At work, burnout is the opposite of engagement. Employees who are engaged are high performers and are naturally involved. Burned-out employees are exhausted, cynical, and overwhelmed. Recognizing the signs of employee burnout and supporting their efforts to overcome it can benefit the worker and–and even the workplace.

Signs of employee burnout

According to Monique Valcour, an executive coach and writer for the Harvard Business Review, “When you’re burned out, your capacity to perform is compromised, and so is your belief in yourself.” Here are some signs of worker burnout.

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Easily upset or angered
  • Recurring sickness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feelings of alienation at work
  • Cynicism towards people and their job
  • Hopelessness

Potential consequences of worker burnout

Research has revealed correlations between worker burnout and these physical and mental conditions.

  • Coronary disease
  • Hypertension
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Increased alcohol and drug use
  • Marital and family conflict
  • Alienation
  • Sense of futility

How Employers Can Help

Without meaning to, employers can misinterpret an employee suffering from burnout as an uncooperative low performer. When that’s the case, the employee is unlikely to get the support they desperately need. By recognizing that the problem may be burnout, the right type of support and treatment may help the employee overcome the burnout and return to their prior levels of productivity and engagement.

If your company health insurance benefits include an employee assistance program (EAP), suggest to the employee that they take advantage of the program for initial screening (typically via the phone). Mental health coverage is part of health insurance programs under the Affordable Care Act.

VIA | Harvard Business Review, HBR.ORG: Steps to Take When You’re Starting to Feel Burned Out

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How to Recognize an Employee is Hurting and How to Help

(Note: Changes in a person’s personality can be related to a wide array of causes, often not related to the person’s work. If a worker is demonstrating behavior far outside that which is normal, seek professional guidance.)


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