Understanding burnout at work and ways to prevent and deal with it - Jackson Hogg

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Understanding burnout at work and ways to prevent and deal with it

Burnout has become a central issue for modern workplaces which are constantly changing and trying to reconcile the demands of the operating environment with the effects on employees.

Burnout is more than feeling the pressure of a deadline or tiredness from a week of late nights, it is a state of absolute exhaustion which affects people physically, mentally and emotionally – it’s when our body’s overdraft runs out.

This isn’t purely an issue for employees, though the negative effects can be seen in their productivity, satisfaction and overall work approach. This can’t be a good thing for their relationships at home and with other stakeholders at work.

The key is to understand burnout, recognise how it can happen and what it looks like, and take a proactive approach to prevent in to keep people healthy and happy at work.

Burnout can happen when employees experience chronic stressors, in other words, stress which is long-term and a common part of their workplace experience. The stress can come from unrealistic or unmanageable workloads, lack of autonomy and choice at work, lack of flexibility or poor work-life balance. If these are the status quo at work, they have the potential to erode resilience and leave individuals without the necessary resources to be well and effective at work.

Burnout can look different from person to person but we often see it look a lot like emotional and physical exhaustion, which may present itself as illness or sickness absence. Employees may appear to be detached from work or disengaged. Their work performance may change as may their general approach to tasks and other staff members which may appear to be negative.

Employers have a legal duty to do a risk assessment and act on that assessment to protect workers from workplace stress, so employers should not simply expect workers to better manage themselves and the way they work. There are a number of things employers can do to prevent burnout and encourage wellness at work:

  • Ensure managers have realistic expectations and communicate them well to employees. Managers should have an ongoing dialogue with their staff to ensure they have the appropriate resources to meet the demands of the role.
  • Work-life balance should be encouraged to ensure working practices and arrangements are sustainable. The business should encourage staff to take their annual leave and not unduly reject requests for time off.
  • Culture can also play a critical role in mitigating the potential for burnout. An environment in which is supportive and open is important for reducing feelings of isolation and lack of connection.
  • Encouraging employees to enhance their skills can be a great way to reduce the potential for burnout. This may include opportunities to develop time-management and organisation strategies.

HR specialists are well-placed to support with an holistic approach to preventing burnout at work and as part of a wider health and wellbeing approach.

Our outsourced HR specialists are available to support businesses in the North East and beyond. To enquire follow this link to access our HR Partnership page.

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