The World Health Organisation (WHO) has just re-labelled the term “Burnout” as an occupational phenomenon, to better reflect its status of being a work-based syndrome caused by chronic stress.


So how does this affect you as a business owner and why should you care?

Your employees are your best asset, so it’s important to maintain high levels of team motivation and productivity - therefore preventing, identifying and managing burnout should be a top priority for businesses across all sectors.

Employee burnout and overwhelm can have a devastating impact on individuals and businesses, but there are steps you can take to minimise workplace stress and ensure your workers aren’t likely to suffer from burnout.

When people are subjected to on-going or chronic stressors in the workplace, they may suffer from burnout. Although their response to these stressors is likely to be variable depending on their personality and existing interpersonal stressors, no employee should be subject to a level of workplace stress which has a negative effect on their health.

To prevent chronic stress from harming your employees and your business, it’s important to identify members of your team who are not coping and it may be helpful to watch out for the following signs and symptoms of burnout…



When employees begin to develop burnout, their minds and bodies can simply cease to function effectively. Whilst they may have been running on adrenaline for weeks or even months, burnout will cause them to feel intense fatigue, both physically, psychologically and emotionally.

Rise in absence

If an employee is suffering from burnout, they may be more susceptible to physical illness than usual, and this can result in them taking additional time off work. However, the effects and symptoms of burnout can be enough to result in workers taking sick leave or if they are a casual employee, just not being available. Fatigue, headaches and even depression can be signs of burnout, so it’s not surprising employee absence levels rise as burnout increases.

Increased isolation

Burnout can cause people to distance themselves from others or to disengage from friendship groups, their work and social events. If an employee appears more isolated than usual or declines events and meetings they would normally partake in, it’s worth considering whether they might be affected by burnout and taking time to check in with them.

Rigid thinking

Employee burnout can affect the way people think, as well as the way they act and their emotional state. If previously flexible and amenable team members are now exhibiting rigid thinking and offering unyielding opinions, burnout might be behind their sudden change in behaviour.

Increased sensitivity

People show sensitivity in different ways, so it’s important to be on the lookout for subtle changes in your employees. If workers are unusually tearful, reactive or upset, it could be a sign that they’re experiencing burnout.


Preventing employee burnout

The good news is that for businesses, preventing employee burnout can usually be tackled by being aware as a business owner & making work or lifestyle changes.  Inside work, burnout can stem from rising and unmanageable workload & timeframes, lack of clarity about employees role, pace of change and lack of communication.

Whilst recognising causes of burnout is vital, knowing how to help employees who are experiencing burnout is important too. Whether this means a restructuring of responsibilities to ensure you don’t overwhelm your team, more recognition of their efforts or increased workplace support, there are various strategies which can be put in place to reduce the risk of burnout and increase employee wellbeing.

Having a workplace free from factors relating to overwhelm and burnout helps create a happy, healthy, productive and focussed team of employees for your business.