Supporting your people through burnout

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Burnout in the workplace can manifest itself in a number of ways. Some people remove themselves from the situation by calling sick. Some people become disengaged and unmotivated. Some people push themselves too hard until things reach a breaking point. All of these could be signs of burnout, but do you know how to support your team, and try to stop it happening in the first place? 

New research from Indeed Flex reveals that the number of UK workers experiencing workplace stress or burnout doubled in 2023 compared to the previous year. A staggering 92% of UK employees have admitted to facing these challenges during their careers, with post- pandemic labour shortages intensifying workloads.

Worryingly, 19% of workers have already suffered from burnout or stress in 2024 so far.

The primary factor behind the escalating burnout and stress levels is higher workloads, with 58% of workers citing this as the root cause, while 42% say it’s due to persistent staff shortages. Meanwhile, a third (34%) of employees say their stress and burnout is due to pressure from bosses to work overtime and extend their hours.

Over a third of workers (34%) say they have called in sick as a result of burnout, nearly a quarter (23%) have taken time off using their annual leave and 16% have been signed off work due to the effect on their mental health.

Seeing these figures, workplace managers should now be considering how to identify the early signs of burnout in their colleagues, and how to ensure the right support is in place.  We have put together a list of the early signs to look out for, and some tips to keep burnout at bay.

  1. Taking recurring time off for issues such as stomach problems or migraines
  2. Feeling overwhelmed by small tasks
  3. Lack of sleep
  4. Possible increased use of alcohol or recreational drugs
  5. Loss of engagement or creativity
  6. Becoming isolated or refusing social activity

Tips to avoid burnout in the workplace

Take a break

It might seem obvious, but taking a break from work is the best way to avoid burnout. Since we’re now surrounded by the internet and mobile phones with 24/7 access to work emails, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not switching off when you head home for the day. If this is the case, why not consider booking some time off and recharging your batteries?

Travelling and changing up your environment is a great way to reset the mind and, when you return to work, you’re likely to be filled with new energy. Make sure to leave your laptop at home to avoid the temptation of checking in with the office whilst you’re away. Do something that makes you feel good and helps you unwind, such as booking tickets to see your favourite band perform live or enjoying an outdoor festival to take in both the music and the atmosphere.

If taking time off just isn’t an option, a meaningful break in the middle of the day can do wonders. When eating your lunch whilst replying to an overflowing inbox becomes a regular event, your brain doesn’t get time to recuperate and relax during the day. So, why not try plugging in some headphones and taking a walk during your lunch break? Listening to slow, quiet music can physically de-stress the body, lowering blood pressure, slowing your pulse and reducing levels of stress hormones.

Adopt a fitness regime

When you’ve got a lot to think about, the gym is probably the last thing on your mind. When busy, most of us throw exercise to the bottom of our priority list but working out can reduce stress. Exercise also helps to reduce fatigue, while improving alertness and concentration, meaning you can go back into your workload with a fresh pair of eyes.

Even if you don’t fancy an intense gym session or a lengthy run, just taking a walk outdoors and getting some fresh air is proven to improve cognitive function. Put on a playlist of your favourite upbeat music to get you motivated or take it down a notch with some calmer tunes to help you de-stress whilst doing some simple stretching or yoga. If group exercise is more your thing, why not try a dance class or Zumba session? Music has been shown to be a highly beneficial aid to mindset and motivation when exercising.

Asking for help

Delegating some of your task-list is a great way to offload some stress, but we can find it difficult to give up some of our responsibilities. Asking for help is never easy, especially if you’re an ‘I’ll do it on my own’ type of person. You are, however, more likely to get things done and find solutions if you’re not the only person thinking about the problem. It never hurts to admit that you’re over capacity, and it can do wonders for your mental wellbeing.

Making sure that you stay on top of burnout and can recognise the warning signs is important, but it’s not the only way that you can make your working life easier. Finding ways to boost your productivity at work and identifying your particular working style is also helpful for keeping burnout at bay and keeping on top of your own mental health.

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About the author:

Nimira Kassam is the People Services Director at PPL PRS. She is a senior HR leader with over 15 years of experience in the field. She is CIPD qualified and is known for her exceptional delivery in high growth businesses by building high performing teams and having a clear focus on engagement and wellbeing

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