3 Ways Managers Can Address Burnout

3 Ways Managers Can Address Burnout

June 2, 2021

By Kelly Briggs
Work-related burnout is more common than many of us may realize. Nearly two-thirds of US workers have experienced burnout. For many employees, the COVID-19 pandemic has added another layer of stress to their already hectic lives.

According to an August 2020 Flex Jobs and Mental Health America survey:

40% of respondents cite the COVID-19 pandemic as their primary contributor to burnout.

While there are steps we can take to reduce the stressors that lead to burnout a manager’s support can make a positive impact on both the well-being of an employee and, in turn, the team culture.

If some of your employees are currently experiencing burnout, an impromptu cultural assessment can help you identify the signs of burnout and help mitigate the stress they may be experiencing.

Keep an open-door policy with employees

Establishing a level of rapport with employees in which they feel confident to reach out when they are facing challenges is a necessity to maintain team culture in this new normal. As many employees continue to work remotely, it’s important to communicate regularly with each employee, to maintain a sense of connection that can encourage them to speak up if they are experiencing burnout.

Some of the causes of burnout can be negative work dynamics, unclear expectations, lack of support or communication, and an imbalance between work and life responsibilities. If employees feel overwhelmed by a situation, that can contribute to burnout. Give an employee space in which they can speak openly, allowing you to get to the root of an issue and to work towards a viable solution together.

Reinforce purpose and find opportunities to take on meaningful projects

We can reduce burnout by helping our employees find meaning in their work, and by discovering what personally motivates them.

During your one-on-one conversations with employees take time to find out what excites them or brings them purpose in their current role. In addition to addressing the stressors that lead to burnout, it’s just as important to seek out the positive aspects in an employee’s role and work environment. To motivate them to contribute to a productive team culture, find ways to build upon those experiences. For example, if an employee enjoys project managing, ask them to facilitate an upcoming joint project among departments.

Recognition also motivates employees, bolsters their sense of purpose, and builds team culture. If your team has worked on a project that helped your organization pivot its operations during the early stages of COVID-19, took on additional responsibilities to keep a department running during furloughs, or worked extra hours or shifts to care for patients, quantify the ways that their work has positively impacted your organization. This will provide validation that their everyday tasks have had a direct impact on the business.

Recognize the need for work-life boundaries

In our 2021 Trends & Forecasts Report, we talk about the trend of redefining work/life balance to work/life blend. Regardless of your definition, while it’s important to have purposeful work and be able to love what you do for a living, we all need time to focus on other priorities or to unwind. Professionals who are in highly purpose-driven roles or care-giving industries such as medical, education or non-profit sectors, can be at a higher risk for burnout, according to multiple studies cited in a Harvard Business Review article.

Find ways to help employees establish and adhere to work-life boundaries that help them incorporate interests outside of work. Encourage employees to socialize and connect with their colleagues on hobbies they may share. This helps people establish relationships beyond work and creates a sense of belonging.

Make sure employees are scheduling time off and encourage them to take their full PTO allotment each year. If employees are juggling work and personal responsibilities (like home schooling children), allow for flexibility in their schedule as needed. If it’s possible, implement department standards, like not sending/answering emails on weekends, that allow employees to truly unwind in their free time.

A manager’s support can have a significant effect in helping an employee minimize the stressors that contribute to burnout. However, there may be times when an employee needs more support than a manager can provide. In this situation, managers should point employees to additional resources that the company provides such as an employee assistance program or any resources offered by your health insurance provider. Looking ahead, we forecast the expansion of mental health benefits to create a workplace culture focused on health and wellness. Read more about this in our 2021 Trends & Forecasts Report. 

When an employee is exhibiting signs of burnout, knowing that they can turn to a manager to discuss the issue, find the root cause and work towards solutions will not only minimize any stigma associated with dealing with burnout, but also help them set healthy boundaries to establish a positive path forward.