes from notification and distraction fatigue, as the non-stop flow of incoming emails, chat messages, and side tasks make it very difficult to stay focused on important work.
  3. Lack of work-life balance: 52.2% of employee burnout comes from a lack of work-life balance / not enough time off. The inability to establish boundaries between work and personal life can lead to chronic stress and eventual burnout. 
  4. Too many meetings: 48.2% of employee burnout comes from too many meetings. Meetings can be a great way to collaborate and share ideas, but too many meetings can be unproductive and time-consuming. 
  5. Workdays running too long: 39.4% of employee burnout comes from long workdays. Long workdays can make it difficult for employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance. 
  6. Poor working conditions/company culture: 23.2% of employee burnout is due to their workplace conditions. A negative work environment can contribute to employee burnout. This includes factors such as a lack of support from management, unfair treatment, and a toxic work culture. 

How to prevent & improve burnout?

Preventing and improving burnout for your team requires a two-pronged approach: proactively preventing its onset, and actively supporting recovery for those already experiencing it. Here are some strategies for each:

Preventing employee burnout

  • Promote work-life balance: Encourage employees to take breaks, use vacation time, and disconnect outside of work hours. Lead by example by doing the same. You can use Reclaim’s Buffer Time to allow employees to auto-schedule breaks, and Work Hours to keep work from spilling into nights and weekends.
  • Set realistic expectations: Clearly estimate employees workload based around how  much time they actually have available, and be flexible for adjustments when needed. Avoid overloading individuals.
  • Empower & trust your team: Delegate tasks effectively and grant autonomy to make decisions. This fosters ownership and engagement.
  • Recognize & reward contributions: Celebrate successes, provide timely feedback, and offer opportunities for growth and development
  • Prioritize well-being: Offer resources like stress management programs, access to mental health professionals, and flexible work arrangements.
  • Encourage open communication: Create a safe space for employees to discuss concerns and provide feedback without fear of judgment.
  • Address toxic work environments: Actively combat negativity, gossip, and excessive pressure. Promote collaboration and respect.
  • Lead by example: Demonstrate healthy work habits and model a balanced approach to work and personal life.

Recovering employees from burnout

  • Early intervention: Be alert to signs of burnout (exhaustion, cynicism, reduced productivity) and offer support proactively.
  • Individualized approach: Tailor your support to each employee's needs. Offer flexible work arrangements, reduced workload, or access to mental health resources.
  • Focus on recovery: Encourage rest, relaxation, and activities that promote well-being.
  • Open communication: Maintain open communication channels to offer ongoing support and monitor progress.

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